Nicotine is a mild anthelmintic, meaning it rids the body of parasites by stunning them or killing them. It has been used as a natural remedy to help kill worms in cats and other pets, especially because parasites do not build immunity to it. Some pet owners trust it as a remedy for tapeworms in their cats. But, nicotine is also a poison. It has likely been responsible for more human deaths than any other herb (via tobacco use). A slight overdose can easily kill a feline.
The primary source of nicotine in society is tobacco. Tobacco had a reputation as a “cure-all” for a multitude of ailments – especially back in the 1500s, when it was used to treat anything from pain to ulcers to nasal polyps. It was used in Europe to treat ringworm, bug bites, wounds, tetanus and worms, amongst other things.
By the early 1600s, some doctors starting raising concerns over the use of tobacco and its possible dangers. The addictive qualities of nicotine are now well established, as are the multiple health risks attributed to smoking or chewing tobacco. Nicotine itself is a known toxin, and it is sometimes used as an insecticide.
The typical give-away that a your cat has tapeworms is the appearance of rice-like segments around the cat’s anus and in the litter box. You may also find evidence in your carpet or bed. Your vet can also perform a microscopic study of the cat’s feces to confirm tapeworm infestation. If your cat suffers from a heavy infestation, it may lose weight, develop a rough coat and suffer from malnutrition.
Nicotine can affect the nervous and digestive systems in cats. Side effects may include drooling, excitement, vomiting and diarrhea, tremors, twitching (which could progress to seizures), constricted pupils, depression, rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure.
A toxic dose of nicotine is about one half to 1 milligram per pound of your cat’s body weight. A lethal dose is 4 milligrams per pound of body weight. An overdose of nicotine can result in a lethargy, rapid heart rate, collapse, coma and death. If you suspect your cat has nicotine poisoning, take it to a veterinarian immediately.
Consult with a veterinarian about the variety of products available for deworming that are safe for your cat, inexpensive and easy to administer. Some common medications include Cestex, Drontal and Droncit 23 mg. Your vet can also give medication with an injection. Praziquantel comes in either tablet or injection form is often a main ingredient in tapeworm medications.
Several tapeworm medications are also available over-the-counter and are less expensive than medications from a vet. For pet owners who are unable take their cat to the vet for financial or other reasons, consider contacting pet-related charities, animal shelters and pet rescues that may be able to provide your cat with low-cost or even free health care and medications, or refer you to an organization that can.
Appropriate flea control is the best way to prevent tapeworms and the need for treatments, including nicotine. Fleas are often an intermediate host of tapeworms. Fleas eat the fecal matter than contains tapeworm eggs. Your cat may ingest such fleas, and then the tapeworm is released. There are numerous products to help prevent fleas. Some examples include topical medications you use once a month (such as Frontline, Advantage and Revolution), sprays, dips, shampoos, collars, flea combs and oral products. Many flea-control products are available over the counter at local pet stores.