​Tapeworms in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention

what are tapeworms?

Tapeworms are an intestinal parasite. Along with the roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm, this flat, segmented worm is found in dogs, cats, humans, and many other species throughout the world. the most common species of tapeworm is dipylidium caninum. the medical term for a tapeworm infestation is cestodiasis.

If you’ve ever seen pictures of tapeworms, your reaction was probably one of automatic disgust. (Especially those alarming videos of tapeworms being removed from people. A woman in China had an eight-foot tapeworm removed from her stomach!) As disgusting as they are to watch, it’s important to recognize the signs of parasites , so your dog can be treated before the worms damage his body. The good news is that treatment for tapeworms is very effective and simple.

Reading: Do dogs get tapeworms

a medical model of an adult tapeworm / copyright decade3rd-anatomy online

how do dogs get tapeworms?

There is a cycle through which dogs get tapeworms:

  1. First, the dog ingests a host harboring tapeworm eggs, usually an adult flea. There are a few ways a dog can ingest a flea, such as grooming itself or grooming a canine or feline housemate. Other animals that are possible carriers of eggs include birds, rabbits, or rodents, which even a well-fed dog might seek out.
  2. Once digested, tapeworm eggs settle in your dog’s small intestine. there it will become an adult.
  3. The adult tapeworm is made up of many small segments, each about the size of a grain of rice, called proglottids. Adult tapeworms are typically between four and 28 inches long.
  4. As the tapeworm matures within the dog’s intestine, these segments break off and end up in the dog’s feces. since these segments contain tapeworm eggs, the cycle will start all over again, with a new host and most likely a new recipient.

Tapeworm Chart

courtesy of prolabs

how to know if your dog has tapeworms

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that proglottid segments can sometimes be seen crawling near the anus or on the surface of fresh debris. these ovules are released into the environment when the proglottid dries up. dried proglottids can sometimes be seen clinging to your dog’s fur.

Another telltale sign of a worm infestation is if your dog slides his anus across the floor, a rug, or other rough surface. this is due to the irritation that the segments are causing on the skin. you may see your dog licking or biting the area. sometimes a part of the tapeworm will be released when your dog vomits.

Tapeworms are not usually harmful and dogs rarely become ill as a result of an infestation, but weight loss can occur if the dog is heavily infected.

Tapeworm tail

diagnosis and treatment of tapeworms in dogs

Ever wonder why your vet asks you to go through the unpleasant task of collecting and bringing back a stool sample for an annual physical? the answer is: this is how you test for worms. the test will find out if the tapeworms are in the anal sac or in your dog’s feces. False negatives may occur, but the tapeworm test is reliable and most results are conclusive. the prognosis for both animals and humans is very good after treatment.

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A prescription medicine called praziquantel is used to treat tapeworms, either by mouth or by injection. the medicine causes the tapeworm to dissolve inside the intestine. the drug usually has no adverse side effects.

Other medications that are effective in eliminating tapeworms include chewables, granules that are sprinkled on food, and tablets. There are also combination parasite medications that treat tapeworm, hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm in one.

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petmd notes that it is important to administer all prescribed medications to ensure that the tapeworms are completely cleared from your dog’s body. And before using any over-the-counter medication on your own, consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

Tapeworm Inside Dog Intestine

wasted inside the dog’s intestine / copyright juan gaertner

Can tapeworms be transmitted to humans?

Tapeworms can be transmitted to humans, but the risk of infestation is very low: you would have to swallow an infected flea or, in the case of some parasite species, through accidental ingestion of feces containing parasitic eggs . . children are more prone to this, as they are more likely to be outside playing in lawns, parks, and other areas where dog droppings can be left.

prevention of tapeworms in dogs

The best way to avoid a tapeworm infestation is to keep your dog free of flea infestations. the surrounding environment should also be treated to prevent recurring infestations. The CDC recommends these steps to reduce the chance of a tapeworm infestation:

  • Control fleas on your pet and in your indoor and outdoor environments.
  • Have your vet treat your pets right away for tapeworms.
  • Clean up afterwards of your pet, especially in playgrounds and public parks. bury feces or place in a plastic bag and dispose of in the trash.
  • do not let children play in areas that are littered with feces from pets or other animals.
  • teach children to always wash their hands after playing with dogs and cats, and after playing outdoors.
  • keep the dog away from dead animals and garbage.

Note: This article is designed to help you learn about tapeworms in dogs and is not intended to take the place of a veterinary consultation or diagnosis. If you think your dog may have tapeworms or parasites, contact your veterinarian right away to make an appointment for an exam to ensure your dog receives the safest and most effective treatment.

sources: centers for disease control and prevention, petmd, the merck veterinary manual

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