It seems that cats do not miss anything, attentive and observant, with those lively eyes they detect any movement, no matter how stealthy the approaching stranger may be. But they are not always infallible: there are some silent thieves who, with absolute discretion, lodge inside our pets and subsist comfortably at the expense of their diet.
What are Dipylidium (tapeworms in cats)?
Dipylidium and tapeworms are worms that behave like internal parasites of the intestine, present all over the world, and that affect cats (in addition to dogs), and can also infest humans, although this is quite occasional and difficult. They are whitish flatworms (custodies) that reach several centimeters in length and are provided with a body divided into segments, with a head equipped with hooks and suction cups to adhere to the intestinal walls of their host. They are hermaphroditic worms that house their eggs in the posterior segments of their body to get rid of them, and thus, release them to the outside along with the cat’s feces.
How is the life cycle of Dipylidium or tapeworm in cats?
Before becoming an adult worm within the cat – the definitive host -, the Dipylidium or tapeworm must pass through one or two larval stages within other intermediate hosts, which can be mainly rodents (in the case of tapeworms) or fleas (in the case of tapeworms. The case of Dipylidium, which have ingested the feces of infected cats and, rarely, some freshwater fish. In the cases of rodent hunting cats, it is easy for the larvae developed inside the rodent to reach the digestive tract of the cat, settle there until they transform into adult worms and lay eggs to start a new life cycle. More common is infestation through the ingestion of other external parasites, fleas, which act as intermediaries. If the cat is infested by fleas that have ingested Dipylidium eggs, it is very common that, during grooming and grooming, our pet ingests some by licking its hair and then the fleas reach the feline’s stomach, where they will decompose and release the larvae which will latch onto the lining of the small intestine and initiate the life cycle of the tapeworm.
What are the symptoms of a tapeworm infection?
In general, tapeworm or Dipylidium infections are asymptomatic, or present only a certain itching and anal irritation due to the presence of fragments of the tapeworm around the anus, which will cause frequent licking of the perineum. Only in cases of high infections (mainly tapeworms), the symptoms can be more severe and produce signs, including the following:
- Intestinal obstruction produced by the multiplication of the custodies for a long period of time until producing a mass of worms that clogs the intestine and can cause vomiting, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain. As a consequence, there may be a decrease in appetite and a rejection of the daily diet.
- Metabolic disorders produced by the removal of nutrients by tapeworms. As a result, signs of malnutrition, weight loss, and bad-looking hair and growth problems will appear in the puppies.
To prevent the contagion of the tapeworm, it is advisable to avoid eating uncooked meat or fish, and outside, prevent our pet from eating dead animals or capturing wild rodents. In addition, it is very important to maintain a proper hygienic habit, avoiding and eliminating fleas, and controlling the cleanliness of the environment where our cat lives.