Tapeworms and fleas are best buddies. Like other common intestinal parasites, tapeworms spread when their eggs are deposited in the environment through an infected animal’s stool. But that's where the similarity ends. Tapeworms cannot be passed to your cat or dog simply by eating them. Your pet has to eat a flea (through grooming or responding to a flea bite) that has eaten an egg. This means flea control is an important part of helping to protect your pet from a tapeworm infection.
Once infected, tapeworms feed on your pet by attaching to the wall of the small intestine. While tapeworm infections can make your pet uncomfortable, the good news is that severe complications are rare.
If your pet has worms, treat your pet with an at-home dewormer or visit your veterinarian for a prescription. Also, be sure to use a flea preventive year round to kill fleas that may transmit tapeworms. Additionally, you can help by keeping pet areas clean, regularly removing pet waste in your yard or litter box, and washing your hands.
How do cats and dogs get tapeworms?
- Common tapeworm transmission occurs when fleas eat tapeworm eggs and pets ingest those fleas through regular grooming of themselves or other pets
- When pets eat prey, such as rabbits or mice, already infected with tapeworms
How do I know if my cat or dog has tapeworms?
Most pets don't show any obvious tapeworm symptoms, but you may notice:
- Itchy rear end (may be accompanied by “scooting”)
- Tapeworm segments (may look like grains of rice or sesame seeds) in stool or around your pet’s rear/under tail
- Weight loss
What do tapeworms look like?
Tapeworms are flat, usually white or light-colored, and feature many segments. In fact, what we usually see as tapeworms is not the entire tapeworm, but the rice-like segments containing eggs shed through the stool. Your pet’s entire tapeworm can be up to 28 inches long!
Can humans get tapeworms from pets?
Yes. However, the risk of transmission of specific tapeworms from cats and dogs to humans is low. You, too, have to swallow an infected flea from your pet.
Fight worm infections
Bayer offers a wide range of effective dewormers. Don't forget, it's also important to kill fleas that may cause transmission of tapeworms. Find them at pet specialty stores and veterinarian offices.
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