These are complex animal parasites that have a life cycle requiring at least two ‘hosts’, to survive. The primary or intermediate host carries the ‘larval’ form of the parasite, often living in the most innermost tissues of this host. In most cases, this primary host is eaten by the secondary or final host, with the tapeworm developing to an adult in the intestine of this last host. Because both cats are carnivores and by nature are creatures that will tend to eat others, they are invariably the final host. When we talk about cats having tapeworms we are assuming that they are final hosts with tapeworms in their intestines and that they have obtained the adult tapeworm, by at some time having eaten the ‘larval’ tapeworm in the primary host. The lifestyle of both the species and the individual will tend to dictate what type of tapeworm your cat may catch. Many tapeworms are species-specific; i.e. they will form an adult tapeworm only in one species.
The principal tapeworms affecting acts and dogs in northern Europe can be divided into three groups.
This is the most common tapeworm of cats and dogs. The adult tapeworm lives in the small intestines of the cat and sheds segments which are usually 5-8mm long (this is the width of the tapeworm when the segment is attached to the adult) when passed out in the faeces. The segments are often shed inside your home where the eggs are released. These are eaten by flea larvae which crawl around inside the carpet and in cracks and crannies in flooring and skirting. The flea larvae act as the intermediate host and will develop into an adult flea in due course. When the flea jumps onto and parasitises your pet, your pet is likely to eat the annoying flea and so contracts a tapeworm infestation. The life cycle of Dipylidium is only three weeks. The key to success in eradicating this Dipylidium from your pet is to understand the life cycle and to understand that you have to eliminate the flea to eliminate the worm.
There are a large number of Taenia species of tapeworm, of which a few affect cats. They have different intermediate and final hosts in many cases, and it depends totally on your cat’s lifestyle whether he or she will contact these worms. Cats, due to their hunting activities are very likely to gain this type of tapeworm. The life cycle varies depending on the species of Taenia tapeworm from two to ten weeks. The segments vary in size depending on species but are often a cm in length.
|Name of Tapeworm||Final host||Intermediate host|
|Taenia hydatigena||Dog||Sheep, Ox, Pig|
This group of tapeworms are a threat to human health; i.e. they are a zoonosis. For this reason, owners of cats and dogs should be aware of them and should worm regularly as man can act as the intermediate host for this group of tapeworms. They are particularly prevalent in sheep rearing areas where cats may have access to infected dead sheep carcasses. If you live in a rural area. In, particular, we would recommend very regular worming against this parasite. They have a life cycle of between four and six weeks and are so small in their adult form in the cat that you are unlikely to spot them. If your cat eats carrion, hunt or receives raw meat, do worm them regularly. The final host can be almost any type of cat, dog or wild canid and the intermediate host is man, herbivores (sheep, ox, deer), pig and man. In the intermediate host, Echinococcus forms hydatid cysts, often in the liver and lungs. This can lead to organ failure and death.
Most tapeworms live in the small intestine of the final host, the cat. Heavy infestations in this area may cause diarrhoea, occasionally vomiting when large sections of the tapeworm may be vomited, unthriftiness and weight loss. More commonly low infestations can occasionally cause anal irritation with the cat licking and chewing around the anal area or scooting (dragging backside along the ground). This is due to expulsion of the tapeworm segments which due to their sticky nature often attach to the skin and hair around the backside. When they first emerge, they have a pearlescent white colour and contract along their length looking at times like a miniature dumb-bell. The contractions of the segment are highly irritating to the cat. After a while, they dry and shrivel. A lot of people compare them with a grain of rice which changes from white to yellow with time.
There are many broad-spectrum products on the market that treat both tapeworm and roundworms.
This again depends on its lifestyle and where you live. A rural, hunter of a cat may need to be wormed every month! We would recommend twice yearly worming as a minimum with worming at intervals of three months for any cat that hunts regularly.
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