How Many Days Until Tapeworms Vanish from Your Cat’s Belly? The Shocking Timeline

What are tapeworms?

Tapeworms are long, flat worms that live in the intestines of cats and other animals. Tapeworms belong to the Cestoda class of parasites. Cats can get tapeworms when they ingest fleas carrying tapeworm eggs or eat infected rodents.

The most common tapeworm species found in cats include:

  • Dipylidium caninum – The most common feline tapeworm often spread by cat fleas. It can grow up to 20 inches long.
  • Taenia taeniaeformis – Transmitted by rodents like rats and mice. It attaches to the intestinal wall with hooks and can reach 6 inches long.
  • Echinococcus multilocularis – A rare but dangerous tapeworm spread by foxes and coyotes that can cause life-threatening liver disease.

Tapeworms have a segmented body with a small head that grips onto the intestinal lining. The segments towards the end contain eggs and break off to release the eggs into the cat’s feces, continuing the worm’s lifecycle. Tapeworms lack a digestive system and absorb nutrients from the cat’s intestines.

Signs of a tapeworm infection

Cats infected with tapeworms may show several signs and symptoms. One of the most common signs is scooting or dragging their rear along the ground or floor. This occurs when tapeworm segments irritate the skin around the anus, causing intense itching or discomfort. Tapeworms consume nutrients from the intestinal tract, which can lead to weight loss even if the cat has a normal appetite. Appetite may also fluctuate if the tapeworm infection irritates the stomach and intestines.

The most distinctive sign of a tapeworm infection is the presence of tapeworm segments around the anus or in the cat’s feces. These small white pieces look like grains of rice and contain tapeworm eggs. They may stick to the fur around the anus before falling off and being passed through the stool. Cats are fastidious groomers and may ingest the eggs if they lick the segments off their fur, reinfecting themselves. Cat owners may spot tapeworm segments crawling near the anus or dried segments clinging to hairs in that area.

How long do tapeworms live in cats?

Adult tapeworms can live in a cat’s small intestine for 1-3 months. The tapeworms consist of a head (scolex) and many small segments containing eggs. These segments break off and pass in the cat’s feces, allowing the tapeworms to spread and infect other animals. The tapeworm segments look like grains of rice. Each segment contains thousands of eggs that are passed in the feces. These eggs can survive in the environment for months.

Tapeworm eggs can remain infective in the environment for up to 6 months according to Wagwalking. The eggs are very resilient and can withstand cold temperatures and even drought conditions. This long environmental persistence allows the tapeworm life cycle to continue infecting cats and other animals.

So while an adult tapeworm only lives for a few months inside a cat, the eggs can survive for much longer outside the body, remaining a source of reinfection. This makes regular deworming and flea control important to break the tapeworm life cycle.

Getting rid of tapeworms

To get rid of tapeworms in cats, deworming medications are needed. There are over-the-counter as well as prescription dewormers available.

Some over-the-counter dewormers that can be effective against tapeworms include pyrantel pamoate and praziquantel. Brand names for these include Droncit and Drontal. These can often be purchased at pet stores, farm supply stores, or online retailers.

Prescription dewormers that vets may prescribe for tapeworms include milbemycin oxime and emodepside/praziquantel combinations like Profender. These are typically more effective than over-the-counter options.

Deworming medications work by paralysis and immobilizing the tapeworms, causing them to loosen their hold on the intestinal lining. The dead worms are then passed in the feces. Most dewormers take effect within 24 hours.

According to veterinarians, praziquantel is one of the most effective medications for treating tapeworm infections in cats ( It causes the tapeworms to dissolve within the intestines.

How long to get rid of tapeworms?

Most deworming medications will start to kill off the adult tapeworms within 24 hours of the first dose. VCA Animal Hospitals says that praziquantel, the active ingredient in many common tapeworm medications, causes the tapeworm to essentially dissolve from the inside out.

While one dose of dewormer kills the adult tapeworms, it doesn’t kill the eggs. According to Chewy, a second dose of dewormer is recommended 2-3 weeks after the initial dose to kill newly hatched worms emerging from the eggs. Eggs passed in the feces can take up to 3 weeks to hatch.

The medication causes the tapeworms to detach from the intestinal lining and pass out of the body. Most sources recommend retesting for tapeworms 3-4 weeks after completing a full course of treatment to confirm they are fully eliminated.

