How to Get Rid Of Tapeworms in Cats

tapeworms in cats
tapeworms in cats

Tapeworms are flat, thin, several inches long parasites that attach themselves to the intestines of a cat or any other host. Their shape gives them the appearance of a tape, hence the name. Tapeworms use the suckers on their head to attach themselves to the host’s intestines. Their body is divided into several segments. Although several species of tapeworms can affect cats, Dipylidium caninum is the most commonly seen. Taneia taeniaformis comes in second. Continue reading to discover how to get rid of tapeworms in cats and much more.

How Do Cats Get Tapeworms and Are They Dangerous?

Now, what causes tapeworms in cats? Well, according to PetMD cats typically get tapeworms through an intermediate host, usually an infected flea of rodent.

The intermediate host for Dipylidium caninum tapeworm species (the most common) is usually a flea larvae.

The cycle begins with the flea larvae (immature flea) ingesting tapeworm eggs from contaminated bedding, carpets, etc. The flea larvae then matures into an adult flea. Infested cats responds to bites from such adult fleas by licking and chewing on their skin. In doing so, the cat can unintentionally swallow the flea. The tapeworm larvae in the flea is then released into the cat’s intestines during digestion. Upon hatching, the tapeworm anchors itself in the intestinal wall where it continues to reproduce.

transmission of tapeworms in cats
How cats get tapeworms. Courtesy: VCA Animal Hospitals

Rodents such as rats and mice are usually the intermediate hosts for Taneia taeniaformis species of tapeworms in cats. The larvae in such rodents anchors itself to the cat’s small intestine where it ultimately matures into an adult tapeworm and continue reproducing.

Tapeworms are not dangerous to cats but they are without doubt troublesome to not only cats but other pets e.g. dogs as well. They steal nutrients from the host cat’s intestines, leading to weight loss and other problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Tapeworms in Cats

You should suspect tapeworms if your cat shows any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Rice grain-like segments on your cat’s fur in the area around the anus and tail. These can occasionally be seen on your cat’ bedding.
  • Sesame seed-like tapeworm eggs may be seen in your cat’s stool if the segments burst open.
  • Weight loss. This happens if tapeworm infestation lasts a considerably long time. Cats can also lose weight if tapeworms occur in large numbers.
  • Vomiting an adult tapeworm. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals website, a tapeworm occasionally lets go of its attachment to the intestines and move up to the stomach. This can cause the affected cat to vomit the worm whole.
  • Mild diarrhea.
  • Rough, patchy fur and skin.
  • Appetite changes. Tapeworms in cats mean competition for the meals taken which often translates to increased hunger (desire to eat) for the affected cat.
  • Biting or licking the anal area.

How to Get Rid Of Tapeworms in Cats

The fact that fleas are involved in transmission of tapeworms in cats makes it one of the most common parasitic infestations in cats. Most cats will get infected with tapeworms at some point in their lives. Treating the cat to get rid of the parasites is key to preventing transmission to humans (especially children) as well as adverse effect on your cat’s body and health. Below is a guideline on how to get rid of tapeworms in cats.

Administer Tapeworm Dewormer for Cats

Treatment of tapeworm in cats is done on an outpatient basis. The options available include oral medication and injection. These tapeworm deworming medication kill the adult tapeworms which then get digested along with the food in cat’s intestines. Your veterinarian will advise accordingly.

Now coming to specific medications for tapeworms in cats, Praziquantel takes the day as one of the most common, if not the most popular. Usually available under brand names such as Droncit, Drontal, and Tradewinds, it is effective in getting rid of adult tapeworms.

Your vet will determine the appropriate dosage (number of tablets) for your cat depending on her weight. Although it was a common practice for vets to prescribe two doses of the dewormer with a 2-3 weeks break in between them, newer tapeworm medications such as Praziquantel have made it possible to completely eliminate maturely and immaturely developed tapeworms in just a single treatment.

Although you can buy tapeworm medication tablets over the counter, it is advisable to follow the instructions given carefully. Some medications are not suitable for kittens aged below 7 or 8 weeks and lactating or pregnant cats. Keep this in mind too.

Control Fleas

You came to this page looking to learn how to get rid of tapeworms in cats, right? Well, part of that involves getting rid of fleas. This will not only help to treat the tapeworms but also prevent re-infestation.

As already mentioned, fleas are intermediate hosts for tapeworms. This means that deworming your cat will only go a long way if your cat’s environment is still infested with fleas. The cat will still get re-infested if she unintentionally swallows infested fleas during grooming. It is not unheard of for cats living in flea-infested areas to get re-infested with tapeworm in a matter of a couple weeks.

Depending on the flea control product you use, it may be necessary to as well treat your house and yard to completely eliminate the fleas.

Tapeworms in Cats Pictures

Tapeworms in cats usually show no signs and symptoms (are asymptomatic) and most pet owners only notice their existence after spotting the rice like segments called proglottids in the area around the cat anus and tail and in cat’s bedding. Below are pictures of cats with these tell‑tale segments:

tapeworms in cats pictures 1

Is Diatomaceous Earth an Effective Home Remedy for Tapeworms in Cats

For those who want to know how to get rid of tapeworms in cats at home naturally, you may have come across diatomaceous earth as one of the good and safe options.

When taken orally (in combination with food) over the course of a week or so, food grade diatomaceous earth has been found to help get rid of hookworms, roundworms, pinworms, and whipworms. Diatomaceous earth has however been shown to be an ineffective remedy for tapeworms in cats.

To effectively get rid of tapeworms in cats, your best bet is to use an appropriate over the counter dewormer such as Drontal (a combination of Praziquantel and pyrantel pamoate) followed by an effective flea control regimen.

That is how to get rid of tapeworms in cats.


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