Home Remedies for Tapeworm in Cats, is there such a thing?
For pet owners, there's nothing worse than watching a pet get sick.
Actually, maybe there's one thing that's worse:
Watching your cat get sick from a preventable illness.
Sadly, this is what thousands of pet owners have to go through every year when their animals contract tapeworms. While it may be tempting to doubt just how harmful a little worm can be, don't let the innocent-sounding name fool you. These little critters can cause problems for your cat.
Fortunately, tapeworms can be avoided. At the very least, parasitic tapeworms can be effectively treated if an infection does occur. There are plenty of natural remedies for tapeworms in cats, as well, so you won't have to overly rely on harsh medications to free your feline of these irritating parasites.
What Exactly is Tapeworm?
Imagine a long flat worm with multiple segments, similar to cars of a train or a string of pearls. This is your typical tapeworm. They don't have mouths. Instead, they absorb nutrients through their skin.
Once tapeworms get inside of a cat, they do not want to leave. On their head end, tapeworms have little fish-hook-like devices that lodge into the wall of the small intestine. If left untreated, these parasites can live for years inside your cat.
So, how long are these little buggers anyway? While they initially enter cats and dogs as larvae, once they hatch and mature into adults they can typically reach up to 12 to 18 inches long. But they can be as short as 4 inches to as long as nearly 30 inches or more.
Considering that a typical adult cat can have a small intestine of up to 60 inches long, this just goes to show how big of a problem tapeworms can become. So, initiating treatment at the first sign of these parasites is key.
Symptoms of a Tapeworm Infestation
You can typically tell if your cat has tapeworms by taking a close look at its feces. Tapeworms look like small grains of rice that may even wiggle. These little white specks are actually the tail-end segments of a tapeworm that breaks off and get excreted. They can also get stuck in the hair around a cat's anus or elsewhere on its body.
In a word: gross.
The fact that parts of a tapeworm periodically break off doesn't mean that the tapeworm is “leaving” its host body, per se. If the head of the tapeworm doesn't become dislodged, then the parasite will simply continue to grow.
Additional warning signs of a tapeworm infestation in a cat includes diarrhea and vomiting. You may notice your cat excessively licking or scratching at its anus or dragging its rear end across the floor—a fairly clear indicator that your poor feline is uncomfortable.
What Will a Tapeworm Do to My Cat's Health?
While not considered a serious health concern, tapeworms can stick around for a long time inside your animal and, like most parasites, may cause your cat to lose weight or become weaker. This is because tapeworms essentially leech nutrients from your cat's body.
Plus, as mentioned, tapeworms can make your cat physically uncomfortable and itchy in all the wrong places.
Not fun for you or your feline.
How Do Felines Get Tapeworms in the First Place?
As if tapeworms are gross-sounding enough, consider the most common way that cats get them in the first place:
You may not think that you have fleas in your home, but it's actually relatively easy to come in contact with these little buggers on a day-to-day basis. Boarding kennels (or “cat hotels”), grooming shops, pet stores, or even veterinary hospitals are often hotspots for fleas that may pass from one animal host to another.
Even the great outdoors (or your own backyard) can expose your cat to fleas. This is especially true if your cat goes outdoors and you live in a woody area.
Tapeworms, like a few other common parasites, require at least 2 animal hosts in order to survive. The first host—usually the common flea—will contain tapeworm larvae. Once the infected flea becomes ingested by the second host—e.g., your cat—that the larvae will find their way to the animal's small intestine, latch on, and begin to grow.
For cats specifically, they typically become infected by tapeworms after accidentally eating a flea while grooming, or after eating a tapeworm-infected rodent.
Treating a Tapeworm Infestation
So, you've noticed symptoms of tapeworm infestation in your cat. This can be a troubling discovery, and you'll want to take action as soon as possible to help your sweet feline friend.
Before you look into starting any de-worming treatments, it's important to bring your cat in to see your vet for an accurate diagnosis. He or she will ask that you bring in a sample of your pet's feces—so be sure to have a spare Tupperware container lying around that you wouldn't mind parting ways with.
Once a positive diagnosis has been confirmed, your vet can begin discussing treatment options with you:
Commercial Treatment Options
Your vet will most likely recommend commercial treatment options for your cat's tapeworm infestation. This often includes a series of injections or oral medications that kill the tapeworms. These medications are not known to be super effective. At the very least, most commercial medications require multiple doses for maximal effect. Re-infestation is common.
This means the cost of treatment can start adding up quickly.
Home Remedies for Tapeworm in Cats
In addition to being questionably effective and expensive, commercial medications may disrupt your cat's natural gut health. This can impair your cat's ability to absorb nutrients and could lead to nutritional deficiencies. For this reason, home remedies for tapeworms in cats are popular. Try these:
- Pumpkin seeds: highly anti-parasitic and full of healthy vitamins and minerals, these seeds can kill both larval and adult tapeworms. To use: add approximately 1 teaspoon of finely crushed pumpkin seeds into your cat's food for at least 3 weeks. Other natural foods include turmeric (about 1/8th of a teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight, once a day for 10 days) and papaya (1/2 of a teaspoon of finely chopped fruit once per day for 2 weeks).
- Parsley water: brew a homemade “tea” from the leaves of this herb to give your cat a gentle and natural diuretic. It's full of antioxidants and nutrients, plus it normalizes the digestive system. Simply boil a bunch of fresh parsley in a pot of water, strain, and allow to cool. Add 1/2 tablespoon of the cooled tea into your cat's water dish for 10 days.
Another major tip for how to get rid of tapeworms in cats naturally? Don't let them get tapeworms in the first place! It's always good practice to reduce your animal's exposure to critters, especially if your cat has already been treated for tapeworms in the past. Here are a few basic tips:
- Give your cat routine flea and tick preventive medication throughout the year.
- Reduce your cat's exposure to other critters by using sprays, traps, and other methods around your home and yard.
- Clean your cat's litter box more frequently.
The bottom line is this: if you have a cat, know the symptoms of a tapeworm infestation. Be prepared to take action by calling your vet and initiating treatment as soon as possible. Consider looking into home remedies for tapeworms in cats, too. These may save you some money and provide your cat with a more gentle treatment.
Lastly, remember that tapeworms present similarly in dogs, too. So, if you have a canine companion or know a few dog lovers in your life, then stay equally vigilant and do your best to promote a clean, critter-free environment in your home. Your pets (and your family) will thank you.
- Tapeworms at petsandparasites.org
- Zoonotic Disease: What Can I Catch from My Cat? Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
- Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats Brochure Cornell Feline Health Center
- Pumpkin seeds The World's Healthiest Foods
- Parsley The World's Healthiest Foods
- Cat Fleas The Pennsylvania State University
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