Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I was wondering if you would have any advice on how to dispose of the tapeworm sections that are coming out of my kittens and into the environment? What will happen if the tapeworm sections (with the eggs in) are left in the house? What is the best way of getting rid of them and treating they problem? We have already got some worming treatments for them. Thank you for your time.
Thomas: Well, Lucy, we’ve got to admit that tapeworms are pretty gross! We certainly don’t like the feel of them squirming around on our butts!
Thomas: What? I was just telling the truth.
Tara: Tapeworms are something that pretty much every cat is going to experience at least once in their lives. Before we go on to telling you how to get rid of tapeworms, we’re going to explain a little bit about what they are and how cats get them.
Thomas: First of all, there are two different types of tapeworms cats can get: Dipylidium caninum is the most common type, and it’s easy to treat and not contagious to humans. Another type of tapeworm, Echinococcus, is much rarer and can be contagious to people if a person eats the eggs (which, we sincerely doubt any human would knowingly do).
Bella: Those rice grain things you see around the anus of a cat with tapeworms are called proglottids. Every tapeworm is made up of a whole bunch of segments, each of which is full of eggs. Those segments are the proglottids, and they detach from the tapeworm’s tail and come out via defecation. When they first come out, they squirm around a little bit, but they quickly dry out and stop moving.
Tara: So, how do cats get tapeworms? The most common vector is fleas. When cats groom themselves, they swallow fleas, and if those fleas have baby tapeworms inside them, then the cat gets worms.
Thomas: The best treatment for tapeworms is a broad-spectrum dewormer, which you can get at your vet. Generally these medications need to be given in two doses: one to kill the tapeworms already living in the intestines, and then one a couple of weeks later to kill all the tapeworms that hatched out of eggs inside the cat’s intestines.
Bella: The broad-spectrum dewormer is important because kittens almost always have roundworms, too–so you don’t want a medication that’s only designed to get rid of tapeworms. A kitten infected with roundworms looks like it has a pot belly, big and very firm. Worms can drain a kitten’s blood and cause health problems.
Tara: The best way to get rid of tapeworms and prevent them from coming back is to get rid of fleas. Keeping them inside so they don’t hunt can also decrease the risk of getting worms.
Thomas: Depending on the age of the kitten, flea treatment can be a bit of an issue. Most of the standard flea treatments you get at vets’ offices and pet stores can only be used in kittens older than 8 weeks, so if your kittens are younger, you’re going to have to bathe them.
Bella: The super-cool human known as Kitten Lady (she rescues neonatal kittens and has a whole YouTube channel dedicated to showing people how to take care of neonatal kittens and raising awareness of the need for people to foster tiny kittens) provides some great instructions on how to bathe a kitten safely and get rid of fleas.
Tara: And here’s the video version!
Thomas: If your kittens have fleas, so does your home, so you’re going to have to do some treatment of your home and bedding, too. Kittens are particularly susceptible to toxic “bug bombs” and sprays, and most of them don’t really work anyway, so here’s a post we wrote about a safer way to take care of fleas in your environment.
Bella: The process is labor-intensive, but it’s worth it.
Tara: So, Lucy, the way to get rid of tapeworms is to use a broad-spectrum dewormer that your vet gives you, and then clean fleas off your kittens and out of your environment.
Thomas: And don’t worry–even those those tapeworm proglottids are gross, you’re not going to get tapeworms as long as you don’t eat them yourself!
Bella: And if they’re the Dipylidium caninum type, they wouldn’t infect you anyway because they don’t survive in humans.
Tara: So, if that dewormer you have is from your vet, you’re ready to rock’n’roll. But the dewormers sold at pet stores are generally not effective against all types of worms. You may find that they have wormers to kill roundworms, but they may not kill tapeworms, for example.
Thomas: We found an article from Business Insider with a list of the best cat dewormers and what they treat. Check it out here.
Bella: So, Lucy, it’ll be some work to get rid of tapeworms in your kittens, but it’s well worth it to have healthy, happy little kitties running around your house.
Tara: What about you other readers? What tricks have you used to get rid of tapeworms? Tell us in the comments!