So...when we got back from vacation I noticed some odd sesame seed looking things on a blanket one of the cats had been sitting on. After doing a little internet detective work I discovered these "seeds" were not seeds at all but the dessicated remains of tapeworm segments. Um. Ew. Gross!
According to WebMD,
Tapeworms are the most common internal parasite in adult cats. They live in the small intestines, and vary in length from less than 1 inch (25 mm) to several feet (1 foot is .3 meters). The scolex (head) of the parasite fastens itself to the wall of the gut using hooks and suckers. The body is composed of segments that contain egg packets. To eliminate tapeworm infection, the head must be destroyed. Otherwise, the worm will regenerate.Body segments of the tapeworm are passed through the cat's feces or the segments will pass straight through the cat's anus. According to WebMD "praziquantel is one of the most effective medications for both common species of cat tapeworm." Praziquantel used to only be available via prescription but is now readily available over the counter.
After researching treatment options I opted to forgo an office visit with the vet and bought some medication from Petco for $25. The product I purchased is from "Tradewinds" and called "Tape Worm Tabs Cat Tablets." The active ingredient is praziquantel. This brand got really good reviews all over the internet. The bottle came with 3 tablets and I administered the medication to both Pablo and Diego according to their weights. I haven't seen any more dried up tapeworm segments so I'm hoping the meds took care of the problem.
In addition to the praziquantel I gave both cats flea treatments. I wondered how the heck the cats got tapeworms in the first place (they're indoor cats) and as it turns out they most likely got them from ingesting infected fleas while grooming. Yet another reason to keep fleas at bay! Will update on the effectiveness of the praziquantel in 2 weeks.