Tapeworms are thin, elongated parasites that look like the common spaghetti. If you try to imagine a heap of tapeworms on a plate, you might have difficulty eating Pesto again. They can grow up to 20 feet long in humans and animals. Can you imagine how awful it is to have these long, flat worms inside your intestines? This may sound morbid and the thought itself is enough to make you squirm but it’s a reality you or your pet may face.
Many have identified tapeworm parasitism as one of the common reasons why people bring pets to an animal doctor. If your pet’s intestines are invaded by tapeworms, they would experience diarrhea with excessive mucous, a rumbling tummy and worm segments that are present in their stool.
The cat or dog tapeworm infection is called “Dipylidium caninum”. This worm’s life cycle begins in the anus of the infected cat or dog. When the animal takes a potty, a small segment of the worm goes with the stool, bearing some tapeworm eggs. These eggs will lay dormant in the ground for about several months until these are accidentally consumed by a flea (an immediate host). You can already imagine how the whole system works.
The flea that ate the tapeworm eggs is another parasite that sets foot on your pet’s hide. Many pets accidentally digest a flea because these animals use their mouth for almost anything (for scratching, cleaning themselves, among others). When the flea that ate the eggs is digested by an animal, gestation of the tapeworm eggs takes place and a larva emerges and thrives into the animal’s intestinal wall until it reaches it’s adult life. When these worms reproduce, they will again shed segments that contain the eggs which the animal victim can spread with love during “potty” time. (For flea removal, how to get rid of fleas naturally)
Tapeworms give birth to very adventurous embryos. If they are not consumed by fleas, they divide into nearby water holes and supplies. It’s easy to think that once animals inject the worms, they automatically mature into full-grown worms, well, think again. The worms remain underdeveloped inside the host’s stomach lining and some are known to slip into the bloodstream. The blood vessels serve as their transport highway to relocate onto major organs and muscles. Some underdeveloped tapeworms can tunnel into the liver or in worst cases, breed into the lungs, brains and spinal cord. Creepy!
Once this cunning embryo is satisfied in its new home, it encases itself in a cyst (a fluid-filled sack). It doesn’t emerge from the cyst until the flesh (where it’s staying) is eaten by another animal. That’s usually how humans or animals end up with tapeworms in their gut.
Thankfully, this infestation is more common among cats and dogs, not humans. You just have to be careful not to swallow a flea. You also need to watch out for undercooked beef, pork or fish. The worm larva use these types of meat as an immediate host. Since the human lifestyle is very “in-line” with proper sanitation and proper cooking, this renders tapeworm infestation uncommon in human lifestyle.
However, it doesn’t mean you cannot suffer from one. You will know very easily if you are “heavily” infested with tapeworms. You’ll get painful cramps inside your abdomen which cause a lot of pain and discomfort. The common human symptoms are nausea, severe abdominal pain, constipation, weight loss and worm fragments on the person’s stool or clothes (underwear).
Remember the use of the word “heavily”? In many cases, human beings won’t even notice that a tapeworm is inside their system. Tapeworms don’t adversely affect a human being’s health unless the person is already malnourished. If you notice, the symptoms of tapeworm is attributed to an upset stomach, stress or just an irritable bowel syndrome. Most people only notice a tapeworm infection when they spot “proglottid” segments in their feces or clothes. It’s understandable that you may prefer not to know, but for your own good, you have to know! To be really sure, it’s best to go to your clinic and have a “stool” exam.
There is no question that the mere thought of tapeworm is the stuff of horror movies. The fact that they could twist through out intestines and thrive on our meals is enough to leave a frightening image in our minds. No matter how much you despise them, tapeworms aren’t going away. These worms are everywhere and they reproduce in a sickening rate. Your best defense is knowing how to purge and prevent these worms from finding paradise inside your body and your pet’s body.
“The Raw Material”
There’s a slight chance for you to get the following tapeworms: the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium), the beef tapeworm (Taenia saginata) and the fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium latum). These worms are common in North American and European cosmopolitan cities.
Of course, avoiding the consumption of raw meat definitely cuts the risk of getting these worms. Many people speculate that cutting off the part of the fish with the Diphyllobothrium larva is enough preventive measure before serving the meat to customers. Not quite!
The only way to be sure is to cook the meat very well or freeze it for no less that 4 days to kill the larva or worm fragments (carrying the eggs) that are lying in wait. If you are eating in a restaurant, it’s always best to request that the meat be “well-done”, especially red meat.
