Parasites are an unfortunate topic, but a necessary one if we are to keep our pets parasite free. Tapeworms in cats and dogs are common, but luckily easy to prevent. Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital has the skinny on these nasty parasites, including how to get rid of them once and for all. 

What Are Tapeworms in Cats and Dogs?

Tapeworms in cats and dogs are parasites that set up shop in the intestinal tract. The worms are flat and segmented with a head that attaches to the intestinal wall. Several species of tapeworms can affect pets but by far the most common is Dipylidium caninum. 

An adult tapeworm can reach 6 inches in length and has the appearance of a white piece of tape or ribbon. Tapeworm segments detach from the worm and are shed in your pet’s feces. Once in the environment, the tapeworm segments break apart, releasing the eggs, which eventually become tapeworm larvae.

How Does My Pet Get Tapeworms? 

The most common tapeworms in cats and dogs are associated with fleas. Flea larvae in the environment ingest the tapeworm larvae. These adult fleas are then infected, and pets can pick up the tapeworm larvae when they inadvertently ingest a flea during grooming

A different genus of tapeworms, the genus Taenia, can infect pets when they hunt and eat prey, such as rodents, birds, and reptiles. These animals can be infected with tapeworms of this type and the worms are passed along to pets when they ingest small prey.

Human infections are rare and normally occur when a person inadvertently eats a flea. Children are most commonly affected. 

Signs Of Tapeworms in Cats and Dogs

Cats and dogs rarely get sick from tapeworms, and in fact, there may be no outward signs of an infestation. An owner may only become aware of a tapeworm problem by noticing tapeworm segments on the pet’s fur around the anus, on the pet’s bedding, or in the pet’s feces

When fresh, these tapeworm segments resemble grains of white rice, can move, and may be white or cream colored. When dry, they look like sesame seeds.

Treatment and Prevention

When an owner finds tapeworm segments on or around their pet, the veterinarian will confirm with a 

stool sample under the microscope. There are several effective prescription medications that can eradicate a tapeworm infestation. These dewormers are safe and can be administered at home. 

To effectively prevent tapeworms, a rigorous flea control program must be undertaken. As long as there are fleas in the environment, a pet is likely to become reinfected with tapeworms. 

  • Use dewormers as prescribed and complete all doses as directed
  • Continue annual wellness exams and routine parasite screening tests
  • Maintain a 12 month continuous parasite preventive, including flea, tick, and heartworm control
  • Discourage your pet from hunting and eating prey
  • Vacuum regularly, and wash your pet’s bedding weekly
  • Examine your pet’s fur and skin for evidence of fleas regularly

If you have questions or concerns about tapeworms in cats and dogs, please don’t hesitate to call us