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All it takes is for your dog or cat to swallow a flea carrying cestode larvae for them to become infected with tapeworms. Fortunately, praziquantel—a treatment for tapeworms—is easy to administer, quick to work and can be highly effective in getting rid of the pesky parasite in pets.  

Praziquantel for cats and dogs is an FDA-approved anti-parasitic primarily used to eliminate tapeworm infestations. It is commonly combined with other anti-parasitic medications to create broad-spectrum dewormers that can treat hookworms and roundworms as well as tapeworms. Some of the most popular brands include Droncit®, Tradewinds™ Tape Worm Tabs and D-Worm™.  

Is praziquantel safe for cats and dogs? 

Generally, praziquantel for cats and dogs is harmless when administered correctly. It has even been shown to be safe for pregnant felines and canines. However,  praziquantel should not be given to very young puppies and kittens. Do not give praziquantel to puppies younger than 3 weeks old or under 2 pounds or to kittens under 6 weeks old or less than 1 1/2 pounds.  

Certain medications may also negatively interact with praziquantel, including cimetidine, ketoconazole and itraconazole. If your pet is taking any of these medications, alert your veterinarian before giving your pet a praziquantel tablet, topical or injection.

How does praziquantel for dogs and cats work? 

Tapeworms use their hook-like mouths to attach themselves to the wall of your pet’s small intestine. From this cozy nook, they can absorb nutrients from your pet. The praziquantel mechanism of action disrupts the tapeworm’s ability to stick to your dog’s or cat’s intestine. As a result, the tapeworms will lose their grip and be digested. Because your pet will fully process the tapeworms, you won’t see any in their stool. 

Praziquantel is used to treat Dipylidium caninum, the most common type of tapeworm. It can also be used to treat a range of less common tapeworms, including: 

  • Echinococcus granulosus 

  • Echinococcus multilocularis 

  • Spirometra mansonoides 

  • Diphyllobothrium erinacea 

  • Alaria  

  • Taenia 

How to administer praziquantel

Praziquantel can be administered as a tablet, injection or topical. Injections are subcutaneous—injected under the skin rather than into the muscle—and administered at your vet’s office. Alternatively, your vet may give a praziquantel tablet to your pet at the office or send you home with the medication, which you can give to your pet on your own.  

Praziquantel is typically just as effective with or without food, so your pet doesn’t need to fast before taking the tablet. The praziquantel tablet is known to taste bitter, so if your pet isn’t inclined to take the tablet straight, you may consider hiding the tablet in their food or using a pill pocket treat.  

Praziquantel side effects 

Praziquantel side effects are rare but may include:  

  • Drooling 

  • Vomiting 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Lethargy 

  • Decreased appetite 

Additionally, if your pet receives a praziquantel injection, they may experience pain or discomfort at the injection site. In most cases, praziquantel side effects will go away on their own once your pet has finished their regimen. If these symptoms continue, contact your pet’s veterinarian for more guidance. 

These same symptoms may be seen in pets who have received too much praziquantel. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect that your pet may be experiencing a praziquantel overdose.  

Praziquantel dosage for cats and dogs

The right praziquantel dosage for dogs and cats will depend mostly on your pet’s weight and should only be determined by your veterinarian. Your vet will use a praziquantel dosage calculator to determine the correct prescription for your pet.  

How long does praziquantel take to work? 

In many cases, pets only need a single praziquantel dose to eliminate all the tapeworms in their system. This makes it easy and effective to complete the treatment. However, if your pet is at risk of quickly becoming reinfected with tapeworms, your vet may recommend a second dose of the drug. 

Since tapeworms are most often transmitted by fleas, pets who live in an environment with a high flea population may need two doses of praziquantel to complete their treatment. 

When praziquantel is combined with other anti-parasitic medications, the treatment timetable can vary. Some broad-spectrum deworming medications that include praziquantel are designed to be given monthly.   

How do I store and handle praziquantel? 

Praziquantel for dogs and cats should be stored in a light-resistant container at room temperature. Keep the container out of the reach of children and pets.  

