Help! My Dog Has Tapeworms!

By Lambert Vet Supply | 8/23/2018 | Posted to Dog Health
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The scientific name for the most common species of tapeworm found in dogs and cats is Dipylidium caninum. For pet parents, however, these organisms are more aptly labeled as disgusting, unwanted, and—for pet owners with puppies—harmful. Any dog owner who’s discovered the telltale signs of tapeworms can testify to the initial “yuck” factor. Fortunately, an infestation of these parasites can be treated relatively quickly, with little to no adverse effects. (Please note that while the Dipylidium species is the most common species found in dogs, there are other species of this parasite that can infect rodents, rabbits, 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 your dog’s stomach walls with hook-like suckers and ingesting nutrients. Adult tapeworms are flat and white in color, growing from four to twenty-eight inches in length, and are typically comprised of multiple 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. However, tapeworms in puppies can lead to serious health complications, including anemia, blocked intestines, and lack of growth. 


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What Are the Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs?


The telltale sign of tapeworms in dogs usually comes from finding pieces of these parasites in your dog’s feces. Once inside a host, parts of these parasites’ segmented bodies will break off and travel through the intestines. Dog owners may also notice rice-like specks on their dog’s bottom or in fresh dung. Sometimes, infected dogs will drag their behinds on flat surfaces, although this behavior is not singularly attached to tapeworm infestations. (Dogs may scoot along the floor for other conditions such as full anal sacs.) Some dogs may aggressively lick and bite their anal areas if they are irritated, and some may experience periods of gas. Occasionally, a dog may throw up a whole worm that’ll be visible in his vomit. 

How Does Your Dog Get Tapeworms?


If your dog has tapeworms, there are a number of possible routes through which he might’ve gotten it. While grooming, he might’ve swallowed a flea infected with tapeworm larvae. Other types of tapeworm can also infect a dog after they eat tapeworm larvae in dead animals or scraps from wild animals.

What is the Best Tapeworm Treatment in Dogs?


Do you suspect your dog has tapeworms? If so, consult your veterinarian. A veterinarian often requests a stool sample during a routine exam in order to check for the presence of intestinal parasitic worms like tapeworms. 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 caused by fleas. Other products like Safeguard will remove tapeworms in dogs 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 full 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.

  • Humans can get tapeworms, but it is rare. As a general rule, people should wash their hands after playing with animals or being outside to help eliminate potential health risks.
  • Be a dedicated yard cleaner. As we said, the number one telltale sign of an infestation tapeworms in dog feces. Pick up your dog’s waste on a regular basis and always pick up their waste when visiting a park or another yard. Dispose of waste in covered trash receptacles.
  • Be an observant dog parent and monitor where your dog roams, especially in areas often used by other dogs.
  • Creative a continuous de-worming plan with your veterinarian’s assistance.
  • Don’t let your dog eat dead animals or garbage.

  • 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. 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.

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    The information contained in The Well Pet Post articles is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a veterinarian and is not intended as medical advice. If you have a health con­cern about your pets, please consult with an appropriately-licensed veterinarian. Never dis­re­gard pro­fes­sional veterinary advice or delay in seek­ing it for your pets because of some­thing you have read on this blog or in any linked materials.
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