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Tapeworms are long, flat, segmented worms that can live in your pet's small intestine. If present in sufficient numbers, they can cause a loss of condition and an unhealthy appearance along with intestinal upset and even diarrhea. More commonly, however, the only visible sign of a tapeworm problem is the presence of small worm segments on the stool or on the hair around your pet's rear end. The segments that break off from the worm are actually packets of microscopic eggs. They look like small moving "inchworms" as they are passed, but, when dried up, can look like small white to tan sesame seeds or grains of rice. Since these egg packets do not break open in the stool, tapeworm eggs are usually not identified in a routine microscopic stool examination.
Tapeworms do not directly infect other cats and dogs because they require an intermediate host in which they develop. The intermediate host, once it is ingested by your pet, transmits the tapeworm. The most common kind of tapeworm uses the flea as an intermediate host. Flea larvae ingest tapeworm eggs which then mature inside the flea as it becomes an adult. If your pet ingests the tapeworm-carrying flea, the juvenile tapeworm is released in your pet's intestinal tract. Other kinds of tapeworms use wild animals like rodents and rabbits as the intermediate host. Outdoor pets that hunt and eat such prey are susceptible to this kind of tapeworm.
Our deworming medication for tapeworms is safe and almost 100% effective in killing adult worms. We may recommend a second deworming several weeks after the first in situations where we suspect that developing larval tapeworms, not susceptible to the medication, are initially present. Limiting exposure to the intermediate host is crucial in preventing re-infection. For flea-related tapeworms, complete flea control is necessary. Outdoor pets should be discouraged from hunting and/or eating their prey. If elimination of intermediate host exposure is not possible, routine use of the deworming medication every few months should be considered.
Important points to remember about tapeworms are:
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