Many cat owners are shocked and disgusted the first time they discover that their furry friend has worms. Tapeworms are the most common internal parasites for household pets because their eggs are carried by fleas and are ingested into the cat's body if it swallows a flea. Just one flea is all it takes to cause your kitty to be infested with tapeworms.
Tapeworms are long, flat, segmented worms that attach themselves to the intestinal wall in an animal's digestive system and draw their nutrition from nutrients meant for the animal. Tapeworms require 2-3 weeks to fully mature and can reach up to 60 cm in length. As the tapeworm grows, individual segments filled with eggs break off and are excreted when the cat defecates. Once outside the body, the eggs are eaten by flea larvae and the life cycle of the tapeworm begins again.
Symptoms of a Tapeworm Infestation
The first symptom a pet owner will notice if a cat has tapeworms is the presence of tapeworm eggs, which resemble grains of rice, stuck to the fur around the cat's anus. Although a minor tapeworm infestation will not physically harm a cat, too many tapeworms can cause the cat to begin to lose weight. The cat's fur may take on a rough appearance as well.
Treating a Tapeworm Infestation Naturally
Although your vet will carry medicinal wormers designed to get rid of tapeworms, you can use a natural product that will also work to rid your pet of these parasites. Diatomaceous earth, a product made of the ground up silica exoskeletons of microscopic diatoms, is harmless to cats, dogs, and other animals, but is fatal to tapeworms. The sharp microscopic edges of the ground diatoms lacerate and cut the tapeworms, leading them to dehydrate and die.
Food grade diatomaceous earth of the type used to worm animals is available through garden and farm supply stores. It may be labeled simply as a noncaking agent for livestock feed, but it can be added to any animal's food to help rid the animal of internal parasites. It can also be used in areas where the cat spends time and in the rest of the home as a natural pesticide to help control the fleas that carry tapeworm eggs.
To use diatomaceous earth as a natural wormer, combine one teaspoon of the earth with your cat's food daily. For multiple cats, mix one teaspoon each of the earth into individual servings of wet food that the cats will consume quickly and feed each cat separately. Although diatomaceous earth is an effective wormer, it will not work as quickly as medical wormers, so repeat the feedings daily for two to three weeks.
Any household pets that spend time outside where they can pick up fleas can also be served diatomaceous earth as a preventative for internal parasites. It can also be rubbed into their fur to help kill fleas that may jump onto their bodies. Make it a priority to keep the fleas off your pets and you will also prevent any future infestations of tapeworms.