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Tapeworm Infection in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Tapeworm infection is an invasion and multiplication of the small intestinal tract by a parasite, most commonly, Dipylidium.

Cause

Ingestion of an intermediate (in between) host can result in tapeworm infection. Fleas and lice are intermediate hosts for Dipylidium caninum (the most common tapeworm seen in dogs) and wild animals (rabbits) for some of the other species.

What to Watch For

  • Most infected individuals are usually unaffected
  • Anal irritation
  • Rarely, diarrhea or intestinal obstruction

    Diagnosis

    A thorough knowledge of history and clinical signs is always important and, most often, helpful in making the diagnosis. Diagnostic tests necessary to confirm a diagnosis of tapeworm infection include:

  • Tapeworm segments (often referred to as "pieces of rice") identified on the feces or around the anal area

  • Fecal flotation (visualizing eggs)

    Treatment

    Treatment for tapeworm infection should be aimed at both the active tapeworm load and controlling the intermediate host (usually fleas).

    Any of the following anthelmintics (dewormers) can be used to treat tapeworm infections:

  • Fenbendazole (Panacur®)
  • Febantel (Vercom®)
  • Praziquantel (Droncit®)
  • Epsiprantel (Cestex®)

    Home Care and Prevention

    Strict flea control is very important to prevent reinfection of Dipylidium. Administer veterinary prescribed medication and be aware of reinfection with exposure to intermediate hosts.

    Prevention of tapeworms involves controlling the intermediate host by treating both the affected animal and the environment.

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