The scientific name for the most common tapeworm species found in dogs is Dipylidium caninum.
For pet parents, however, these organisms are more aptly labeled as disgusting, unwanted, and harmful. Any dog owner who has discovered the telltale signs of tapeworms can testify to the initial “yuck” factor; in addition to being repulsive to look at, tapeworms create discomfort and potential health complications for our beloved pets.
There are treatment options available, but as pet parents, it is our responsibility to understand what tapeworms are and how they can be prevented. (Please note that while Dipylidium caninum is the most common tapeworm species found in dogs, there are others that can infect rodents, sheep, horses, and sometimes people.)
What are Tapeworms, and Do I Need to be Worried?
A member of the intestinal parasite world, tapeworms reside in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, where they survive by latching onto the stomach wall and ingesting nutrients. Adult worms are white in color, four to twenty-eight inches in length, and typically comprised of segments called proglottids. (Each proglottid is about the size of a grain of rice.)
In most cases, tapeworms don’t pose a major threat to adult dogs (though an infestation should be treated as soon as possible). An infestation of these parasites in puppies, however, can lead to serious health complications, including anemia, blocked intestines, and lack of growth.
What Causes Tapeworms in Dogs, and What are the Symptoms?
There are a number of routes through which dogs can be infested with tapeworms. One of the most common routes is accidentally swallowing an infected flea while grooming. Another common cause is eating tapeworm larvae while consuming dead animals.
When it comes to symptoms of tapeworms in dogs, the most telltale sign is what looks like small specks of rice in your dog’s feces. These are actually proglottids: once inside a host, parts of the worms’ segmented bodies will break off and travel through the intestines. Infected dogs sometimes drag their behinds on flat surfaces (this behavior can be attributed to other conditions such as full anal sacs), aggressively lick their anal areas, experience gas, and an entire worm may occasionally be expelled through vomiting.
What is the Best Tapeworm Treatment for Dogs?
Do you suspect your dog has tapeworms? If so, consult your veterinarian. Animal doctors often request stool samples during routine exams in order to check for the presence of intestinal parasites. If your vet confirms the presence of tapeworms, he or she will likely prescribe a drug specifically for de-worming in pets, allowing your dog to pass the worms in a safe and efficient manner.
A popular deworming drug for dogs is praziquantel, often used to treat tapeworms caused by fleas. Administered by tablets or injection and known to cause limited side effects, praziquantel dissolves the parasites while they're still inside the intestines. (It is important to note that only praziquantel will treat infestations caused by fleas; other deworming drugs like Safeguard help eliminate infections derived from your dog eating an infected dead animal, but are ineffective against flea-borne tapeworms.)
Other effective treatments include chewable tablets, granules sprinkled on food, and pills. Some medications treat multi-species infestations: tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.
However you medicate your dog, it is vital to give the full dosage as required daily to really remove intestinal worms.
How Can You Help Prevent Tapeworms in Dogs?
Parasites and parasitic worms infect more creatures on a daily basis than we realize. Here are some important things to know, and some tips on how to prevent a tapeworm infestation.
The critical effort in removing the threat of tapeworms centers on eliminating fleas from his life on a regular basis. Fleas are a major source of tapeworm infestation, so remove the problem at the source. Dog flea treatment and control is available in collars, topical applications, or oral medications. Choose the administration method that works best for your dog's lifestyle. Fleas can also be in your yard and come into your home, making flea prevention and control with premise sprays, foggers, and powders very important.
Some small steps in prevention and treatment can keep your beloved dog tapeworm free. Your dog will give you a paw’s up for keeping tapeworms away.