Tapeworms in cats can be life threatening to your pet as well as to you, and in most cases the mere mention of them is horrifying
There is not just one species that can attack your cat, there are as many as five different species than can attack and infest depending on where you live in the world.
Tapeworms in cats are flat worms that are segmented, as they have a head, a neck, and then a number of different segments.
The head of a tapeworm has what is referred to as suckers or muscular grooves.
These allow them to actually attach themselves to a part of the host, which in this case is your cat.
In the vast majority of cases, they will than attach to your cats intestines.
Each segment of the tapeworm has its own reproductive cycle, making them even more dangerous to your cat.
New segments are forming constantly in the neck region of the worm, while the end of the tapeworm is cast off as it matures.
Once cast off, these mature segments contain a very large numbers of eggs, which are often grouped together in what is referred to as packets.
Once tapeworms are actually spotted in your cat, it is this portion of the tapeworm that is almost exclusively spotted near your cat’s anus area.
If these segments are actually still alive, you will be able to see them physically move. If they are dead and have dried, they will resemble cucumber seeds or uncooked rice and appear harmless.
However, they are anything but harmless.
Each of the five tapeworms has life cycles that will include an intermediate host and the primary host.
Once this is understood by an owner, there is one other factor that is very troubling.
Tapeworms in cats have absolutely no digestive system of their own, and instead they absorb their nutrients through their skin as they are stealing them from your cat.
The intermediate hosts are usually fleas, lice, or domestic animals such as sheep or pigs.
The five species of tapeworms that affect cats are referred to as Dipylidium caninum, Taenia species, Echinococcus granulosus and E. multiocularis, Diphyllobothrium latum, and Spirometra mansonoides
This form of tapeworms in cats is also referred to as the flea tapeworm, double-pored tapeworm, or the cucumber seed tapeworm.
The form of worm is found worldwide, and can be absolutely terrifying as it can grow as large as 20 inches long.
It lives and thrives in your cats small intestine, and the eggs are passed easily though the feces.
Once these segments dry, they break open and free the eggs.
The intermediate host than ingests the eggs, where they develop into an immure form, and when your cat eats the insect, usually a louse or a flea, it than develops into an adult.
This form of tapeworm in cats is almost always diagnosed by finding either the moving segments or the dried form, usually resembling cucumber seeds.
If your cat is infected with this form of tapeworms, you will notice two things; abdominal pain or discomfort as well as a very sudden nervousness.
Your cat may also vomit, and they may also begin to scoot as they are trying to get rid of the discarded segments.
This form of tapeworm is treated with tapeworm tablets, and the dosage will depend on the weight of your cat.
However, these cannot be used in kittens younger than seven weeks old.
The best way of preventing this tapeworm is to control the intermediate hosts, which is fleas and lice.
This form of tapeworms in cats is very common in the United States, as well as the European countries.
To make it even more complicated with this species, it has 9 major species of its own, but only one attacks cats.
The form that attacks cats uses rodents as their intermediate host, and this is even more terrifying than the Dipylidium caninum species.
The reason for this is they can infect cats for as long as year. In severe cases, it can be several years.
However, that is not the terrifying part. This tapeworm can grow as large as 6 feet long in your cat.
That is almost impossible to picture in your mind’s eye, but it is a very real possibility.
The life cycle of this tape worm is slightly different, as the eggs are released before the segments have been passed.
The intermediate host, rodents, than ingest these eggs, which are immediately infective to them.
Once infected, they are released into the small intestines and the immature forms migrate throughout their body to several vital organs.
They then develop what is called a bladder, and when this bladder is ingested by your cat, the head of the tapeworm is released, attaches to your cats intestinal wall, where it begins to grow.
The signs of infection with this form of tapeworms are almost nonexistent, even with the potentially huge size.
It is also very difficult to diagnose, and only a very qualified veterinarian may be able to spot this infection.
However, as it does grow in size, it can and has totally shut down some cats internal organs.
The best mode of protection from this form is to not allow your cat to catch or interact with rodents.
Echinococcus Granulosus and E. Multiocularis
This form of tapeworms in cats is perhaps the most troubling for several reasons. The first reason is that this tapeworm is just the opposite as it is extremely small and very difficult to detect.
The second is that it is zoonotic, and can easily be passed to humans.
If it is passed from cats to humans, it can be fatal, as it can very easily lead to organ failure in humans.
Sheep are perhaps the largest intermediate host, and because of this, it is limited to only areas of the United States where sheep are raised.
However, in other parts of the world, it is much more prevalent because of large sheep populations.
Your cat will show virtually no symptoms with this form as tapeworm, unless they are heavily infected.
If they are, they will show the same basic symptoms as the first form. The real danger with this tapeworm, however, is passing it to humans.
The other two forms of tapeworms in cats, Diphyllobothrium latum, and Spirometra mansonoides, and not real serious threats to cats.
However, Diphyllobothrium latum is also zoonotic, and can easily be passed by cats to humans.
It is not as severe as Echinococcus granulosus, but can very easily cause a vitamin B12 deficiency in humans.
Tapeworms in cats can easily be prevented by worming your pet every three months.
There are several very effective products on the markets such as Drontal, Droncit, as well as Hartz Advanced care liquid wormer.
If your cat roams and hunts, they will need to be wormed more often.
Preventing fleas in your cats has several potential health benefits, and this is one of them. Just picturing a 6 foot tapeworm in your cat is something that any owner should do just once.
If you do, you will never fail to have your cat properly wormed ever again.