Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Our cat recently started leaving these yellow seed looking segments all over the bed. I am very nervous and scared all the time about getting sick so naturally this concerned me. What do I do? Will I get or do I now have these worms too? If I touch them without noticing and grab something to eat, will I catch them? Or if I pick my nose, will they enter my brain and kill me? How can I get them to leave the cat for good?
Thomas: First of all, Kris, those yellow seed things are almost certainly tapeworm egg sacs. The good news is that tapeworms are easy to get rid of and they very, very rarely infect humans.
Bella: You see, tapeworms are transmitted by fleas, which a cat may eat while they’re grooming.
Thomas: The stomach digests the fleas but doesn’t have time to digest the tapeworm eggs before the cat’s meal moves on to the intestines. Once the eggs hatch, the worms attach themselves to the intestinal wall.
Bella: The only purpose of a tapeworm’s existence is to reproduce itself, so it feeds and creates egg sacs, which are shed when the cat poops.
Thomas: And those egg sacs are what you’re seeing.
Bella: The best way to get rid of tapeworms is to get a deworming medicine that contains praziquantel or epsiprantel. Drontal, Profender, Droncit and Cestex are the most effective of these.
Thomas: Drontal is a broad-spectrum dewormer, meaning it kills roundworms, hookworms and two types of tapeworms including the one transmitted by fleas. Drontal only comes in pill form.
Bella: Profender is a topical product like “spot on” flea and tick prevention products, and it too is a broad-spectrum dewormer.
Thomas: Droncit and Cestex only treat against tapeworms, and therefore are a little less expensive than Drontal and Profender.
Bella: All four of these products must be purchased from or prescribed by a veterinarian.
Thomas: There are lots of home remedies for treating tapeworm infections, but the majority of them are ineffective if not outright dangerous. One home remedy involves feeding garlic to your pet, and garlic is highly toxic to cats!
Bella: Better to spend a few dollars and get the product that works and is safe!
Thomas: Now, as for your question about whether humans can be infected: it’s possible, but the odds are very remote! The only way you could get tapeworms is if you accidentally ingested a flea.
Bella: According to a 2014 article in Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, a human infection with flea tapeworms is rare. In the past 20 years there have only been 16 reports of flea tapeworm infections in humans, and almost all the cases were found in children.
Thomas: So there’s no reason to freak out. Also, they can’t get up your nose and into your brain — I promise! Like most parasites, they require very specific conditions to hatch and survive, and those conditions are only found in the intestines.
Bella: If you did accidentally swallow a tapeworm segment, the acid in your stomach would destroy it before it hatched.
Thomas: So, our advice to you is to take your cat to the vet, get some tapeworm pills and use them as directed to treat the infection.
Bella: The very best way to prevent tapeworms is to prevent fleas, so we recommend that you use a topical flea control medicine. Your vet will know which ones work best in your area.
Thomas: And once again, when it comes to flea goop … buy the good stuff! Yes, it’s expensive, but you’re paying for a product that’s safe and effective.
Bella: Most of the inexpensive flea medications, flea collars and the like that are sold at pet stores are much less effective, so buying that crap is being “penny wise and pound foolish,” so to speak.
Thomas: Good luck, Kris. Go forth and deworm!
Bella: What about you other readers? Do you have advice for Kris on deworming or keeping his home worm-free? Share your thoughts in the comments.