How to Deal With Tapeworms in Cats and Dogs

Dipylidium Caninum, or commonly known as tapeworms are internal parasites that live in the small intestine of dogs and cats. They feed on the digested food of the host in the small intestine and keep reproducing. They can be eliminated by dewormer medication but if the source of tapeworms is not taken care of then your beloved pet might not be able to get rid of worms forever.

In a nutshell, tapeworms are spread to cats and dogs through fleas. That being said, worms won’t go completely unless you get rid of fleas from your pet’s environment. There are some good options for treatment available for the removal of fleas. Once the source is dealt with, the medication will eliminate tapeworms entirely. Read on to know more about dealing with tapeworms in detail.


How Tapeworms Function

An adult tapeworm in the host’s small intestine attaches itself to the intestine wall by a structure called rostellum and suckers. The structure, as a whole, looks like a hat with hooks on it. Unlike many people who believe that they are the size of tiny rice grains, they are actually as lengthy as 6 inches and more. This is because when they are observed outside of pets GI tract, they’re in segments and those segments are tiny indeed.

A tapeworm’s body can be classified into three different parts: head, neck, and other segments. The head part is responsible to keep the whole part of the body attached to the wall. While each segment works as an independent body, each segment produced from the neckpiece has an independent digestive system and reproductive system.

The whole tapeworm absorbs nutrition from the food flows past them in the intestine. New segments grow from the neckpiece and a particular segment will be pushed towards the tail as a new segment is added.

Once the segment is at the far end of the head, it only has a reproductive tract left in itself. And it is merely a sac of tapeworm eggs when it drops off from the body. The section in medical terms is known as proglottid and makes its way to the world through the rectum of the host, a cat, or a dog.

A proglottid is the size of a small rice grain which also can be seen moving. Eventually, the sac breaks and tapeworm eggs are released in the environment. However, it is important to note that these eggs are not capable of developing themselves in mammals and thus cannot affect your pets.

For thriving in a dog or cat’s intestine, a tapeworm has to reach a specific stage before entering into a host’s body.

How Fleas Come Into the Picture


Tapeworm eggs accumulate where a dog or cat sleeps or spends most of its time. Similarly, if that host has flea infestation or fleas are present in the environment, flea eggs will accumulate around at the same places. To understand this better, know more about the life cycle of fleas.

While fleas are busy feeding on the blood of the host and reproducing, the fallen of eggs will soon hatch into larvae. These starving larvae feed on flea dirt, dandruff, and surprisingly tapeworm eggs. By the time those larvae become adults, the consumed tapeworm eggs will hatch in the flea body; ready to find a mammal as their host.

Dogs and cats groom themselves by licking and a licked off flea from their body goes into their digestive tract and ultimately, a hatched tapeworm ends up in the small intestine. This is how tapeworms get to your pet. There is no other source of tapeworms except fleas.

Can Your Cat or Dog Get Tapeworms Even if They Are Not Infested With Fleas?

Now that we know, fleas and tapeworms coexist, this is an obvious question. Well, all your canine or feline pet has to do to have tapeworms is to consume some adult fleas. If your pet has fleas, it will mot likely to have tapeworms. But on the other hand, if your cat or dog while on a walk or while visiting other animals catches some fleas or eats off a few, tapeworms will make their way to your pet anyway.


When you know your pet has tapeworms, you should not wait for more to see your vet. The condition can be treated with a medicinal course. In some cases, vets may give injections to kill the parasites.

In some cases, it seems like dewormer medicines are not effective because tapeworms get back after a few days. Well, in fact, this happens due to your cat has fleas or its surrounding has fleas.

Considering that, if your cat has fleas, visit your vet and use any good flea treatments. And if your cat hasn’t been diagnosed with fleas yet, make sure your home does not have any fleas. Moreover, also ensure that your pet doesn’t meet other pets with fleas or visit the area where fleas are prominent.

The EndNote

Tapeworms and fleas coexist. If your pet has fleas, it will likely have tapeworms. They are not dangerous for cats but can deteriorate health in the long run. That said, visit your vet and get rid of them using medication. The vet will also advise you upon removing fleas from your pet’s environment. If you still have any questions regarding parasites, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comment section below.