Have you noticed that your dog or cat is eating the same amount of food but losing weight, or your furry friend is dragging his or her rear on your favorite rug or the ground? If so, your family pet may have tapeworms. These tiny parasites live in your dog’s or cat’s gut and can rob your pet of food and vital nutrients if left untreated.
Up to 60% of dogs and 52% of cats in our country could have these flat intestinal worms. To easily find signs of tapeworms, just look to your pet’s feces. Infected dogs and cats shed tapeworm segments, known as proglottids, in their feces. Proglottids look like pieces of rice and can be seen either on feces as it is passed, or moving around the pet’s anal area. When these tapeworm segments dry out in the air, they may look like sesame seeds.
Diplidium caninum is the clinical term for the flea tapeworm in dogs and cats. This is the most common type of tapeworm and is caused when your pet swallows an infected flea during grooming. The Taenia species of tapeworm uses small rodents such as mice, rats, and rabbits as their hosts. Cats will infect themselves with these tapeworms while hunting small rodents.
Once your vet has made an accurate diagnosis of tapeworms, getting rid of this parasite infection is very safe and effective. There are several oral, injectable or topical treatments available. Maintaining monthly flea control is usually the best prevention of tapeworms, as well as keeping cats indoors to limit hunting behaviors. There are also heartworm preventatives that contain a tapeworm preventative. These preventatives are easy to administer or apply on a monthly basis.
For more information on intestinal parasites, treatment, prevention and incidence, the Companion Animal Parasite Council, CAPC, maintains a wonderful website for pet owners at www.petsandparasites.org.
Originally published August 2015 in the Weekly Herald