How to recognize, treat and prevent tapeworms in dogs.
Tapeworms are long, flat, parasitic worms that attach themselves to the small intestines of dogs and other animals.
The most common form is the Dipylidium caninum, about eight inches long, white in color, and with a hook-like mouth which the worm uses to attach itself to the dog’s intestinal wall.
Tapeworms are segmented, and the end segments can break off and be expelled from the dog’s body. These segments resemble grains of rice, and the presence of these in the dog’s feces is often the first indication of a tapeworm infestation.
Causes of Tapeworms in Dogs
There are a number of ways in which a dog can get tapeworm, but by far the most common is by ingesting a flea that is infected with tapeworm eggs.
The cycle begins with the flea larvae eating fecal matter that contains tapeworm eggs. The eggs then hatch inside the flea and become cysticercoids. A dog may then swallow the infected flea while biting an itchy area on his skin. As the flea then passes into the dog’s intestine the cysticercoids are released and develop into adult tapeworms.
Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs
Dogs that are infested with tapeworms usually show few outer signs of distress. They do not become ill and usually do not lose weight as a result of the worms.
However, in large numbers, tapeworms can cause your dog to lose weight as they absorb many of the nutrients in the dog’s food.
Contrary to popular belief, a dog that drags his hind quarters on the ground is not necessarily doing so as result of having tapeworms. Often this behavior is due to blocked or irritated anal sacs, or skin problems affecting the anal area.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Tapeworms in Dogs
The easiest way to check if your dog has tapeworm is a visual examination of his stool. If the dog is infected you’ll see small, rice-like tapeworm segments in his feces. You may also see these segments around the dog’s anal area.
Treatment for tapeworm is fortunately easy. A deworming drug that kills tapeworm can be given either orally or by injection, and does the job very effectively.
Tapeworms in Dogs: Prevention
The best way to keep your dog free from tapeworm is to prevent him from coming into contact with fleas. A monthly flea treatment should do the trick.
You will also want to deworm every 3 months. A good quality dewormer will not only rid your dog of tapeworm, but also roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.
You should also keep the dog’s living area clean and free of feces as he may become re-infected after treatment.
Are tapeworms harmful to humans?
Certain tapeworms found in dogs may cause illness in humans. However, humans generally acquire tapeworm from a different vector. It is extremely rare for canine tapeworms to be transmitted to humans.
Nonetheless, tapeworms in dogs is a problem that should be treated right away.