What are Tapeworms?

Cats who are hunters run the risk of picking up Tapeworm infection (Taenia taeniaeformis) from mice or rats. 


 Eggs are ingested by a rodent and hatch in the gut.  The larva makes its way through the gut wall to the liver where it matures to the infectious stage.  This takes approximately 60 days.  When the cat eats the infected rodent the larval tapeworm attaches to the cat’s gut wall.  This can take 36 to 42 days.


Most tapeworms live in the small intestine of the final host, the cat.  Heavy infestations in this area may cause diarrhea, occasionally vomiting where large sections of the tapeworm may be vomited, 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 the passing 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 color and contract along their length looking at times like a miniature dumb bell.  After a while they dry and shrivel.  The segments are often described as appearing like a grain of rice which changes from white to yellow in time.  They may be noticed on the cat’s stool or around their rectum.


There are many broad spectrum products to treat tapeworm infection.  A rural, hunter of a cat may need to be wormed every month.  Typically it is recommended to de-worm every two to three months for any cat that hunts regularly.  De-worming the cat will eliminate the current infection but does not prevent the cat from re-infection.

Please contact Golf Glen Veterinary Clinic at (905) 727-3003 if you have any questions or are concerned that your cat may be a carrier of Tapeworm and we can recommend the best treatment option for your pet.

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