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Tapeworms in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Tapeworm in Dogs | Innovet Pet

If you are a pet owner, you have probably heard of tapeworms in dogs at some point. If you are not familiar, they are tiny parasites that make a home in your dog’s gut and intestines.

The most common tapeworm species found in dogs is called Dipylidium caninum. Adult tapeworms can grow to quite a sizable length and be seen in dog’s feces, vomit, and bedding. These parasites can cause many symptoms regarding your dog’s weight loss, energy, and digestion. 

If you’re repulsed while reading this, you’ll be happy to know that when dogs get tapeworms it sounds concerning, they are relatively common and easily diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian. Thankfully, none of the symptoms are lasting or very serious. However, it is important to get a diagnosis as soon as you suspect an infection is present. 

Below, we’ll cover some helpful information on tapeworms, like how you can recognize the signs and prevent your dog from dealing with this parasite in the future. 

Can tapeworms be passed from dog to human?

It is possible, but very unlikely, for a human to get tapeworms from pets. In order for Dipylidium caninum, they would need to accidentally swallow a flea that’s hosting parasitic eggs. This isn’t too common of intestinal parasites in adults.

Children make up most of the cases transferred this way. Thus, it is incredibly important to make sure children are executing good hygiene when playing with any pets, or outside in general. 

If children have been infected, you will see similar segments called proglottids (small grains of rice-sized segments) in their bowel movements or near their skin around the rectum. See their health care provider for effective diagnosis and treatment if you suspect they’ve been infected. 

How Does a Dog Get Tapeworms?

Tapeworms in dogs occur due to the following cycle:

  1. First, the dog eats a host that contains tapeworm eggs. This is commonly swallowing an infected flea egg. Dogs can ingest fleas through grooming themselves or another dog or cat. Eggs can be transmitted by other animals such as birds, rodents, or rabbits, which some dogs may scavenge for.
  2. After the host has been digested, the eggs settle into the dog’s small intestine. From there, it will grow into an adult. 
  3. The adult worm is composed of many smaller segments that are about the size of a grain of rice. The entire length of the worm can reach upwards of 28 inches. 
  4. When the worm starts to mature inside the canine’s gut, the sections break off, which is what is visible in your dog's poop or vomit. The segments that are passed contain more eggs, thus beginning the cycle with a new host and new recipient. 
CBD for vomitting in dogs

How do I know if my dog has tapeworm?

There are many signs that may be present when dogs get tapeworms. As the worm grows, some parts of its body will break apart. You’ll see these tapeworm segments in the dog’s feces or in the hair near their bottom. They may look like grains of rice. 

If the tapeworm has died and dried out before the dog passes it, the pieces will be more yellow and hard. When the tapeworm segments are in the dog’s stomach, they will throw up, possibly showing a piece of tapeworm as well. 

Because an adult tapeworm can irritate a dog’s bottom, one of the more common signs that a dog is dealing with intestinal parasites is a habit of scooting their backside along the floor. 

Other common symptoms and indicators that your dog is dealing with a tapeworm are:

tapeworms in dogs is dipylidium caninum
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dull coat 
  • Visible evidence of tapeworms in stool, vomit, or on the body
  • Weight loss, even when eating regular meals
  • Abdominal distension

How To Treat Tapeworms in Dogs

Tapeworms in dogs are common occurrences, therefore there are many treatment options available. Your veterinarian will decide on the best treatment option. 

One popular prescription drug to treat tapeworms is called praziquantel. This drug is administered orally or through an injection. Praziquantel causes the worm to dissolve within the canine’s intestine. It doesn’t have any negative side effects. 

Other medicinal options are tablets, granules that can be sprinkled on the pet’s food, and chewables. Some medications effectively treat other worms such as hookworm, whipworm, and roundworm, in addition to tapeworm.

Once your dog has successfully received their full treatment, you should take preventative measures to reduce any risk of tapeworms returning. 

How To Keep Your Dogs Safe From Tapeworms

Simply put, the most effective way to reduce the risk of tapeworm infestation in your furry friend is to avoid flea infestation. Flea control prevents your pet from coming in contact from potential hosts of tapeworm eggs. To avoid an adult tapeworm infestation, follow these steps: 

What Causes Tapeworms in Dogs and How To Prevent Them | Innovet Pet
  • Keep your pet away from trash and any dead animals.
  • Always wash your hands after playing with any feline or canine friends, or spending time outdoors.
  • Don’t allow kids to play in any areas soiled with animal feces-pet or otherwise.
  • Always clean up after your pet, when playing in public parks, playgrounds, or otherwise. Bury any feces left or dispose of it in a plastic bag by placing it in the trash.
  • Control fleas seen on your pet, or in or around their environments.
  • Take your pet to their veterinarian at the first sign of an infection.

Conclusion

Tapeworms in dogs are a common nuisance for pets and their owners. Although they cause many symptoms, such as weight loss, distended abdomens, and lethargy, they aren’t the most harmful parasite your pet can catch. 

Don’t stress out too much if you notice these signs in your pet. A quick trip to your veterinarian can diagnose if your pet is dealing with a tapeworm infection. By following some preventative measures, you can heal your dog and keep them safe from this worm in the future. 

Sources:

Praziquantel
Tapeworms in Dogs
Dipylidium FAQs
Dog Tapeworms

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