The scientific name for the most common type of tapeworm found in dogs (and cats) is Dipylidium caninum. For the average human dog owner, however, the parasite is more aptly named Disgustingyuckycreepy creature. Any dog owner who has discovered the telltale signs of tapeworms in dog poop can testify to the initial “yuck factor.” Fortunately, canines with tapeworms can be treated easily and quickly with little to no adverse effects.
What is a Tapeworm?
Part of the intestinal parasite world, tapeworms live inside your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. White and flat, adult tapeworms will grow from 4 to 28 inches long inside your pet’s stomach. Tapeworms are comprised of multiple segments (each about the size of a grain of rice) called proglottids. They survive by latching on to the walls of a dog’s stomach with a hook-like sucker. They get their nourishment from here and begin growing. In most cases, these parasitic worms will not adversely affect an adult dog’s health, but in extreme infestations, the dog may lose weight, even if he eats plenty. However, tapeworms in puppies can be a serious problem. Puppies with severe infestations may face serious health risks like anemia, blocked intestines, and lack of growth.
Though the Dipylidium species is the most common tapeworm found in dogs, other species may also infect your canine. The Taenia species (2 types) is acquired through eating infected prey or infected poop. These worms use larger rodents, rabbits, and sheep as hosts and they can grow to a yard in length. Another species, Echinococcus, uses sheep, horses, and sometimes man as hosts. They are smaller in size at less than an inch. In humans they can cause hydatid disease or hydatid cyst disease where cysts are formed in the liver. Luckily, this is a very rare infection that usually comes from eating contaminated meat or accidentally ingesting infected eggs from the waste of dogs, coyotes, or foxes. For both cases of Taenia and Echinococcus tapeworms, parasiticides like praziquantel are very effective in eliminating the worms from a dog’s system.
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What You’ll Notice About Your Dog and Tapeworms
Inside your dog, parts of these tapeworm's segmented body will break off and travel through the intestines. This is why the telltale signs an infestation usually come from finding pieces of tapeworms in dog poop. Dog owners may notice tiny rice-like specs in the fur on a canine’s bottom or crawling around in fresh dung. These fragments of the tapeworm's body contain eggs, meaning the cycle will replicate if the larvae find a new host. Sometimes dogs will drag their behinds on flat surfaces if they are being irritated by the parasites, but this behavior is not singularly attached to tapeworm infestations. Dogs may scoot their butts on the floor for other conditions like full anal sacs. Some dogs may aggressively lick and bite their anal areas if they are irritated and some may experience periods of gas from the tapeworms. Occasionally, a dog may throw up a whole worm that will be visible in his vomit.
How Does Your Dog Get Tapeworms?
If your dog has tapeworm, he probably acquired them via a couple of routes. He might've swallowed a flea infected with tapeworm larvae while he was grooming.
If this worm is induced via flea, these tapeworm larvae pieces will die and dry out and look like yellow specs. The eggs will be released into the world when they fall off the dog’s butt or show up in his feces. One good thing about these fertilized eggs is they cannot infect your dog directly. They must go through an intermediary host like a flea before they can infect your dog again.
Other types of tapeworms can also infect a dog after eating tapeworm larvae in dead animals or scraps from wild animals.
What is the Best Tapeworm Treatment in Dogs?
If you suspect your dog harbors tapeworms, have your veterinarian confirm this by observing the segments on your dog or using a microscope to examine the tapeworms in your dog’s poop. A veterinarian often requests a stool sample from a canine during a routine exam in order to check for the presence of intestinal parasitic worms like tapeworms. The medical term for a tapeworm infestation is Cestodiasis, but this diagnosis is not the end of the world.
Once the vet confirms tapeworms exist, they will suggest one of several safe prescription drugs for de-worming. This will allow your dog to pass the tapeworms in a safe and effective manner. Most dogs experience excellent post-treatment results.
A popular prescription drug, praziquantel, is often used to treat tapeworms caused by fleas. It can be administered by tablets or injection. The drug dissolves the tapeworm inside the intestines and has shown limited negative side effects. It is important to note that only praziquantel will treat tapeworms from fleas. Other products like Safeguard will remove tapeworms in dog which came from eating an infected, dead animal but will not eliminate flea-born tapeworms. Bayer also produces a non-prescription treatment containing praziquantel that may be suitable for removal of common tapeworms in some cases.
Other effective treatments involve chewable tablets, granules sprinkled on food, and pills. Some medications will treat multi-species infestations: tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.
However, you medicate your dog, it is vital to give the fully dosage as required daily to really remove intestinal worms.
How Do You Prevent Tapeworms in Dogs?
Parasites and parasitic worms live in our world and probably infect more creatures on a daily basis than we realize. However, with that knowledge also comes the information to remove some of the threat.
The real critical effort for removing the threat of tapeworms for your dog centers on eliminating fleas from his life on a regular basis. Keep fleas away from dogs and their environment. Fleas are a major source of tapeworm infestation so remove the problem at the source. Treat your dog with collars, topical applications and more and your home with sprays and powders.
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.