From the first day that we live with the cat, we must assume the commitment to take care of it and to make sure that it will receive all the attention it needs. And, apart from food, water, and a place to live, he will also need the help of a veterinarian from time to time, because unfortunately he can also fall ill on more than one occasion.
Although there are many diseases that can affect you, this time we are going to focus on tapeworms in cats , which if not treated will seriously endanger our four-legged friend.
What is tapeworm?
First of all, you have to know what tapeworm is since that way we can take the appropriate measures to eliminate it. Good. The tapeworm or cestode is an intestinal parasite whose appearance is that of a white and segmented worm, whitish in color . Three parts are distinguished:
- Scolex (head): is the organ with which it is attached to the intestines. It has hooks or suction cups depending on the species that serve to adhere to the walls of these organs.
- Neck: it is a portion in which each of the segments that form it develops, called strobil or proglottid chain.
- Strobilus: it is the body of the parasite, the set of proglottids. Those that are closer to the neck are immature, but as they move away they experience progressive maturation. In addition, it must be known that each segment has both reproductive systems, which means that they are hermaphrodites.
It does not have a digestive system, so what it does is absorb the host’s nutrients.
What types are there?
Although at first glance all tapeworms look the same to us, there are several types depending mainly on who their host is :
- Taeonia solium: is the one that comes from pork. It causes two well-known infections: Teniasis, which occurs when raw meat is eaten with larvae) and Cistercosis, which is when meat is eaten with the parasite’s eggs.
- Taenia saginata: it is the one that comes from beef. It is spread by consuming contaminated raw or undercooked meat.
- Diphyllobothrium latum: it is the one that comes from fish. It is found in undercooked specimens in the form of small larvae.
And these two are the ones that most affect cats:
- Taenia taeniaeformis: its host is the rodent, so if a cat hunts, one can catch it.
- Dipylidium caninum: spread through fleas ingested during grooming.
What is the life cycle of the parasite?
The tapeworm needs two hosts in order to reach maturity and leave the next generation. The first is the intermediate host, which can be a flea or a rodent, in whose bodies the larval phase will occur; and finally the final host (such as the cat for example) where the larva will develop into an adult parasite.
Once this is achieved, at around 2 or 3 weeks, the final proglottids that contain a large number of eggs break the end of the tapeworm and move towards the outside of the feline , either through the feces or crawling through the anus of the animal. As soon as they reach the environment, the segments disintegrate and release the eggs, which will be ingested by fleas or rodents.
In the event that the flea larvae eat the eggs, what will happen is that they will hatch inside them, pass through their intestinal wall and develop into cysticercoids. As soon as the flea reaches adulthood, it will contaminate the cat’s fur, which when ingested will accidentally become infected. Immediately afterwards, the parasite will head towards the feline’s stomach, where the flea will decompose and release the cysticercoid, which will latch onto the furry’s small intestine wall.
What are the symptoms of tapeworm in cats?
At first they will not show symptoms, but sometimes we can notice or see that it has anal itching and irritation , so that it will sit up and drag its hindquarters and even lick or bite this area. In some cases there may be depression , irritability, and a dull coat . In addition, some parts of the tapeworm can be seen on the ground or in areas where the animal rests.
In severe cases, when the number of worms is high, you will have significant problems: intestinal obstruction and inflammation and metabolic disorders that will lead to vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, lack of appetite, malnutrition or abdominal pain.
How do you make the diagnostic?
If we suspect that the cat has had – or, simply, we are concerned about its health even when there are no symptoms – we will take it to the vet for a complete physical examination , and we will collect a fecal sample so that the professional can confirm the diagnosis.
How is it treated?
Antiparasitics are used to treat tapeworms in cats , usually orally. If there are other symptoms such as vomiting and / or diarrhea, they should be treated with specific medications.
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