Tapeworms are fairly easy for your pet to pick up. Here’s how they might get these parasites, how to spot the warning signs and ways to help protect your dog or cat in the future.
How Do Cats and Dogs Get Tapeworms?
Like other common intestinal parasites, tapeworms spread when their eggs are deposited in the soil through an infected animal’s stool. But your dog or cat can’t get tapeworms simply by eating them. Your pet has to first eat a flea (through grooming or reacting to a flea bite) that has eaten a tapeworm egg. If your dog or cat has a high prey or scavenger instinct, they can also get tapeworms if they eat an animal that’s already infected, such as a rabbit or a mouse.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Tapeworm in Cats and Dogs?
Once infected, tapeworms anchor themselves to the wall of the intestine and absorb nutrients intended for your pet through their skin. While tapeworm infections can cause your pet discomfort, the good news is that severe complications are rare.
You may not know whether your cat or dog is infected with tapeworms. In many cases, no symptoms will be present or detected. However, you might notice:
- Tapeworm segments crawling around your pet’s anus or in their stool; they may look like grains of rice or sesame seeds
- Itchiness near your pet’s anal area, causing them to lick or bite the area, or scoot along the ground in an attempt to relieve the itch
- Weight loss
Additionally, while not as common of a sign, pets may vomit or have gastrointestinal upset when infected with tapeworms.
How Can You Treat and Prevent Tapeworm in Dogs and Cats?
If your pet has a tapeworm, treat them with an at-home pet dewormer or visit your veterinarian for a prescription.
Additionally, you can take the following steps to help prevent tapeworm in your pets:
- Administer a flea control product to your dog or cat.
- Remove or prevent rodents in and around your home.
- Keep pet areas clean.
- Regularly remove pet waste in the yard or litter box.
- Wash your hands.