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What are Tapeworms?

There are various types of tapeworms that can infect cats. The most common is calledDipylidium caninum and is associated with fleas. The second most commonly seen tapeworm is called Taenia taeniaeformis and is linked to small mammals, birds and reptiles. Tapeworms can live up to two years if untreated, but often do not cause great harm to their host. These worms can grow up to 20 inches long, however, they are usually smaller. Tapeworm infestations are fairly common in cats, and veterinary treatment is very effective at eradicating them. 

Tapeworms are a type of intestinal parasite called a cestode. They take the shape of long, flat worms that resemble off-white ribbons. To infect a cat, they must be ingested. Tapeworms are unable to digest food, so to gain nutrients they attach themselves to the intestinal walls of other animals and absorb digested food through holes in their skin. The worms are made up of segments called proglottids that can break off and release eggs. These segments exit a cat with its feces and may be visible as small, rice-like worms.

Tapeworms Average Cost

From 302 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Tapeworms in Cats

More often than not, an infected cat will not exhibit any notable symptoms other than the visible worm segments in its bowel movements. In extreme cases of infestation involving multiple worms, other symptoms may be seen. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Dull coat
  • Anemia
  • Weakness
  • Dragging, licking or biting at anus due to itchiness
  • White proglottids in stool
  • Worm or worms in vomit (rare)
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Causes of Tapeworms in Cats

Tapeworms generally need to be ingested by at least two different insects or animals to complete their life cycle. The first is referred to as an intermediate host, and is the primary source of infection to other animals. Different types of tapeworms have different intermediate hosts.

Dipylidium caninum

These worms use fleas to progress to their next stage of life. An infected flea may bite a cat to feed, leaving tapeworm eggs in the bite wound. Once a cat licks or bites at the wound due to itch or as a part of general grooming, the tapeworm eggs may be ingested. As the eggs reach the intestines they hatch and attach to the walls using hook-shaped appendages.

Taenia taeniaeformis

The intermediate hosts of these tapeworms can be many small animals including mice, birds and rodents. As these are common prey of outdoor house cats, tapeworms may easily be spread to cats from these animals. The tapeworms create egg filled cysts on the intermediate host’s liver, which, once ingested, hatch inside the cat. 

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Diagnosis of Tapeworms in Cats

Often, tapeworms are found by the owner of the cat while cleaning out the litter box. Once a cat has been brought in to a veterinary clinic, the vet will complete a physical examination including a close look at the cat’s anus, as proglottids are sometimes seen near the opening. If a cat is diagnosed with fleas, it is wise to assume that Dipylidium caninum tapeworms are also present.

Various fecal examinations will be needed to confirm the type of worms that have infested the cat. Examination of the eggs alone is often not accurate, as many worm eggs resemble each other. Approximately one teaspoon of fresh fecal material may need to be collected from your cat to perform a fecal flotation test. The excrement is then mixed with a substance that is heavier than the worms. After 20 minutes, all worm eggs will float to the surface of the mixture and can then be collected for microscopic analysis and identification. 

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Treatment of Tapeworms in Cats

Treatment to rid your cat of tapeworms is readily available and very effective. Always consult your veterinarian before choosing a treatment, and seek prescription medications over pet store options. 

Deworming Medication

 

Many medications have been manufactured for the purpose of ridding cats of tapeworms. These treatments come in the form of injections, tablets and skin drops. Certain medications may have side effects of vomiting and diarrhea. Commonly prescribed deworming medications include anthelmintic, praziquantel, febantel and fenbendazole.

Flea Medication 

If your cat has been confirmed as carrying Dipylidium caninum tapeworms, it may be necessary to also start a regular flea medication to eliminate the possibility of reinfection. Flea medications are often administered on a once a month basis. 

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Recovery of Tapeworms in Cats

Eradication of tapeworms with deworming medication is very successful. Many owners choose to deworm their cat on a regular basis as a precautionary action. It may be necessary to keep your cat indoors to prevent it from hunting small animals that carry tapeworms. While cat to human transmission of tapeworms is rare, it can happen, especially with children. Teach any children in the home proper hygiene habits when handling the cat. 

If the cat is recovering from a flea infestation also, extra precautions may be necessary. Wash all of the cat’s toys and bedding in hot water. Clean the litter box daily and safely dispose of all feces. Disinfect the litter box on a regular basis. In extreme cases, the home or yard may need to be treated for fleas to prevent reinfection. With proper care, tapeworms can be permanently removed from your cat.

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Tapeworms Average Cost

From 302 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Tapeworms Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Gemma

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Shorthaired

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss

I got my cat from outside around October, she looked a healthy weight. By December she was a pudgy and fluffy with a very nice coat from the good eating ^_^ I began to notice around March/April that she was losing weight. I then discovered she & a cat I already had, had contracted worms soon after. I’m still unsure if she got them from my neighbors cat(long story) or she had them all along & passed them to my other cat. Either way she’s lost a significant amount of weight. Once I discovered the worms (coming from her behind), I inspected my other cat’s bedding and discovered they both had them. I got them both shots to kill them. She weighed at 6.6lbs & they said she appeared to be just under a year. When I took her to another vet a month or so later to receive the rest of her shots and more deworming meds she was 6.2lbs I’m not worried about my other cat. He’s 12lbs of steel and eats like a horse. I’m starting to notice SOME weight gain but she’s still so far off from what she was when I first got her. She’s very playful, has 24/7 ninja battles with her brother and climbs on top of everything dangerous. Very loving & eats just fine. But when I look at old pictures I get so worried it’s something more to her weight loss since I can’t exactly pin point when she got the worms and when the weight loss began I had a friend tell me when her cat contracted worms it took very long for the weight to become normal again. Could this be the issue ? What more can I do to rule out other issues since she’s a virtually a normal cat ? Also what could I do to encourage more weight gain.

