Fleas play a necessary role in the life cycle and reproduction of a certain type of tapeworm
The most common tapeworm to affect cats and dogs in the UK is the flea tapeworm (Dipylidium Caninum). It uses the flea as an intermediate host in its life cycle.
Tapeworms resemble long, flat ribbons, divided up into segments.The mature tapeworm segments are filled with eggs, and individual segments break off, to pass via the cat or dog’s anus into the environment. While warm, the segments are active, but as they dry, they break open and release the eggs inside. A flea larva ingests the eggs. The egg develops into an immature form in the flea. When a dog or cat eats the flea (usually while the animal is grooming, and boy, do cats groom!), the immature form of the tapeworm is released from the flea. This immature tapeworm then develops into an adult in the dog's or cat's intestine and the life cycle is completed.
The tapeworm Dipylidium Caninum cannot be passed directly from cat to cat or dog to dog. It must live part of its life in the flea. So whilst it is so very important to treat an animal with tapeworms with a medication that will kill the tapeworms, if we do not also control the flea problem, your pet become reinfected with tapeworms.
The newest product on the market for cats is a combined flea and all round wormer and the great news is that it is in a spot on form.
For dogs, you need a wormer that covers all types of worms and a good flea treatment. Theres a new kid on the block for treating dog fleas too - its a tasty treat and fleas start dying within minutes.
We use a tasty treat wormer too so dogs are well catered for in the taste stakes. As always, our team can give you advice on the very best treatments to use.
Pets may also be infected with other types of tapeworms (Taenia) in which the larval form of the parasite can be found in rodents - commonly mice, pigs, or fish, instead of fleas. So hunter cats need regular worming as they are at risk.
It would be remiss of us not to warn also that some tapeworms can also damage human health. The common ones such as the mouse and flea tapeworms are thankfully relatively harmless, but Echinococcus granulosus is a rare tapeworm that can cause serious problems. Its eggs can remain dormant but viable in the soil for up to a year and may infect vegetable and salads intended for human consumption. If they are swallowed, they can cause larval cysts in the liver, lungs or brain, which can be extremely serious - so always wash your veggies and salads carefully!
*Pet Health Club members, your pet is fully covered with the products in your quarterly pick up.