Fleas and Tapeworm in Cats and Dogs
One of the most common parasitic infections that your cat and dog may contract is fleas. Tapeworm, which comes from the ingestion of fleas, is a common intestinal parasite that can be passed on to your pet. Luckily, both flea and tapeworm infections are a few of the easiest infections to prevent if the proper veterinary care for your cat or dog is given.
Fleas can cause many issues outside of infecting your pet with tapeworm; they can cause anemia (in high volumes), plague, allergic reactions, and many other infections.
Fleas infections can be very uncomfortable for your pets. They can cause severe itchiness, hair loss, redness/inflammation of the skin, secondary infections, and much more. When there is an infestation in your home, it is imperative to seek the proper veterinary treatment right away. In addition to addressing your pet, you will also need to clean up the environment your pet currently lives in as flea and flea eggs can remain in the household for many months allowing for re-infection. This can include hiring a professional cleaning crew to help rid your home of the parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend the best products for your pet to help treat and prevent infections.
One of the most common intestinal parasites your pet can get from fleas is tapeworm. Tapeworms are long, flat, segmented, intestinal worms with a hook-like mouth that can attach to your animal’s intestines. Adult worms can grow up to almost 11 inches in length. Once mature, they can release segments called proglottids through the animal’s feces and into the environment. These are the traditional “grain of rice” segments that are often noted during an infection. Once these proglottids dry in the environment, they open and can release several fertilized eggs.
Cats and dogs can become infected by ingesting fleas who are considered an intermediate host. This means that cats and dogs do not get tapeworm from ingesting the eggs directly from the environment, but rather by ingesting fleas which are infected. Fleas are routinely ingested during normal grooming sessions and/or when fleas bite your cat or dog.
Tapeworm infections are generally not life-threatening in adults however they can become serious if left untreated in younger cats and dogs; anemia, failure to thrive, and intestinal blockage leading to obstruction can all occur.
Outward signs to look for from your pet could include visibly seeing fleas on the body or segments around the anus, butt scooting, scratching, and licking/grooming at the hind end. Additionally, you may see segments on the feces that is passed. Because tapeworms are considered intermittent shedders, you will not always see them passed in every bowel movement your pet has. This can make diagnosis via testing a fecal sample inaccurate.
The easiest and best way to help prevent tapeworm infections is to take action preventatively. The use of year-round flea preventatives recommended by your veterinarian can ensure that your pet is protected.
Once a tapeworm infection is diagnosed, your veterinarian will recommend the proper dewormer for your pet. If your pet is living in a flea-infested environment, re-infection can occur in as little as two weeks. It is imperative that your pet is protected year round and the environment is as clean as possible. For more information, schedule an exam with your pets veterinarian today.