Sunday, December 28, 2014

Q&A: Is your cat feeling all worm & fuzzy inside?

Q: We adopted a stray cat who ended up having kittens. When we had their fecal exams done, the little black one had a tapeworm. How do kittens get tapeworms and how are they treated?

A: Tapeworms are common intestinal parasites in cats. The long, flat worms can grow to be more than two feet long. The segments of their bodies contain egg packets, which are passed in a cat's feces to begin the life cycle all over again.

Tapeworms are a good example of the importance of flea control, because they are transmitted when cats ingest fleas or rodents that host immature tapeworms in their bodies. The tapeworms take up residence in the cat's gut, latching onto the intestinal wall with hooks and suckers. Yuck!

Cats with tapeworms may vomit or lose weight for no apparent reason. Occasionally, you may see pieces of the worm - they look like grains of cooked rice - stuck to the fur around the cat's rear end or wiggling on the feces. That's the ultimate ick factor!

Outdoor cats and those who aren't regularly treated for fleas are most likely to acquire tapeworms. The parasites are easily treated. Your veterinarian can prescribe an appropriate dewormer.

You may see dewormers sold over the counter at pet-supply stores, but tapeworms are one parasite that few over-the-counter dewormers kill.

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