Parasitic worms are not only unpleasant to look at but also can be detrimental to your dog's health. Here, our Citrus Heights vets discuss what tapeworms are and how to get rid of tapeworms in dogs.
How Are Tapeworms Contracted?
There are various types of tapeworm that can infect your dog, including the Taenia and Echinococcus species, which your dog can pick up from eating infected animals while hunting or scavenging. However, the most common tapeworm in dogs is Dipylidium caninum, contracted through fleas that carry the worm larvae. The most common way for your dog to ingest these infected fleas is while being groomed. The tapeworm larvae will then attach themselves to your dog’s stomach and then begin to grow into flat, white worms that can get up to 27 inches long.
Once the tapeworm larvae are in the dog’s intestines, they will begin to grow while stealing critical nutrients meant for your dog. Infected pets shed small, mobile, egg-filled worm segments in their stool. Fleas in the environment may ingest eggs from these segments, and the cycle repeats.
- Your dog eats a flea carrying the tapeworm larva.
- The tapeworm larva grows into a tapeworm in your dog’s intestine.
- The end segments of the tapeworm contain eggs that are excreted with your dog’s feces.
- Developing fleas in the environment ingest the eggs before jumping on your dog.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs?
It is common for dogs to now show any noticeable symptoms for a long time after infection, but it is possible to notice the infection if you know the signs.
As the tapeworm grows, some of its segments that contain large amounts of eggs will be released into your dog’s feces. You may also be able to see the segments around your dog’s bottom or in their bedding. These segments may look like moving pieces of rice or dried-out, hard yellow specks that can stick to your dog’s coat.
If a dog is infected, it will be common for them to scoot around the floor on their bottom or bite or lick their bottom due to the intense itching that they will be feeling. However, remember that dogs scoot for many reasons, such as blocked or irritated anal sacs or skin inflammation. It is important to bring your dog to the vet if they are scooting and showing signs of discomfort.
Vomiting can be a common symptom of tapeworms as the parasite grows inside your dog. Of course, vomiting can indicate a variety of other problems, from indigestion to more serious conditions. If your dog vomits frequently or displays other symptoms, such as lethargy or severe diarrhea. If these symptoms occur it is important to see the vet immediately.
In extreme cases of tapeworm infection, your dog may lose weight despite eating normally. This is caused by the large loss of nutrients due to the tapeworm.
Like vomiting, weight loss can have a variety of causes. If there are no obvious reasons for the weight loss, such as increased exercise or a change in diet, then your dog might need to visit a vet for assessment.
How to Treat Tapeworms in Dogs
Tapeworms can cause a number of scary symptoms in dogs, but luckily tapeworms are treatable. Worming medications can effectively kill worms lurking in your dog’s gut.
Like most infestations, prevention is better than cure, and there are a number of steps you can take to help protect your dog from parasites. One way is to maintain a regular flea treatment schedule, whether you use a spot-on, a collar or an oral medication. Additionally, check your dog’s coat regularly for fleas to help steer clear of the potentially parasite-carrying pests.
Keeping your dog from roaming unsupervised can also help prevent them from contracting Taenia or Echinococcus tapeworms from hunting rodents or rabbits, or from scavenging dead livestock such as sheep or cattle.
Thankfully, tapeworms rarely cause severe complications for dogs — and with a few simple preventive measures, you can help protect your dog from this intestinal nuisance.