Aug. 31, 2018

Gemma's Owner

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Max

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tabby

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2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Worms with my cat Max has been an off and on thing. She never has any symptoms that she has worms, I’ll just see her walking and see a little piece of a worm on her behind. Only way she acts off is she gets obnoxiously loud and will meow for hours on end. She can have worms for two weeks and then all trace of them disappear for months at a time. I’ve never gotten her any medicine for it because I don’t know what’s best to get her for Tapeworms, and I can’t exactly afford a vet visit right now. I’m at a loss as to what to do about it. I’ve tried all home treatments I can and it just continues the same as always for the past two years. Currently is the first time in 10 months that she has had worms again. If someone can point towards the best dewormer for all worms for a 9-10 pound cat that would be so appreciated.

Aug. 30, 2018

Max's Owner

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Finzi

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Domestic long hair

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss

My 12 y.o. male cat has recently lost a significant amount of weight (from 15 lbs. to 9 lbs) He had become severely matted, so at the Vet's advice, I got him a lion cut. He loves it, but now I can notice a very bloated stomach. He eats well, now, but has a tendancy to vomit in the morning before eating (just bile). He was exposed to fleas about a year ago, but didn't show any behaviors at that time. Could he have tapeworms?

Aug. 26, 2018

Finzi's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Parasites are a possibility if Finzi hasn't been treated for them, yes. With those signs, it is also possible that he is having a systemic problem, and some basic labwork may not be a bad idea. Your veterinarian can help you with having that done and assessing the results.

Aug. 26, 2018

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Dutch

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dog-age-icon

4 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy Weight Loss Emaciated,

Lethargy. Weight loss no visible works at anus. Does have visible fleas especially at neck and mouth. The cat is 4-5 months old. Does this sound like taped worm? Tummy isNotbloatetdt

Aug. 16, 2018

Dutch's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Worms are a possibility and you should be worming regularly with an effective anthelmintic and applying a topical flea & tick medication as part of your prevention program; however, without an examination I cannot say for certain whether the cause is due to parasites or there is another underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 17, 2018

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JD

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Unknown

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

my cat is 3 years old and has been outside all the time for the past week. he is drooling quite a bit from his mouth and I found that he has shed more fur than usual. can either of these symptoms be cause by tapeworms?

Aug. 8, 2018

JD's Owner

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0 Recommendations

This doesn’t sound like tapeworms as we may see a loss of weight and general loss of condition; a loss of fur and drooling may be attributable to a few different causes and may not necessarily be related. Hormonal conditions, poisoning among other causes may be responsible. You should be worming JD regularly anyway with an effective anthelmintic and you should pop into your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 8, 2018

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Vera 11 yrs old and Kara 5 years old

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Unknown

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11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Worms On Fur

My neighbor died almost three years ago and the family members who moved in put both of her cats outside 24/7 with the option to go into the garage in cold weather. One is 11 years old and the other 5 years old. I've known both since they were kittens, the younger is not feral but doesn't let you pet it unless it's very hungry. The older has tapeworm (I handler her regularly). I give her flea treatment and dewormer, but since she is always outside (and since I can't get my hands on the younger cat) I don't know what to do to deworm and put flea treatment on the younger animal other than to set a trap on a neighbor's property. Can a cat die if tapeworm goes untreated? Can I justify to local animal control getting a trap for the younger animal to be treated? The family to my knowledge relies on a neighbor to feed the cats, but ultimately I do.

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Lacey

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Short hair domestic cat

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Licking At Genitals
Worms In Poo

My female cat never goes a month without tapeworms. She has had shots, drontal for cats for her weight. Pumpkin seed in her food daily for weeks, nothing helps. I used drontal, 3 weeks later another dose for her weight and still worms crawling out of her butt. I have now ordered DE to use in her food. She is treated for fleas and also my house. I'm just lost about what else to do

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Riggs

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Domestic long hair

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6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Tapeworms

My cat is being treated for tape worms. My vet gave my pet a shot for it, and I am doing my best to clean the home and make sure we stay worm-free, disinfecting the litter box, washing the cat's bedding, vacuuming the home and more. There are dried out proglottids still attached to the cat's rear end. They look like tan-colored seeds. I have tried cleaning the cat off with dander-reducing pet wipes and baby wipes, but those old segments are stuck hard to my cat, really firmly attached to the fur. How do you recommend removing this material? I am worried about my cat getting re-infected. Please advice! I want to be thorough, but as gentle as I can.

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Tigger

dog-breed-icon

Orange tabby

dog-age-icon

9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Lack Of Appetite
Lack Of Coordination

Hello one of my cats vomited out a tapeworm will my cat be okay after vomiting out the tapeworm is there anything else I can do if I can't afford a veterinarian.. will he be okay afterwards

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Bria

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Calico

dog-age-icon

5 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

No Bowel Movement For 36Hr

Tuesday and Wednesday I was pulling 8inch Tape worms from her butt. Got her to the vet Wednesday by noon. Vet dewormed,defleed,& put her on RX high fiber wet food.Now it's been 36hr since her last bowel movement. Should I be concerned about that? She's been playing but not as much as she had been.

Tapeworms Average Cost

From 302 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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