Q. My cat contracts tapeworms repeatedly. Although I have him treated by the vet, including the 2-week follow-up, the next thing I know he has worms again. Not only are the treatments quite costly ($20 per injection), but I worry that too much may be harmful. Also, my cat has become totally paranoid about vet visits and has become hostile while there, making treatment difficult. My question is how harmful are tapeworms if left untreated? Would you recommend home treatment? Besides keeping the cat flea-free, which is nearly impossible, are there any preventive measures? He is a thin cat, 9 1/2 pounds, but healthy, active and happy.
A. Tapeworm infestation, especially if left untreated, can become quite serious. Tapeworms attach to the lining of the intestinal tract and draw nutrients directly from the host. Over a long term, one will see a decline in general condition, hair coat, and activity. Secondly, a very large number of tapeworms can cause intestinal irritation, swelling, and even partial blockage in very young animals. Diarrhea with mucus and occasionally blood are often seen as a result of tapeworm infestation.
Controlling flea populations on the cat and its environment is the most effective, albeit difficult, method of preventing or reducing tapeworms. Such control should include daily brushing or combing with a "flea comb" and regular use of powders or sprays. Make sure that you use products designed for use on cats and follow the instructions carefully.