Before getting to this week’s question, I would like to thank everyone who voted for Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care in the Culpeper Star-Exponent’s “Best of Your Hometown” contest. My team and I are honored to be named the area’s best veterinary practice. Although we frequently win such contests, it is always humbling and gratifying to be recognized for the work we do on a daily basis. Thank you. Now, onto this week’s topic.
I have a cat that I got from a shelter where she received all of her shots. She is about 1 year old now and I think that she has worms. At first, I thought that it was seeds from bread, but I saw it again and it moved. I am wondering what to do and if it can be transferred to dogs.
Little rice-like granules in the feces that sometimes wiggle are probably tapeworm segments. Tapeworms are transmitted through eating fleas or rodents. The worms are actually quite long and made up of many, many segments. Individual segments break off and are passed in the feces. They squirt microscopic tapeworm eggs into the environment. These eggs are not directly infective to dogs, cats or people. They need to go through an intermediate host first.
In cats, I usually treat tapeworms with a topical medication that is applied to the skin, just like a flea and tick treatment. Tapeworm deworming pills are also available, as is an injection. The best treatment for your cat should be determined by your veterinarian.
Most over-the-counter dewormers that you find at pet shops or agricultural supply stores do not cover tapeworms, so pay close attention to the label. Some also cover only certain species of tapeworm. Often, multiple doses are needed with the pills. Again, it would be best to consult your veterinarian.
The good news is that tapeworms are not directly transmissible from cats to other animals or people. The tiny eggs that are spewed out by the tapeworm segments must pass through a flea or rodent host before becoming infective again.
Any cat that spends time outdoors should be on a preventive called Revolution Plus, while not specifically designed to combat tapeworms. This is one of the few times I recommend a specific product by name. This monthly spot-on prevents fleas (a source of tapeworms), ticks, ear mites, heartworms, roundworms and hookworms.
Since roundworms and hookworms can be passed to people or other pets, they are a big concern. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10,000 people are affected every year by dog and cat roundworms. Each year in the United States, 700 children permanently lose eyesight in an eye from these worms.
It is important for pet owners to treat this parasite seriously. Outdoor cats are big offenders since they hunt, groom fleas off themselves, and defecate in children’s play areas. The microscopic eggs will live in the soil or sandbox for up to three years.
Contrary to common belief, most pets with parasites do not show any symptoms or pass any visible worms. For more information on parasite prevention and the risks of roundworms in people, visit capcvet.org and cdc.gov/parasites/toxocariasis.
Besides tapeworms, there are other reasons to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Sometimes, what shelters call “all her shots” just means “up to that point.” There may be boosters due or vaccines that were skipped because she was too young at the time. During your visit, please bring a fresh stool sample so your veterinarian can identify the parasite you are seeing and help you determine the safest, most effective treatment.