“Pet Boarding Houses”
The best way to get rid of pet tapeworms is to prevent them from reaching your pet’s belly? How do you do this? The answer is simply not “boarding” your pet. Leaving your pets under the care of pet boarding establishments may be convenient for you, but in reality, it’s impossible for these people to check the animals for fleas (or other infestations) before your pet mingles with another dog or cat.
If you have no other choice but to board your pet, make sure to leave clear instruction that your pet must not be allowed to be in contact with other pets. This prevents your “flea-free” pet from the ingestion of infected fleas.
“Get Rid of Fleas!”
Fleas are the tapeworm’s most accessible immediate host. They love to eat worm fragments, they can jump around and they are so small, your pet won’t even realize they swallowed one. I’s harder for human beings to recognize that they’ve swallowed fleas too. Make your life less complicated, get rid of fleas! (For more information of flea extermination, read how to get rid of fleas)
Trying to treat your pet from a tapeworm infestation is senseless if fleas are still partying inside and around your house. For your pets, you may use a flea treatment regimen such as Frontline. You can also use an adulticide such as “permethrin”.
For your house, you should consider a boric acid treatment on the floors and carpets. You do this by allowing the acid to sit on the focus areas for a week before vacuuming it up. There are commercial “flea-exterminator” products for treating almost anything in the house (including furniture).
You can also wipe out the fleas in your house by using another worm. Yes, you heard it right—worms! These are called “beneficial Nematodes”. The dictionary defines nematodes as any several worms that have unsegmented, cylindrical bodies. Well, not all nematodes are beneficial (like pinworms) but the nematodes that are commercially sold eat and destroy flea eggs in your yard. When you purchase this, you’ll think you bought a kind of powder, but these are actually nematode eggs. You just sprinkle them on your front yard (where pets usually gets fleas) and let them do their job. Please don’t use this on your carpet. It’s meant for the outdoors!
Always remember that getting rid of fleas is the best way to interrupt the worm’s life cycle.
“Eat Fresh Garlic”
This is an alternative medicine for tapeworm infestation and has been done throughout history. It’s been regarded that eating fresh garlic, in adequate quantities, prevent or treat intestinal parasites. Though there are many people who raise their eyebrows regarding this, many websites advise the use of garlic to treat (not just tapeworms) but also hookworms and roundworms. It’s worth a shot, garlic won’t kill you anyway.
“Deworm Yourself And Your Pet”
If your cat or dog is victimized by tapeworms, cure them by treating them with “Praziquantel” (sometimes known as Droncit). This medicine works by dismantling the tapeworm’s own defenses, this means that the tapeworm will lose its ability to stick to the linings of your pet’s stomach and intestines. This “dewormer” leaves it helpless in your pet’s gut where it will soon be discharged when the pet takes a “potty”. This is considered the best way to treat tapeworms because many dewormers out there can’t really slow down tapeworms in the first place.
Droncit has become the best bet for treating tapeworms, it’s also used to treat humans as well. But this time, it’s sold under a different name ( Biltricide). Another well-recommended medication for human tapeworm infestation is “Niclocide”. Niclocide is an older drug that’s been proven effective over the years. These drugs are usually consumed once. Afterwards, you’ll bring stool samples to the lab for examination. It’s best to have another stool sample checked after a month to check for recurring infection. However, many experts say that tapeworm dewormers can’t be 100% effective. This means that prevention of ingesting a tapeworm must always be practiced.
“If Symptoms Persist, See A Doctor”
If your health is deteriorating (or perhaps your pet’s health), it’s best to see a doctor. Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.
Of course, seeing a doctor immediately is the best way to treat yourself or your pet from this kind of infestation. It’s the fact of life that not everybody can access doctors easily and there are many factors at play. However, it’s great news that human beings rarely die from tapeworm infestation because people seem to have an innate talent to listen to their body and know when is the right time. This is also very true among pet owners.
Physicians are a must for humans especially if over-the-counter drugs don’t seem to work. In most cases, a doctor will run an antibody test or an MRI (for neurological symptoms) to know if the patient is already suffering from cysticercosis. This is a severe infestation from a tapeworm which incites fever, muscle pain and other symptoms depending on which part of the body the tapeworm larva infested. This kind of ailment may have long term damages on the affected organs which is why, nothing beats a doctor’s advice.
The department of Agriculture in Beltsfield, Maryland estimates that it was 170,000 years ago when people first picked up tapeworms. This means humans, domesticated animals and tapeworms have a long history. The number one preventive measure for tapeworm infestation is very simple: “Don’t forget to wash your hands before you eat and after you use the toilet”. If you enjoyed reading this article, you’ll be interested to read how to get rid of pinworm and how to eliminate hookworms.
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