The most common tapeworms do not usually produce serious symptoms in dogs and cats. Thus, you may not know pets have the parasite until they pass it on to a litter of puppies or kittens or a veterinarian finds tapeworm segments or eggs in the stool.
Mild to Moderate Infestation
Tapeworms, also known as cestodes, consists of a long, flat (tape-like) body with a small head, the scolex, that fastens itself to the intestine walls with hooks and suckers. Tapeworms very rarely cause significant illness or symptoms in dogs or cats.
While pets infected with the most common type of canine and feline tapeworms may have changes to the texture and condition of their coat, owners are unlikely to notice a mild or moderate infestation. Very young kittens and puppies along with senior cats and dogs are more likely to develop a serious case of tapeworms. Also, certain breeds of dogs and cats are at a greater risk for acquiring tapeworms repeatedly, which may increase the chances of developing severe infestations. Specifically, you should have your veterinarian check your pets for tapeworms at least twice a year if they are a hunting breed of dog or outdoor cats that chases prey.
Cats and dogs with severe tapeworm infestations may display symptoms. These signs can include diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and weight loss. Dogs and cats may also become increasingly more irritable as the infestation becomes worse.
Unlike some other parasites, you may be able to see tapeworms in your pet’s stool yourself with your naked eye. While a tapeworm can measure anywhere from one inch to several feet, what you see in your pet’s stool is pieces of the tapeworm’s segmented body, which break away from the tapeworm as they mature. These segments appear as small moving white objects. You may also be able to see tapeworm eggs, which resemble small grains of white rice. Sometimes, excreted tapeworm segments may cling to the fur or skin around your pet’s anus. If you see these excreted tapeworm segments, take extreme care to clean your pet and any areas in your home where they may have been deposited.
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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.