Feline Tapeworm Diagnosis

Feline tapeworm is a parasitic intestinal infection. Tapeworms attach themselves to the wall of your cat's intestines, and absorb the nutrients your cat eats through their skin. Tapeworms usually aren't dangerous, though if the infestation is especially severe, they can cause malnutrition and weight loss. Symptoms of feline tapeworm are easy for most owners to recognize.

How Tapeworm Infestation Occurs

Fleas spread feline tapeworm. Fleas serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms, meaning that tapeworms can't complete their life cycle without host fleas. Larval fleas eat tapeworm eggs, then grow to adults. As adults, the fleas bite your cat, and the cat bites the flea; when your cat swallows a flea that's carrying tapeworm eggs, he becomes infested with tapeworms.

Cats who suffer from flea infestation are likely to contract tapeworms. If flea infestation is not controlled, tapeworm re-infestation will occur. Even with deworming medication, tapeworm re-infestation can reassert itself in a matter of a few weeks, if your cat lives in a flea-infested environment.

How You Can Diagnose Tapeworm Infestation

Feline tapeworm infestation can occur without symptoms. The most common symptom, and the one easily recognized by most cat owners, is the appearance of proglottids around the cat's anal area and in the feces. These proglottid are small and white; they look like tiny grains of rice. Often, they may still be moving upon their emergence from the cat's digestive tract.

Tapeworms have segmented bodies; as they mature, these segments, or proglottids, break off and pass out of the host animal in the stool. Each proglottid contains as many as 20 tapeworm eggs. Though proglottids often appear in the stool of infected cats, this may not always be the case.

Additional symptoms of tapeworm infection include scooting or dragging the rear along the floor. If a tapeworm detaches itself from the intestinal wall and makes its way into the stomach, your cat may vomit it up. Cats have been known to vomit adult tapeworms of several inches in length.

If you see these small, white tapeworm segments, or proglottids, around your cat's anal area or in his feces, then he has tapeworms. Your vet can confirm the diagnosis and administer a deworming medication. Deworming medications are safe and effective, and can be administered orally or via injection. Rarely, side effects could include diarrhea and vomiting.

Preventing Tapeworm Infestation

Controlling and eliminating flea infestation is the only way to prevent feline tapeworm infestation and re-infestation. Fleas carrying tapeworm eggs inside their bodies, and cats become infected with tapeworms when they swallow fleas. Cats who suffer from flea infestation or live in flea infested environments will suffer multiple tapeworm infestation.

The best way to prevent feline tapeworm infestation and re-infestation is to apply a topical flea treatment such as Frontline, Revolution or Advantage. Because fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae can live in upholstery, carpet, linens, floorboard cracks and even the soil in your lawn, fleas are particularly difficult to remove from your environment. A topical flea treatment, however, can keep fleas off of your cat anyway.