Tapeworms in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
If you are a dog owner, you have probably heard of tapeworms 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 although tapeworms sound 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 symptoms and prevent your dog from dealing with this parasite in the future.
Can Humans Get Tapeworms From Pets?
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 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 proglottids (small, white 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:
- First, the dog eats a host that contains tapeworm eggs. This is commonly a flea. 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.
- After the host has been digested, the eggs settle into the dog’s small intestine. From there, it will grow into an adult.
- 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.
- When the worm starts to mature inside the canine’s gut, the sections break off, which is what is visible in your pet’s stool or vomit. The segments that are passed contain more eggs, thus beginning the cycle with a new host and new recipient.
What Are The Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs?
There are many symptoms that may be present if your dog is dealing with a tapeworm. As the worm grows, some parts of its body will break apart. You’ll see these segments in the dog’s feces or in the hair near their bottom. They may look like pieces of white 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 a tapeworm can irritate a dog’s bottom, one of the more common signs that a dog is dealing with this parasite is a habit of scooting their backside along the floor.
Other common symptoms and indicators that your dog is dealing with a tapeworm are:
- 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 are common occurrences in canines, 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 parasite eggs. To avoid a tapeworm infestation, follow these steps:
- 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.
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.
Tapeworms in Dogs