How Long Do Tapeworms Last After Deworming a Cat?


Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that live in the small intestine of cats and other animals. They attach themselves to the intestinal wall and absorb nutrients from the cat’s digestive system. Cats get tapeworms from ingesting infected fleas or by eating infected rodents and birds. The most common tapeworm found in cats is called Dipylidium caninum. Tapeworms can cause symptoms like digestive upset and weight loss, so it’s important to treat an infection. Deworming medications are used to kill the tapeworms and eliminate them from the cat’s body. This article will cover the tapeworm lifecycle, deworming process, and what to expect after treatment.

Life Cycle of Tapeworms

Tapeworms have a complex life cycle that requires a flea intermediate host to complete. It starts when tapeworm eggs are ingested by flea larvae. Inside the flea, the tapeworm egg hatches into a larval form called a cysticercoid. This larva develops inside the flea as the flea matures into an adult. Cats become infected by swallowing infected fleas while grooming. Once inside the cat’s intestine, the cysticercoid is released and quickly develops into an adult tapeworm.

The adult tapeworm then anchors itself to the intestinal wall using hook-like mouthparts. As it grows, it forms a chain of segments called proglottids. These proglottids contain tapeworm eggs, and are passed in the cat’s feces. Flea larvae can then ingest the eggs while feeding in the cat’s environment, restarting the cycle.

So in summary, tapeworms require fleas as an intermediate host to complete their life cycle. They spread when cats swallow infected fleas during grooming. New tapeworms develop and produce proglottids containing eggs that fleas can ingest from the environment. (Source:

Signs of Tapeworm Infection

Some common signs of a tapeworm infection in cats include:

  • Scooting or dragging bottom along the floor [1]
  • Visible tapeworm segments in fur or feces [2]
  • Worm segments around anus or in litter box [3]
  • Unexplained weight loss [1]
  • Dull, dry coat [2]
  • Vomiting [3]

Deworming Medications

The most common deworming medications for tapeworms in cats contain the active ingredient praziquantel. Some popular over-the-counter brands include Bayer Expert Care Tapeworm Dewormer for Cats and Elanco Tapeworm Dewormer (praziquantel tablets).

Praziquantel works by paralyzing the tapeworms’ suckers and causing them to lose their grip on the intestinal wall. The dead worms are then passed in the stool or digested within the intestines.

The medication comes in pill or tablet form that can be given directly or crushed into food. The dosing is based on the cat’s weight. Kittens under 6 weeks old should not be given praziquantel.

Other dewormers containing pyrantel pamoate or fenbendazole may also be effective against tapeworms. However, praziquantel is considered the gold standard treatment.

It’s important to follow label instructions carefully and consult a veterinarian if unsure about the proper use of deworming medications.


Administering Dewormer

The key to successfully administering tapeworm medication is making the process as easy and stress-free as possible for your cat. Some tips include:

– Disguise the medication in a tasty treat or food. Try wrapping the pill in a small amount of cheese, tuna, wet food, pill pocket treats, or liverwurst. Make sure your cat eats the whole portion.

– Hold the cat’s head tilted back and gently open his mouth. Quickly place the medication as far back on the tongue as possible. Close the mouth while gently stroking the throat to encourage swallowing (source).

– For liquid dewormers, follow the product instructions for dosage. Slowly squirt into the side of the cat’s mouth and stroke the throat to encourage swallowing.

– Give the medication when your cat is relaxed and unlikely to struggle. Have an assistant help restrain or soothe the cat if needed.

– Offer praise and give a treat reward after the cat successfully takes the dewormer.

Proper technique helps ensure the cat ingests the full dosage for effective treatment. Consult your veterinarian if you have difficulties administering the tapeworm medication.

What to Expect After Deworming

After administering a tapeworm dewormer medication to your cat, you may continue to see tapeworm segments, or proglottids, in your cat’s stool for a few days afterwards (1). This is normal, as the medication will kill the tapeworms in your cat’s intestines, but does not kill the segments that have already broken off and made their way through your cat’s digestive system. These dead proglottids will be passed in the stool after treatment. Within 3 days, all of the tapeworms, including their heads, should be fully gone from your cat’s body (2).

