A tapeworm is a parasite that takes up residence in a host's intestines. It is usually transmitted through contaminated food or water, through feces, or through an infected host, most commonly a flea. While tapeworm infections are frequent amongst dogs and cats, humans can be infected on rare occasions, particularly while traveling in areas with poor sanitary conditions. Tapeworm treatment involves medication for both humans and for pets.
Tapeworms are long and flat like ribbons, and are made up of segments called proglottids, which contain the worm's eggs. Over time, the proglottids break off and are eliminated from the body. These segments may be visible in the both animal and human feces.
In humans, tapeworm treatment involves an oral dose of medication that contains either praziquantel, sold as Biltricide, or albendazole, sold as Albenza. Both are available by prescription from your doctor. The treatment selected is based on the species and the site of infection. In some countries, niclosamide may be administered, but it is not available in the United States.
Tapeworm treatment works by attacking the worm's own defenses. The tapeworm will be dissolved in the intestine, where it is digested. Your doctor will follow up to make sure the infection has been effectively eliminated by taking a stool sample one to three months after your treatment has been completed.
Infrequently, tapeworms will move outside the intestines. When this happens, they can form dangerous cysts in the organs. Anti-inflammatory steroids may be used to prevent cysts from forming, although surgery may be needed to remove existing cysts.
Natural remedies have proven to be very effective in preventing worms in the intestines. Occasional use of herbs like licorice root, agrimony, marshmallow, and wormwood may balance the immune system and prevent parasites. Homeopathic ingredients like Chamomilla and Cina also help to keep the intestinal system functioning smoothly. Medical treatment should be administered if infection occurs, however.
Worm treatment in pets is easy and also involves praziquantel, available at a veterinarian's office without a prescription. Your vet may ask you to bring your pet in since proper dosage is based on weight. This drug is available as a pill or as an injection for pets, and while both are effective, recent studies show that oral medication has a higher efficacy rate than the injected dose. While medication will eliminate the existing problem, the cause of the problem must also be addressed or your pet may become re-infested.