If you see a worm or something you aren't sure about, put it in a baggie along with a piece of moist paper towel and take it to your vet. Little short white worms around 1/2 inch or 1cm long or less are probably tapeworm segments. The adult tapeworm lives in the small intestine with its head embedded in the mucosa which is moist tissue that lines some organs and body cavities. The body is comprised of a small head connected to a series of segments that are filled with eggs. The older segments of tapeworm containing eggs are shed and attach themselves to the fur around the anus of your cat. They often look like grains of rice.
Tapeworms are usually passed by fleas. Flea larvae eat the secreted eggs. As the flea moves through its life cycle, the eggs reach their infective stage as the flea reaches adulthood. Cats can then inadvertently swallow the flea during grooming which will in turn leads to infection. Fleas and rodents become infected by eating the tapeworm eggs that are in the environment.
Finding tapeworm segments can be quite worrying to cat owners; tapeworm infections only rarely cause significant disease in cats. As eggs are passed within the segments instead of on their own, microscopic examination of faecal samples may not always reveal the presence of tapeworms. It may be necessary for more than one stool to be examined to test for tapeworm.
These days most medications are very successful in treating tapeworm infections. However, re-infection is fairly common. I would suggest a second vaccination two weeks after the first one to control the larvae. Managing or eliminating flea and rodent populations will go a long way towards reducing the risk of tapeworm infection in cats.
The main species that inhabit the stomach of your cat are Ollanulus tricuspis and Physaloptera. These are not as common in the United States as other worms with Physaloptera more rare than Ollanulus tricuspis. They are more common in outdoor cats and those housed in multiple-cat facilities. Cats become infected with Ollanulus tricuspis after consuming vomit that contains the parasite. Symptoms include chronic vomiting along with loss of appetite. Due to these, you will see dramatic weight loss and even malnutrition. Diagnosis of Ollanulus can be difficult as it is necessary for the vet to find the larvae in the cat's vomit.
With Physaloptera infections, adult female worms attach to the stomach lining and pass eggs which are then ingested by an appropriate intermediate host, often a cockroach or cricket. The parasite will develop and will then infect other animals such as rodents when they eat the infected insect. Your cat becomes infected when he eats the affected rodent or other animal. Cats infected with Physaloptera may experience similar symptoms to an Ollanulus tricuspis infection such as vomiting and loss of appetite. Diagnosis relies upon microscopic detection of parasite eggs in the stool, or by seeing the parasite in the vomit. See your vet regarding diagnosis and treatment. Wherever possible, keep the rodent population down to prevent the spread of these stomach worms.
Kathy Robinson has been writing articles on cat problems and the care of cats on her website http://www.CatProblemsResolved.com for a number of years. Why not download your free copy of The Joy of Owning and Caring for a Cat when you sign up for her free Cat Care Newsletter at http://www.catproblemsresolved.com/660
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