Even after treatment, eggs may linger in the environment and pose a reinfection risk. Thorough cleaning and vacuuming can help remove any tapeworm segments or eggs passed in the feces during treatment.

With proper deworming and follow up care, tapeworms can usually be eliminated within 3-4 weeks.

Follow up after deworming

After getting an initial dose of deworming medication, it is important to follow up with a second dose. This is because most dewormers only kill adult worms, but not eggs. Since tapeworm eggs can survive for months or even years in the environment, a second dose is needed to kill any newly hatched worms emerging from eggs present at the time of the first dose.

The timeline for the second deworming dose depends on the medication used. Most vets recommend a repeat dose 2-4 weeks after the initial dose. Common tapeworm medications like praziquantel and epsiprantel should be given again after 2-3 weeks.1

Fecal testing is also recommended 2-4 weeks after deworming to check if the medication was effective. The test can confirm if there are still tapeworm eggs being shed in the stool. If positive, further treatment may be needed. If negative, the cat can be considered clear of a tapeworm infection.

Annual fecal tests are recommended even after deworming to catch any potential reinfections early. Tapeworm eggs can persist in the home and environment so reinfection is common. Regular stool sample testing allows early detection and treatment.

Preventing Reinfection

There are several steps you can take to prevent your cat from getting reinfected with tapeworms after treatment:

Flea Control: Fleas play a major role in the tapeworm life cycle, so controlling fleas is important to break the cycle of reinfection. Use monthly flea prevention medication prescribed by your vet and treat your home and yard to eliminate flea infestations 1.

Cleaning the Environment: Tapeworm eggs can survive in the environment and reinfect your cat. Regularly vacuum and wash surfaces your cat frequents. Clean the litter box daily. Wash bedding, toys, etc. frequently 2.

Stopping Hunting/Roaming: Keep your cat indoors to prevent hunting/eating rodents and ingesting fleas. Cats that roam are more likely to pick up new tapeworm infections from fleas or prey 3.


If left untreated, tapeworm infections can cause significant health complications in cats. Tapeworms feed off the nutrients in a cat’s digestive tract, which can lead to weight loss, vitamin deficiencies, and a poor coat condition. Severe infestations can even cause intestinal blockages or rupture the intestinal wall.

In kittens and smaller cats, heavy tapeworm burdens have the potential to stunt growth and development. Tapeworms may also predispose cats to other intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms. This is because tapeworms damage the intestinal lining, making it easier for other parasites to establish infection.

While not common, tapeworm segments can migrate to abnormal locations in the body such as the lungs, liver, and brain. This is called aberrant migration and can cause organ damage. In rare cases, it may even be fatal if left untreated.

The good news is that prognosis is excellent when tapeworms are promptly diagnosed and treated. With appropriate deworming medication, tapeworms can be fully eliminated within a few weeks in most cats. Preventing reinfection through flea control is also key for long-term prognosis.

When to see a vet

You should take your cat to see a veterinarian if an over-the-counter deworming treatment fails to eliminate the tapeworm infection. According to PetMD, tapeworm infections that persist despite home treatment require prescription medication prescribed by a veterinarian.

A vet visit is necessary for obtaining prescription deworming medication that is more potent and effective against stubborn tapeworm infections. The vet will also be able to provide guidance on the proper dosage and administration of the prescription medication.

Seeing the vet allows them to directly evaluate your cat and determine if there are any underlying issues contributing to the tapeworm infection. The vet can also check for any additional parasites like roundworms that may require treatment as well.

Bringing a fresh fecal sample allows the vet to test and confirm the tapeworm infection. They can then prescribe the most effective prescription dewormer based on the details of your cat’s infestation.

Visiting a veterinarian provides the best chance of fully eliminating a tapeworm infection that over-the-counter products have failed to treat. Prescription dewormers, professional guidance, and further diagnostic tests are key benefits of seeing a vet for persistent tapeworm infections.

Key takeaways

Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that cats can get from ingesting fleas or infected prey. An infestation often causes no symptoms, but signs can include digestive upset, scooting, and seeing tapeworm segments around the anus. Tapeworms should always be treated because they can cause health problems if left untreated. Medication prescribed by a vet will kill off the tapeworms within 24-48 hours, but it takes up to 3-4 weeks to get rid of all the tapeworm segments. Be sure to treat the environment and follow up with additional deworming to prevent reinfection. Keeping fleas under control is the best way to avoid tapeworms in cats. With prompt treatment and prevention methods, cats can recover fully from a tapeworm infection.

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