Dipylidium are tapeworms that can be found in cats as well as dogs. Humans have become infected by accidentally swallowing a flea that is infected with tapeworm larvae. The cases most reported are found in children. Dipylidium infection is easily treated in both humans and animals.

The Most Common Tapeworm

The most common tapeworm presented in dogs and cats is called Dipylidium. However, it infects animals across the whole world.

How Did My Pet Get Infected With the Dipylidium Tapeworm?

Pets are often infected by this tapeworm when they swallow a flea that is infected with tapeworm larvae. This could happen whilst your pet had been self-grooming. Once your pet digests the larvae, the tapeworm begins to mature into an adult. 

An adult tapeworm is made up of tiny segments called proglottids. Each of these segments is about the size of a grain of rice. An adult tapeworm could measure anywhere from 4 to 28 inches long. The segments break off and pass into the stool as the tapeworm matures. 

Causes of Tapeworms

A tapeworm infection begins after the Ingestion of tapeworm eggs or larvae.

Ingestion of eggs: When food or water that has been contaminated with faeces from a person or animal that has a tapeworm is consumed, microscopic tapeworm eggs are ingested. If a dog has been infected with a tapeworm, it’ll pass the tapeworm through its faeces. This will then contaminate the soil. Once this soil comes into contact with a food or water source, that to becomes contaminated. If food or water is consumed that has been contaminated, infection will take place. Once the eggs develop into larvae, they become mobile. This gives them the ability to migrate from the intestines causing cysts in the liver or other tissue. 

The Ingestion of larvae cysts in meat or muscle tissue: If an animal has a tapeworm infection, the larvae can be found in its muscle tissue. If the meat of an infected animal is consumed raw or undercooked, the Ingestion of larvae is likely to happen, and infection can take place. An adult tapeworm can measure up to 80 feet and live for as long as 30 years in a host. A tapeworm has the ability to attach itself to the wall of an intestine. This can cause irritation or mild inflammation. Others may pass through the stool and exit the host’s body. 

Risk factors

Factors that may put your cat at greater risk of tapeworm infection include:

Poor hygiene: Infrequent bathing will increase the risk of accidental transfer of the contaminated matter to the mouth.

Exposure to livestock: In areas where faeces aren’t disposed of properly, the likelihood of infection is higher.

Eating raw or undercooked meats: If meats aren’t properly cooked, tapeworm eggs and larvae aren’t killed.

Living in endemic areas: Exposure to tapeworm eggs is more likely in certain parts of the world. If you live where cattle and pigs roam freely, your cat is more likely to ingest larvae and become infected.

Does my cat have a tapeworm infection?

Cats rarely become ill from a tapeworm infection. Therefore it’s best to keep an eye on your cat. The proglottids can often be seen crawling near the anus or in a fresh bowel movement. Tapeworm eggs can be found in Proglottids. These eggs will release into the environment once the proglottid dries out. Dried proglottids are about 2mm, hard and yellowish. They often stick to the fur around the pet’s anus. 

What kind of problems do Tapeworms Cause?

Although tapeworms are not generally harmful to your pet, weight loss could occur if your pet has been heavily infected. An infected pet might drag its bottom across the ground or carpet because of the segments cause irritation to the skin. 

How is tapeworm infection in pets diagnosed?

Tapeworm infection is diagnosed when you can see moving segments crawling around your pet’s anus or in their bowel movement. It is rare that tapeworm eggs are released into faeces. Therefore, they are not often detected by routine faecal exams when performed by your vet. Your vet is dependent on you to inform them of any possible tapeworm infections in your pet. 

Can I get a tapeworm from my pet?

You can get infected with tapeworm from your pet. Your chances of infection, however, are very slim. For you to get infected, you’ll need to swallow the above mentioned infected flea. The best way to prevent possible infections in pets and humans is through routine flea control. If your child has been infected, they will pass proglottids. These look like little grains of rice in a bowel movement. They may also stick to the skin around the bowel area.

Tapeworm Symptoms In Humans

Symptoms don’t often occur when infected with a tapeworm. If problems during an infection do occur, the symptoms will depend on the type of tapeworm you have, along with its location. An invasive tapeworm infection’s symptoms depend on where the larvae have migrated. 

The signs and symptoms of intestinal infection include:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight Loss
  • Dizziness
  • Salt craving

If a tapeworm has migrated from the intestine and into other tissue, organ and tissue damage can occur. This will result in symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Cystic masses or lumps
  • Allergic reactions to the larvae
  • Neurological signs and symptoms, including seizures

How is a tapeworm infection treated?

The treatment prescribed for both animals and humans is simple yet effective. A prescription drug is given either orally or by injection for pets. This medication will cause the tapeworm to dissolve within the intestine. This causes the worm to often be digested before it passes. Therefore, it will not appear in your cat’s stool. 

Everything to know about cat tapeworms

Tapeworms in cats are easily treated, so there is no need for panic. If your cat begins to show symptoms of weight loss and vomiting, consult your vet immediately. Keep up to date with your cat’s flea control to reduce the risk of infection.