When you find that your cat has fleas, your primary concern is probably getting those bugs off of your cat and out of your house. While eradicating the fleas is certainly important, there is another pest you need to be concerned about, too: tapeworms. Tapeworms are transmitted by fleas, so if your cat has fleas, you should be treating him for both pests.
How are tapeworms transmitted by fleas?
Fleas carry tapeworm eggs. If your cat ingests a flea that is carrying an egg (which happens often, since cats lick and suck to rid themselves of fleas), the eggs can hatch inside the cat's digestive tract. After going through a larval stage, they then develop into full-grown adult worms.
What are the signs of tapeworm in a cat?
Most cats do not show noticeable signs of tapeworm infestation unless they also have other diseases or the infestation is remarkably bad. However, you may notice small, wiggling, off-white critters that look like pieces of rice near your cat's anus or in its feces. These are segments of the adult tapeworm. Even if you do not notice these segments being passed, however, you should treat your cat for tapeworms if he has fleas. The infestation may not have yet reached the stage where the adult worms are shedding segments, and catching it early is not a bad thing.
How do you treat your cat for tapeworm?
Treating your cat for tapeworm is actually quite easy. Tapeworm medications are available over-the-counter in most pet stores. Make sure you purchase one with the active ingredient praziquantel. Wormers with different active ingredients are designed for different types of worms and won't necessarily kill tapeworms. There are liquid, pill, and powder-style wormers. If you're not experienced with giving medications to cats, the powder or liquid are the easiest, since you can mix them right into some wet cat food or tuna.
Follow the instructions on the package to dose your cat. Often, you'll need to give your cat one dose now, and another dose in a week or two.
If you continue to notice tapeworm segments passing from your cat after you have treated him with the wormer, talk to a veterinarian at your local animal hospital. He or she may be able to recommend a stronger dewormer or administer the dewormer for you to ensure your cat gets the right dose.
A flea infestation can be more than a minor annoyance. It can be a threat to your cat's overall health. By treating your cat for tapeworm after you notice fleas, you can prevent him or her from suffering the internal bleeding, anemia, and upset stomach that can come with a prolonged tapeworm infection.