It is important not to be alarmed if you see tapeworm parts after deworming, as it can take up to 3 days for the full worm, including the scolices (their head/neck region), to die and be eliminated from the body. As long as you administered the medication correctly, it is effective at killing the tapeworms. The medication just needs a short time to take effect and allow the dead worm parts to fully pass out of the body.

Some cats may vomit after being given a dewormer medication. This can occur as a side effect of the medication, but usually subsides within 24 hours. Contact your vet if vomiting persists (3). Also monitor your cat for any other side effects and reach out to your vet with any concerns.

Follow-up Treatments

It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions for follow-up treatments after deworming your cat. This is because some dewormers require multiple doses spaced apart over a period of time in order to fully eliminate the tapeworm infection.

For example, praziquantel is the most common deworming medication used for tapeworms. It is very effective at killing tapeworms, but it only kills the adult worms. It does not kill tapeworm eggs or larva. For this reason, the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends re-treating with praziquantel 2-4 weeks after the initial dose to eliminate any newly hatched worms.[1]

Other dewormers like epsiprantel and pyrantel pamoate require repeat doses every 2-3 weeks for full efficacy against tapeworms. Always follow your vet’s specific recommendations for re-dosing as the schedule can vary.

In addition to repeat doses of dewormer, your vet may want to perform a fecal test 2-4 weeks after treatment to check if the deworming was successful. If tapeworm eggs are still being shed, further treatment may be recommended.

By following up properly with repeat doses and fecal tests as instructed by your vet, you can ensure the tapeworm infestation has been fully cleared from your cat.

Prevention Tips

There are several ways to help prevent tapeworm reinfection in cats after treatment:

  • Keep cats indoors and do not allow them to hunt outdoors. This prevents ingestion of tapeworm eggs from rodents or other prey. (Source 1)
  • Control rodent populations around the home using humane traps. Eliminating rodents reduces exposure to tapeworms. (Source 2)
  • Treat other pets in the household for tapeworms. Infected pets can pass tapeworm eggs between each other through grooming. (Source 3)
  • Clean the litter box frequently and dispose of feces promptly. This removes tapeworm segments and eggs from the environment.
  • Regularly treat your cat with a monthly broad-spectrum dewormer as prescribed by your veterinarian.
  • Always wash hands after handling cats, litter boxes, or contaminated environments.

Implementing preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of tapeworm reinfection after successful treatment.

Other Considerations

Some other important points to note about deworming cats include:

Deworming kittens is especially important as they are more prone to heavy worm burdens. Kittens should be dewormed starting at 2 weeks old and then every 2 weeks until 3 months, then monthly until 6 months old (VCA Hospitals).

It’s recommended to repeat deworming 2-4 weeks after the initial dose to catch any newly hatched worms. Monthly preventative deworming may be necessary for cats who hunt or have access to rodents (Chewy).

Some dewormers only treat certain types of worms, so vets may prescribe multiple medications. Combination dewormers are available to treat roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms in one dose.

ENVIRONMENTAL sanitation is key – clean the litter box and vacuum/wash bedding regularly to remove worm eggs. Promptly remove cat feces from the yard.

In rare cases, tapeworms can cause an intestinal blockage. Contact your vet if the cat seems unwell after deworming.


In summary, tapeworms are a common intestinal parasite in cats that are transmitted through fleas or by ingesting infected prey animals. Signs of a tapeworm infection include seeing rice-like proglottid segments around your cat’s anus or in their stool. To treat tapeworms, vets typically prescribe oral dewormers containing praziquantel or epsiprantel, which kill tapeworms within 24 hours. You may continue to see dead worms passed in the stool for 1-2 weeks after treatment as their bodies are expelled. To prevent reinfection, monthly flea prevention is key, along with keeping cats indoors and promptly cleaning the litter box. While tapeworms can be unpleasant, they are easily treated and prevented with routine deworming and flea control.

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