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Meet the tapeworm: A common intestinal parasite in cats

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Tapeworms are fairly easy for your cat to pick up, and both indoor and outdoor cats are at risk. Protecting your cat from all intestinal worms is an important part of maintaining their good health. Learn how to spot the warning signs, and make sure you know how to help protect your cat.
Cat cleaning its paw

    Even indoor cats may fall victim to worms at some point, and the tapeworm is one of the common intestinal parasites found in cats. There are several tapeworms that can infect cats. The most common is the flea tapeworm, but there are also tapeworms that infect cats that eat wildlife, i.e. birds, rodents and lizards.

    How do cats get tapeworm?

    The most common way for cats to become infected with a tapeworm is by swallowing infected fleas while grooming. It is estimated that cats will swallow around 50 percent of any fleas that might be present on their coat when they are cleaning themselves. Once your cat swallows an infected flea, the tapeworm larvae are released into your pet’s intestine, where they develop into adults.

    Outdoor cats that hunt birds, rodents or lizards are also at risk of contracting tapeworms. If the cat ingests animals infected with tapeworms, they will also be infected.

    What are the signs and symptoms of tapeworm in cats?

    The adult tapeworm is a long segmented worm that can live in your cat’s intestines for months. Small egg-filled segments break off the worm and are passed out in your cat’s faeces. These segments are not alive, but they remain mobile for some time.

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    You may not know whether your cat is infected with tapeworm – in many cases, no symptoms will be present or detected. However, you might notice:

    • Tapeworm segments crawling around your cat’s back end or in their stool
    • An itchy bottom in your pet, causing them to lick or bite the area, or ‘scoot’ along the ground in an attempt to relieve the itch
    • Weight loss
    • General malaise
    Tapeworms under a microscope

    Treatment options for tapeworms in cats

    Treatments such as Profender® Allwormer for cats are a straightforward and easy part of a regular worming routine. Profender kills every type of intestinal worm commonly found in cats and is applied as a single spot on the back of your cat’s neck, for fuss-free worming.

    If you find worming tablets an easier solution to integrate into your worming schedule, Drontal® worming tablets for cats work fast to fight any existing worm infections and come in two strengths, depending on the weight of your cat.

    If your cat is not fed raw meat and is kept indoors, regular monthly use of Advocate® for cats will help them to avoid the tapeworm that they’re most at risk of, the flea tapeworm, by controlling fleas.

    A less common tapeworm, the zipper tapeworm, can also infect cats. If you have treated your cat with an allwormer such as Drontal or Profender and yet are still observing tapeworm segments in the faeces, this tapeworm may be the cause, because it is controlled by a higher dose of the active praziquantel than is commonly found in allwormers. Droncit tablets are registered for control of the zipper tapeworm, discuss the dose required with your vet.

    Keeping up with a regular worming schedule will help protect your pet from these unwanted passengers. A regular worming schedule is recommended to keep your cat protected and healthy.

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