Tapeworm medicine can be found to treat this parasitic infection in both animals and people. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available, although most doctors will recommend the stronger dosages that only prescriptions can offer. One of the most common medications used is praziquantel.
Tapeworm infestations are most often caused by fleas. They are not caused by flea bites, however, as some mistakenly believe. Instead, the problem usually arises from eating fleas. Animals who bite at their fleas are the most likely to contract the parasite in this manner, although babies and children are also known to ingest fleas accidentally, or without knowledge of what they are eating. Humans can also be infected by ingesting the meat from an infected animal.
The most common sign of tapeworm infestation is seen in the feces of the infected party. Tapeworms live in the intestinal tract. As they grow, they break off little segments of their body that are called proglottids. These little segments can be seen in the stool of an infected animal. Humans with an infestation are often unaware of it until they notice these same proglottids. Other common signs are diarrhea, slight cramping or abdominal pain, and even weight loss, if the infestation has been allowed to go on for extended periods.
The most common tapeworm medicine for pets is praziquantel. This drug was formerly only available by prescription, but was made available for public sale for pets in the early 21st century. It can be taken in pill form over-the-counter, or a veterinarian can administer it by injection. The dosage is decided based on the weight of the patient, so many veterinarians prefer to see a pet in person to obtain current weight.
The pill or injection is commonly given only once. Treatments for other types of worms often require two dosages, one to kill the parents and one to kill the hatchlings. Praziquantel does not kill the tapeworm, but dissolves it, eliminating the need for more than one dosage of tapeworm medicine.
Tapeworm medicine for humans differs slightly. The drug albendazole is taken along with the praziquantel. These drugs are capable of producing significant side effects in humans, so anyone taking them must be monitored carefully by their physician. Some of the more mild side effects include dizziness, vomiting, headache, fever, or temporary hair loss. Some more severe ones include allergic reaction, vision problems, bruising, sore throat, stomach pain, and seizures. The alternative to the risky tapeworm medicine is internal tissue damage, and eventual death, and so the medication is necessary.