Tapeworms are one of several types of internal parasites that can infect dogs and cats. They enter your pet’s system when your dog or cat unknowingly ingests a host. Inside your pet’s digestive tract, the tapeworm fastens itself to the wall of the small intestine. There, it can cause numerous problems for your pet. In some cases, it can also be passed on to you or, more likely, to small children in your home who accidently swallow tapeworms that are excreted by a pet.
Sudden, extreme weight loss is often what people associate with a tapeworm infestation. While infected pets may end up losing weight, not all do. In fact, there may be no symptoms or there may be different signs that are less noticeable. If -- based on your pets’ ages, health, and environment -- there is a high risk for worms, you may need to work with your veterinarian to continually monitor your cats and dogs to ensure they remain healthy and worm free.
If your pet does acquire worms, however, take heart in the fact that there are many safe, effective treatments that will allow you to get rid of the parasites and avoid further complications.
Most often, dogs end up with tapeworms after snapping up a flea. They may be relieved to stop the insect’s biting, but if that flea has eaten a tapeworm egg, pets will ingest the egg and, in a short time, the parasite will be free in their digestive system. Among felines, tapeworms are usually acquired from rodents or by ingesting the infected feces of another cat. In addition, there are other ways that tapeworms can enter a pet’s system. The good news is that in most instances there are steps you can take to lower the likelihood that your pet will acquire these parasites.
Once a tapeworm scolex (head) attaches itself to the wall of your pet’s intestine, you may begin to notice a wide variety of symptoms such as loss of appetite or diarrhea. It’s possible, though, that your pet will never show any outward symptoms. In these instances, the only way to spot a tapeworm infestation is to check your pet’s stool. You might see tapeworm eggs in the stool or actual pieces of the tapeworm that have broken off its segmented body and have passed through the digestive system.
To end a tapeworm infection, the scolex must be killed and removed from the body. Typically, your veterinarian will treat your pet with a dewormer solution to do this. It is important that your veterinarian examines your dog or cat closely before prescribing the solution or trying to treat your pet since treatments for tapeworms differ from treatments for other worms and parasites. Once your pet is cured, you may need to work hard to avoid a reinfestation: have pets stay indoors when appropriate, control fleas, and try to keep your pet away from other animals’ feces.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.
More on Pet Parasites:
Heartworm in Cats and Dogs
What to Do if Your Pet Gets Whipworm
What Diseases do Fleas Cause?