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What Are the Symptoms of Tapeworms in Cats?

Cats with tapeworms may suffer from vomiting, weight loss and discomfort.
Tapeworms may show up in a cat's droppings.
A veterinarian can determine if a cat has tapeworms.
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  • Written By: B. Koch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2014
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Tapeworms are a type of parasite that is common to many types of animals, including cats. Cats infected with tapeworms may suffer from vomiting, weight loss, and general discomfort. There may also be signs of rice-shaped pellets around the animal's anus or dried rice-like pellets in areas of the home where the cat has been. Tapeworms in cats are not fatal and can be remedied through medication.

A parasite that infects many animals, tapeworms are frequently found in cats. After a cat is infected with a tapeworm, the parasite uses its mouth to hook itself to the wall of the small intestine and live off its host's nutrients. There are two common types of tapeworms in cats, Dipylidium canium and Taenia taeniaeformis. They are similar to one another and cause the same symptoms.

Cats can become infected with tapeworms through fleas, as some fleas are carriers of tapeworm eggs. Cats may ingest carrier fleas during grooming, resulting in the cat becoming infected with a tapeworm. Tapeworms in cats can also occur when cats eat mice or rats infected with larval tapeworms.

Humans cannot become infected with tapeworms from coming into contact with infected pets. Owners may become infected, however, from the same infected fleas as their cats if they accidentally ingest one of the fleas. One of the best ways to prevent tapeworms in cats is to use strong flea prevention measures as well as rodent control.

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Being infected with tapeworms will not kill an animal, but since the parasite is consuming some of the animal's nutrients, tapeworms in cats may cause weight loss and may cause a cat's hair to become rough and dry due to lack of nutrients. Other symptoms include vomiting or general discomfort. Rice-shaped pellets may be seen around the cat's anus, or where the animal was sitting or sleeping, looking like dried rice or cucumber seeds. These dried objects are mature segments of the tapeworm that have been cast off from the parasite and contain eggs.

Cats are typically diagnosed with tapeworm when their owners notice the symptoms. Tapeworms do not reveal themselves in standard tests of a cat's stool sample. If, however, they are specifically searched for, tapeworm segments and eggs can be seen under microscopic investigation.

A vet should be informed if tapeworms are suspected. Tapeworms in cats are treated with deworming medications called anthelmintics and are given through either a tablet or injection. Side effects of anthelmintics, though rare, include vomiting or diarrhea. After the tapeworm has died, it will go through the normal process of in the cat's intestines.

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