Tapeworm in Dogs – What You Need to Know

What is Tapeworm in Dogs?

Tapeworms are a parasite that can live in the small intestine of dogs and other animals. The most common form of tapeworm in dogs is called Dipylidium caninum. This particular tapeworm is flat, white in color, and can grow up to 8 inches in length. Their heads are flat and contain a hook-like mouth, which the worm uses to attach itself to in the dogs small intestines. Tapeworms are made up of many segments, kind of like a chain link. The tail end of the segments can break off and are often what is the first sign that your dog has tapeworm since they can be found in your dog’s bowel movement or around the anus. These segments often look like grains of rice.

Common Causes for Tapeworm in Dogs

The most common cause for a dog to get tapeworm is by ingesting a flea that contains tapeworm eggs in its larvae. Contact between the flea larvae and tapeworm eggs is thought to occur in contaminated carpeting or upholstery. As the flea is ingested and passes through the dogs body, the tapeworm larvae hatch and attach to the dogs small intestinal lining.

Symptoms of Tapeworm in Dogs

Tapeworm is not incredibly harmful to your dog. However, in large numbers, tapeworm can make your dog lose weight and become lethargic. Another sign that your dog may have tapeworm is if he/she is constantly “scooting” their rear across the floor. The dog may be doing this because the tail end segments of the tapeworm are irritating to the dogs hind quarters. Occasionally, when a worm detaches from the intestines, it will pass onto the stomach. When this happens, the dog will more than likely throw up the worm because of irritation. In this case, the entire worm can be seen in the dogs vomit.

Diagnosing and Treating Tapeworm in Dogs

Diagnosis of tapeworm can be achieved through either a visual examination or examination of the stool. The visual examination would be to see if there are segments of the tapeworm around your dogs hind quarters. The examination of the stool would be to examine the dogs bowel movement for any signs of tapeworm. Treating the tapeworm is relatively easy and very effective. A drug which kills tapeworm can be given either orally or through means of an injection. However, there are steps to be taken for the owner that will prevent the dog from getting tapeworms again. Keeping the dogs environment clean and free of fleas is essential to maintaining the health of your dog and reducing the risk of reinfection of tapeworm larvae. Keeping the area your dog lives and plays in clean of any residual feces that contained tapeworm is important.

Can Humans Get Tapeworm From Their Dogs?

There are a few tapeworm species that are harmful to humans. However, these types are not common in the United States and should not be cause for alarm. There are rare reports of the tapeworm, Dipylidium effecting children. However, these infections are not associated with significant or otherwise untreatable diseases.