Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Monday, January 16, 2012

Unpleasant But (Mostly) Harmless

I'm referring to tapeworms. These are fairly common parasites in our dog and cat population.  

There are a number of species and some infect both cats and dogs. There are also some that are zoonotic, which means than can be infective to humans. Fortunately this is rare.

There are two main sources of tapeworm infections in pets:

1. Hunting and ingestion of rodents, rabbits and hoofed animals, such as sheep, deer, etc.

The latter group happens when an animal dies or is hunted or slaughtered with remains, intestines, etc left to be scavenged - be in a field or on a farm.

2. Fleas

Of course, it's important that every pet that comes in for an exam be checked for fleas, which is very easy to do with the use of a flea comb. Parting the hair is not enough. I have done this and missed fleas or flea "dirt" (feces) which was subsequently easily found by combing. 

Tapeworms generally cause no major signs or problems for pets. They are infected with low numbers of adults. They are also not generally diagnosed like most other intestinal parasites which is via fecal flotation. This is because the eggs are generally heavier and more sporadic, they are not often seen. The most common way we know is that the owner or a veterinary professional or groomer, sees the "rice like" segments under the tail or by the rectal area. 

Finding tapeworms should always result in a search for fleas and if not already being done, having the pet on monthly flea and tick prevention. 

Tapeworms are very easy to treat. There are several medications that are quite effective, including a topical product for cats. However, if the cat is going out and hunting regularly, its important that they get a broad spectrum dewormer (my personal favorite is fenbendazole because of all it covers) at least 3-4 times a year. 

The Companion Animal Parasite Control Council Website is an informative and reliable resource about all pet parasites, control and public health concerns.


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