Dear Elliott

Dear Elliott,
My mom got SO upset this morning! She found this little white thing on my bum that kind of looked like a grain of rice! I heard her call the folks at Ansley; she sounded very concerned. What could this be?

Dear Worried,

That small, white, rice-looking thing is actually a segment of an intestinal parasite, the Tapeworm. I know it is not a glamorous subject but one most pets experience at some point in their life time. Tapeworm infections can affect cats (and yes, your dog friends too, as well as many other mammals), typically settling in the small intestine. Treatment to destroy tapeworms is a critical step in preventing transmission to humans (typically children), and for averting damage to your body. When treated promptly, prognosis is positive.

You acquire Tapeworms by ingesting the larvae or more typically, the adult flea. If you go outside other sources that are potential transmitters include rabbits, birds, and rodents. Scavenging may also lead to an infestation of tapeworms.

As the tapeworm grows, pieces of it break off into segments and pass into your intestines. Your owner could see either dried, white to cream colored segments stuck to the fur under your tail or even live segments of tapeworm in your feces resembling sesame or cucumber seeds in size and appearance. Tapeworms can make you feel an itchy-discomfort that causes you to want to bite, lick, or drag your hind quarters across the floor in response to the itching.

Treatment for tapeworms is easy. You can either have a topical drops or an oral pill. Medications are effective at removing tapeworms from you and usually only require a single dosing, yeah for you. It is important to take the entire prescribed dose of medication, since it is based on your current weight, to ensure that these pesky tapeworms are removed.

Keeping yourself and your living environment flea-free is the best protection against tapeworms. However, if infestation does occur, your environment and you must be treated to prevent recurring infestations. Finally, when your owner walks over to you each month with that little tube of liquid to apply on your skin, do not run away as this is your monthly flea prevention treatment and the best way to prevent fleas on you.