When you groom your cat's fur with a brush, you might find tiny white worms, primarily around the anal area. These worms indicate a tapeworm infection, a type of intestinal parasite that a cat acquires from the ingestion of an infected flea. If you suspect your cat has a tapeworm infection, take it to a veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis before treating it.
A cat suffering from a tapeworm infection may exhibit diarrhoea, weight loss, vomiting, constipation or blood in the stool. You will see small, detached segments of the tapeworm, which look like tiny white worms or grains of rice, around the fur of the anus. Because of the irritation these worms cause, you might observe the cat scooting along the ground to scratch the anal area. Inspect the cat's stool, as the faeces may also contain these small, moving segments. The cat's abdomen can appear rounded and bloated, giving it a pot-bellied appearance, due to the tapeworm infection.
To ensure your cat receives the correct medication to eradicate the tapeworms from its system, take it to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. The doctor will inspect the anal area for the small, white segments of the tapeworm, called proglottids. These segments are usually less than 1/2 inch in length and contain the eggs of the tapeworm. The veterinarian will also take a fecal sample to determine the type of tapeworm the cat has in its system. Dipylidium caninum, carried by fleas, is the most common type of tapeworm to infect cats, though Taenia taeniaeformis, carried by rodents, can also infect a cat, according to Vetinfo.
You must give your cat a deworming medication that specifically targets a tapeworm. Deworming medicines that eliminate tapeworms contain a drug called Praziquantel. This ingredient has an effect on the tapeworm's system that causes it to dislocate from the wall of the cat's intestines and pass into its faeces, according to Vetinfo. To obtain a deworming medication to kill your cat's tapeworms, you must obtain a prescription through your veterinarian. Most dewormers available also contain a combination of different chemicals to kill other types of intestinal parasites in addition to the tapeworms, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and heartworms.
Keep your cat's environment clean, free of rodents and eliminate fleas from its coat. To kill fleas, give your cat a topical flea treatment, available in a liquid that you rub between the cat's shoulder blades. These medications kill and prevent fleas on your cat's skin. Because tapeworms must have an intermediate host to gestate, such as a flea or rodent, your cat can only become infected with the parasites if it comes into contact with that host and ingests it. Treat all cats in your home with flea prevention and give them a dewormer if you suspect any of your cats have a tapeworm to prevent it from spreading from cat to cat.