How can I tell if my pet has tapeworms? 

Tapeworms usually don’t cause severe symptoms in adult dogs and cats but can have a big impact on puppies and kittens. Even if your adult pet isn’t at a high risk of severe tapeworm symptoms, that doesn’t mean you want your pet carrying around tapeworms. After all, pets with tapeworms may eventually infect other pets in your household or in the neighborhood—part of the reason why praziquantel is such a popular medication. 

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell if your pet has tapeworms. Even a normal stool test during a routine veterinary checkup could miss signs of these parasites.  

The easiest way to spot tapeworms is to be observant of your pet’s stools. Over time, a tapeworm will shed its segments—called proglottids—which will show up in your pet’s stools as moving white grains that look a little like rice or cucumber seeds. Your pet may also scoot across the floor to relieve itching around their anus.  

Tapeworms shed segments in cycles, which means they can’t always be found in stool samples. This is why your veterinarian may miss an infection. If you see tapeworm segments in your pet’s stool, take the stool sample to your vet for analysis.  

Can my pet pass tapeworms to my family or me? 

It is very rare for humans to become infected with tapeworms from their pets. Tapeworms require an intermediate host to spread, which is often a flea. Very occasionally, young children may become infected with tapeworms after playing with pets who carry infected fleas. Deworming medications for humans are very effective in eliminating human tapeworm infections. Always consult your doctor if you believe you or a family member may have tapeworms. Never take any medication meant for pets or other animals.  

How can I prevent tapeworm infections in my pets? 

While praziquantel for cats and dogs can be highly effective, it’s always better to not have to use it in the first place. The simplest thing pet parents can do to help prevent tapeworms in their pet is to focus on flea control. Tapeworms cannot infect dogs or cats directly and instead need an intermediary host.  

Make flea prevention a part of your pet care routine. Pet parents have many options to choose from, including topical treatments, oral preventives and flea collars. If you suspect that your pet already has fleas, use flea shampoo and a flea comb to eliminate the current infestation and follow up with preventive treatment. Your vet can make recommendations for different flea treatment solutions. You can also find a range of flea and tick medications at Petco. 

Pets can become infected with Taenia tapeworms by eating intermediate hosts such as rodents, rabbits and hares. Outdoor cats are at a higher risk of this type of tapeworm infection. Outdoor pets are also more likely to encounter fleas. Pet parents who live in rural areas may want to consider keeping cats indoors to lower their overall risk of tapeworms. Keeping dogs indoors all the time may not be practical, but pet parents can help reduce their pet’s risk of getting tapeworms by keeping a close eye on their canines. Don’t let your pup get too curious about local wildlife or the stools of other dogs. An annual fecal check for intestinal parasites is recommended. Schedule this with your vet.

Is praziquantel only for tapeworms? 

In dogs and cats, praziquantel is used primarily to eliminate tapeworm infections. The drug, however, does have other anti-parasitic uses. In humans, it can treat Schistosoma worms, which are usually transmitted through contact with contaminated water. Schistosoma worm infections are most common in South America, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and parts of Asia.  

Praziquantel is also commonly combined with other anti-parasitic drugs, like emodepside, milbemycin, lufenuron, ivermectin and pyrantel pamoate, to provide a more significant deworming effect in cats, dogs and other animals. These combinations are sold under various brand names and may eliminate specific parasites or be offered as a broad-spectrum dewormer.  

Petco’s pharmacy offers praziquantel with a prescription, so speak with your veterinarian today if you suspect your dog or cat has tapeworms. If your vet prescribes them, the Petco pharmacy also offers other helpful pet medications like kaolin-pectin, lactulose, metronidazole and enrofloxacin and more.  

Pet prescriptions available to order at Petco

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Reviewed by Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM

As Petco’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Miller is the lead veterinary subject matter expert, overseeing the company’s standards of excellence in animal care and welfare, growth in pet services and much more. Dr. Miller leads Petco’s medical team, supporting over 200 full-service hospitals and mobile vaccination clinics operating in over 1,000 Petco Pet Care Centers nationwide