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Tapeworms = Intestinal Obstruction?

Heather Troyer, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Canine & Feline Practice)

Parasitology

|September 2009

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Taenia taeniaeformis, a common tapeworm of cats found worldwide, is transmitted via ingestion of the intermediate rodent host.The prepatent period of this tapeworm ranges from 32 to 80 days, and adults can live up to 3 years in the feline small intestine,measuring up to 60 cm long. The cat featured in this article was a barn cat with regular access to rodent prey.The cat presented for acute vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, and dyspnea.After blood analysis and radiography, the cat underwent surgery that explored the abdomen for a possible gastrointestinal obstruction. The intestines appeared plicated, and a moderate amount of serous abdominal effusion was present. Four enterotomies were created along the antimesenteric border of the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum to remove a“linear foreign body” later identified as approximately 30 adult T taeniaeformis cestodes.The cestodes weighed 6 g (or 0.1% the cat’s body weight). Abdominal fluid was examined cytologically for evidence of sepsis, but no bacteria or polymorphonucleocytes were found.No adhesions, strangulation, torsion, or intussusceptions were visualized, and the surgical opening was closed routinely.The patient was eating and was released 48 hours later; it was subsequently dewormed 10 days after surgery with a broad-spectrum anthelmintic.

COMMENTARY

Of note, no other report of small intestinal obstruction by tapeworm infections in cats appears to have been published. However, prevalence of feline tapeworm infections is as high as approximately 50% in some parts of the world.Unfortunately, detection of tapeworms in the stool is more challenging than with other intestinal parasites for a few reasons. First, cat feces are not examined as commonly as that of dogs. Second, tapeworm proglottids are not found diffusely throughout a sample and can be easily missed. Because some species of tapeworms are zoonotic, it is important to remember to regularly deworm cats as well as dogs and to annually examine feces. In addition, note that common antiparasitic preventive measures (such as for heartworm disease) do not treat tapeworm infections; thus, quarterly treatment of an outdoor/hunting cat with additional anthelmintics such as praziquantel should be considered. —Heather Troyer, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Canine & Feline Practice)

References

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