Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that can infect cats and dogs alike. However, the kind of tapeworms that cats are most susceptible to are different from those that infect dogs in most cases. Cats are most likely to be infected by three groups of tapeworm species:
- Dipylidium caninum
In most cases, the manner in which each of these groups infects the cat is different. The Taenia species infects a cat when it eats a prey that is already infected. Dipylidium caninum infects cats when they eat lice or fleas that carry larvae of tapeworms. Echinococcus infection is through eating raw meat or carrion of an infected host.
Tapeworms consist of segments. The segments towards the extremities that carry eggs are shed off, and these reach the environment when the host defecates. Tapeworms require a minimum of two hosts to survive. The intermediary carries the larvae that live in the tissues of the host. The larvae develop into adults when the secondary host is eaten by a primary host like a cat or dog.
The dog tapeworm , Dipylidium caninum, is the second most common tapeworm in cats. Its typical lifestyle comprises of the following stages:
- Adult tapeworm in cat sheds eggs through feces.
- The released eggs are eaten by flea larvae.
- Tapeworm larvae develop inside the flea.
- Infected adult flea is ingested by a cat.
- Tapeworm grows in the cat and the process moves on.
Symptoms of worms in cats and dogs do not surface for long periods even after the pet is infected. When the symptoms do surface, they are vague and mimic the symptoms of a number of other conditions. This makes it difficult for anyone to diagnose the condition early and without error. Heavy infections produce abdominal discomfort and distention. The animal is nervous and listless. The toxins released by the tapeworm can cause convulsions in some cats.
Tapeworm segments that are released from the main body of the worm tend to stick to the anal area when excreted and cause irritation. If you see your cat scooting or excessively licking or scratching the anal area, it is an indication of tapeworm infestation. Live tapeworm segments can also be seen moving. Once the tapeworm segments dry up, they look like grains of brown rice.
Worm in cats and dogs cause serious problems when infested in large numbers.
Some feline parasites can potentially infect humans, too. Infection is mostly accidental on eating fruits and vegetables that are contaminated with feces of a cat or a dog. Sometimes children bring the infection home from a playground infected with feces. Some simple precautions can help in preventing tapeworm infection in cats as well as humans:
- Clean all fruits and vegetables before consuming.
- Get all cat and dog feces removed from the yard regularly.
- Get your cat de-wormed at regular intervals.
These precautions are of utmost importance and can go a long way in helping you keep your cat and your family healthy and fit.