How To Avoid A Tapeworm Takeover!


Be Worm Wise and take the worm risk checker to see how likely it is that your pet has worms!

Has your dog or cat ever had fleas? Have they ever eaten raw meat (either in their bowl or out on a walk!)  Has your cat ever caught a mouse or a rat or your dog a rabbit?  Do they ever go outside?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then there is a very high chance, if you haven’t treated them recently, that they have tapeworm!

Tapeworms live in the gut and are generally around 6 inches in length (although they have been known to grow up to a metre!)  They cling to the lining of the intestine and absorb nutrients both direct from the passing food AND from your pet’s blood.  A double whammy of nutritional thieving 

A tapeworm is not so much of a worm, as a head with a long string of egg packets, called segments, attached.  Each contains around 20 tapeworm eggs and once matured, they break off and are shed in the faeces or, because they are mobile, crawl out of your pet’s bottom by themselves.

Sometimes, if you are lucky (or unlucky depending on your perspective!), you might even see them poking out and waving at you or creeping around on the fur.


(Feeling disgusted yet?!)

Each segment contains about 20 eggs and their wriggling makes your pet itchy.  So they either scoot their bottoms on the floor, spreading the eggs around their environment, or they lick themselves, eating the segment and giving the worms an easy ride back to a comfy intestinal home.

However, all is not lost for the eggs that get rubbed into the carpet or lawn (feeling disgusted NOW?!), they have several sneaky method for making it back into your pet.

Firstly,  they tag-team with fleas.  

The eggs that end up in the carpet or soil are a tasty meal for the flea larvae.  Once eaten, the tapeworm stays dormant while the larvae develops into an adult.  Our pets, especially cats, often eat fleas by accident when they are grooming themselves (which they will do more if the flea bites are irritating them – these worms may be small but they are smart!) and so, the tapeworm makes it back to it’s ancestral home in your pet’s guts.

Fleas aren’t as always to spot on pets as they are on this poor guy but you can be pretty sure if your pet has fleas, they also have worms!

If your pet poos on a walk, even the most diligent scooping won’t pick up every trace.  This means that Tapeworm eggs can end up in the soil and be eaten by grazing animals.  Tapeworms can’t reproduce in cows or sheep but this doesn’t stop them!  Instead of going to the bowels, they head for the muscles; curl up and wait.  When a carnivorous pet eats raw meat, for example, if they find a carcass in a field or eat a poor quality raw food diet, the patient little tapeworm wakes up and, voilà, they are back!

The tapeworm lifecycle through grazing animals. Note also that they can infect people!

If the eggs don’t get eaten by fleas or sheep, they don’t mind!  They can survive quite happily for months by themselves and are picked up by our pets when they go outside or chill out at home. 

So you can see just how easy it is for them to be infected by tapeworm!

Tapeworm infestations can happen at any time of year but they do tend to be more common in the Summer and Autumn when flea numbers rise and pets spend more time outdoors.

Although some pets will show symptoms of an itchy bottom, there are often are very few other signs they are infected.  Young animals with lots of worms may look a bit skinny and poorly but a reasonably healthy adult will show no signs at all.  Their coat may be shiny, their poo may be solid and their waistline may be unaffected, but they will still have worms!

Remember that tapeworms rather enjoy living in your pet and the longer they are there, the more eggs and segments they are able to shed, so they actually have a vested interest in not making their host too sick!

Quite frankly, I am pretty pleased they are only a few inches long.  Despite them being essentially a mouth with an egg making machine attached, they are phenomenally clever.  If they were larger I would worry about them taking over the world, never mind our pet’s insides! 

This is a tapeworm under an electron microscope. Strangely attractive in a way! Still wouldn’t want one in my cat though!

However, the good news that tapeworm treatment is incredibly simple.  Worming tablets are extremely effective and very easy to give, particularly the flavoured ones that masquerade as tasty treats!

How often you need to worm your pet depends on how likely they are to pick up tapeworms.  If they are prolific hunters or scavengers, monthly is best.  If they are just an average out and about pet then every 3 months and if you are regularly deflea’ing them with a veterinary standard product, you may only need to worm them twice a year.  If you take them abroad, they will also need to be treated before they return to the UK.

Have a chat with your vet about your pet’s personal habits and they will be able to tell you what is best to make you outwit the remarkably resourceful, and troublesome, tapeworm!


Be Worm Wise and take the worm risk checker to see how likely it is that your pet has worms!

If you liked this blog, why not read ‘My Pet Doesn’t Have Worms!!!’

**This is a sponsored blog for Elanco Animal Health, however, all the views and opinions in it are my own!**


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