How to Prevent a Dog and Cat Tapeworm Infection (Dipylidium Infection)
Dogs and cats become infected with the tapeworm when they swallow a flea infected with a tapeworm larvae. Once the flea is digested, the tapeworm is free to develop into an adult tapeworm. While it is very rare, it is possible for humans to develop an infection if they accidentally ingest a flea.The best means to prevent tapeworm is to control flea infestations in your home. You can also work on minimizing your exposure to pets with fleas. In the event you are infected, see your doctor about treatment.
Check your pet's coat regularly.If you do notice fleas, the sooner you treat them the better. Fleas multiply fast and the worst an infestation is, the harder it is to treat.
- Regularly run your hands through your pet's coat to check for the presence of fleas. This is especially important if your pet goes outside frequently.
- If you brush your pet regularly, make a point of checking for fleas during brushing sessions.
- Fleas are very small and slender with tiny wings. It may be difficult to see a flea with a naked eye unless you're looking closely at your pet's coat.
Use topical products to prevent fleas.If your cats and dogs go outside, or live with animals that do, they are always at a risk for getting fleas. It's a good idea to use a preventative flea and tick product. Products such as Frontline, for example, are used to repel fleas and ticks to keep your animals safe from an infection.
- Such products are usually applied somewhere on the back of a pet's neck, where they're unable to lick the products off.
- Make sure you choose the right product for your pet's age, size, and species. It should specify on the package what type of animal the product is safe for. You should never use flea and tick products for dogs on cats or vice versa.
- With dogs especially, an animal's weight affects the product you need to use. Smaller dogs will require different spot-on products than big or medium sized dogs. The product's label should say somewhere what weight ranges the products are intended for.
Vacuum frequently.Fleas can live in furniture, so vacuum frequently if your pet has been exposed to fleas. You should make sure to vacuum furniture, especially in cracks and crevices, as well as carpeting. Do so multiple times a week while an infection persists.
- You should also wash all your pet's bedding at high heat, as that has likely been exposed to fleas.
Keep debris outside.Even indoor cats can be at risk for fleas if debris get inside the home. Wipe off your shoes carefully before entering your house. Sweep out leaves and dirt from outside. Keep the door closed at all times, especially windy days where debris may blow inside.
Use chemical sprays.In the event you notice fleas in your home, there are some commercial sprays you can use to repel fleas. Such sprays are usually applied around your home or outside your home to keep fleas from entering. They are not meant to be used directly on humans or pets. Make sure these sprays are safe to use if you have young children. Follow directions closely when using sprays.
- You may have to keep the sprays out of reach of children or pets, and only spray areas where children and pets cannot reach.
- You should talk over sprays with your vet ahead of time. Depending on strength of the topical ointments you're applying directly to dogs and cats, your vet may not think sprays are necessary. Fleas are repelled by most flea and tick treatments and will die off if they can't find a host. A solid topical ointment can sometimes repel fleas without the need for other sprays around your home.
Mow your lawn regularly.Less grass means bugs like fleas are less likely to hide in your lawn. Animals running in tall grass may be more likely to become infected with fleas. Keeping your lawn mowed can help repel bus.
Remove weeds and leaves.In addition to mowing, remove weeds and rake any stray leaves regularly. While you cannot completely eliminate bugs in your backyard, you can keep them in check through regular maintenance.
Wash your hands after handling pets.If your pets have fleas, or are infested with tapeworm, wash your hands after handling them. You should encourage young children to do the same. This reduces your risk of contracting tapeworm yourself.
Dispose of animal feces quickly.As worms are often found in feces, it's important not to leave animal droppings around your house or backyard. This could increase the risk of other pets becoming infected, making household members vulnerable to infection as well.
- Wear gloves while cleaning up the feces and seal them in a plastic bag.
- Dispose of feces in the trash or bury them.
Do not let pets sleep with you.The main way humans could contract tapeworm is accidentally swallowing a flea. This is fairly unlikely, but in rare cases you may accidentally ingest a flea in your sleep. To prevent this from happening, do not let pets sleep in your bed. This is especially important if you know your pets are currently infected with fleas.
Do not walk barefoot in an area with animal feces.Areas like public parks and dog parks may have a lot of animal feces present. To prevent tapeworm infection, protect your feet when walking in such areas. Always wear close-toed shoes.
Quarantine infected animals.To prevent an infection from spreading, quarantine animals with fleas. Keep them in an area away from other dogs and cats. You should also minimize how much physical contact you have from these animals at the time.
- You can keep your pet in a separate room or, if possible, a crate somewhere outside. You should maintain a normal feeding schedule, but minimize physical contact with your pet.
- Wash your hands after handling a pet that's been infected with fleas.
Treating an Infection
Identify symptoms of tapeworm infection in animals.The easiest way to check your cats and dogs for a tapeworm infection is to check around their anus or in their feces. Look for small white particles that look like grains of rice or sesame seeds.These are tapeworm egg packets. If you see these particles in your pet's feces or around their anus, then they probably have a tapeworm infection and will require a visit to the veterinarian.
- You will need to bring a fecal sample to your pet's veterinarian for analysis and diagnosis.
Identify symptoms of an infection in humans.Tapeworm usually does not have symptoms in humans. It is also very rare to be infected from tapeworm from a pet. However, it may cause symptoms like nausea, weakness, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fever.
- In rare cases, tapeworm migrate to a host's intensities and cause more serious, invasive infections. These infections cause symptoms like fevers, bacterial infections, lumps or cysts, and seizures.
Treat tapeworms in your animals.In the event a dog or cat does come down with a tapeworm infection, treatment is fairly easy. Tapeworms rarely causes serious health problems in animals, and usually one or two rounds of an oral medication fixes the problem. Your vet will decide which medications are right for your pets depending on their age, size, and breed.
- Tablets are available for both dogs and cats. Cats also have the option of a spot-on or injectable treatment.
Take oral medications to treat mild tapeworm in humans.Humans can also generally treat tapeworm with simple oral medications. Tapeworm rarely causes complications in humans and usually clears up easily with this simple treatment.
- Praziquantel (Biltricide), Albendazole (Albenza), and Nitazoxanide (Alinia) are the most common medications used to treat tapeworm in humans.
- Your doctor will decide which medications work for you based on your age, medical history, current health, and other factors.
Try stronger medications for an invasive infection in humans.In very rare cases, a tapeworm infection can become invasive. This can lead to cysts developing in the body. To treat this, you may need more intense medications to shrink the cysts.
- Your doctor may have you undergo ultrasounds to make sure the cysts are shrinking in size.
Talk to your doctor about more intense treatment options for humans.In very rare cases, cysts can cause complications that require intensive treatments. If you're experiencing complications, your doctor will go over intensive treatment options with you.
- If cysts cause seizures, you may need anti-epileptic therapy.
- In rare cases, too much fluid may build up in the brain as the result of tapeworms. Your doctor may need to place a tube in your head, called a shunt, to drain the fluid.
- Some cysts may need to be removed surgically.
- The tapeworm is not normally harmful to your cat or dog. They may lose some weight, lick or scratch at their bottom, and may vomit occasionally.
- An infected child will usually passproglottids(small segments of an adult tapeworm), or what appears as rice, in a bowel movement or you may find them stuck to the skin around the anal area.
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