My Cat Has Tapeworms

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, describes tapeworms and available treatments.

Q: My three cats have had symptoms of worms, something I don’t know much about. Basically, it looks like sesame seeds coming out of their bottoms, and once I saw a live one coming out of the rear of one cat. What is the best way to treat it? Should I take them all in at once to get treated or can I just buy something from any store? Please let me know what you think.

A: It sounds like your cats have tapeworms. Cats get tapeworms from eating an infected flea. Cats are fastidious groomers. Sometimes, in the course of their grooming, a cat will swallow a flea. If that flea happened to be infected with tapeworm eggs, the cat will develop tapeworms. The tapeworm lives in the small intestine. Occasionally a tapeworm segment will break off from the tapeworm and migrate down the intestinal tract and out of the anus. These segments are white in color and are about the length of a grain of rice. Occasionally, you can spot one of these segments wriggling out of the cat’s anus (not a pleasant sight). Sometimes, after a segment migrates out of the anus, it gets stuck to the nearby fur, where it dries out, and resembles a sesame seed.

Tapeworms are pretty harmless, but they should be treated. Unfortunately, over-the-counter dewormers do not contain the proper medication necessary to treat a tapeworm infection. You will have to purchase the medication from your veterinarian.

An equally important issue is the fact that your cats must have encountered some fleas to have tapeworms. Tapeworms are very easy to treat, however, after they’ve been treated, if your cat swallows another infected flea, the cat can get re-infected with tapeworms. You need to address the flea problem. Your veterinarian can prescribe one of the many safe and effective once-a-month flea control products currently on the market, and your tapeworm problem should cease.

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