It's certainly not a pleasant topic, but tapeworms are a common parasite in dogs that are easily treated. Today our Berkeley vets discuss tapeworms in dogs - including the common symptoms and treatments.
Tapeworm Infection in Dogs
Tapeworms are an intestinal parasite that is often seen in dogs, cats, humans, and many other species around the world.
Flat, segmented parasites, tapeworms infect dogs using hook-like mouths to attach themselves to the intestines of a canine host. They can grow to as large as 11-inches, and as they mature will shed segments that exit the host via their feces.
How Dogs Get Tapeworms
Dogs have a real knack for becoming infected and spreading tapeworms.
Your dog will likely become infected by ingesting a host that is harboring tapeworm eggs, typically fleas. This can happen in a number of ways, but one of the most common ways is through self-grooming or grooming a canine or feline housemate.
Once the tapeworm egg has made its way into your dog’s small intestine it will begin to develop into an adult. Adult tapeworms typically measure 4 - 28 inches in length.
The adult tapeworm consists of many tiny segments about the size of a grain of rice. These small segments gradually break off and become part of your dog’s stool. Each of these segments contain tapeworm eggs. When your dog has a bowel movement the eggs are released into the world where they can find their way into a new host, and the cycle begins again.
Tapeworms & Your Dog's Health
While these parasites can cause your dog general gastrointestinal discomfort, for most pets tapeworms will not cause a health crisis.
That said, for puppies tapeworms can be more dangerous since their growing intestines could become overwhelmed by a large number of tapeworms.
Spotting Stool Tapeworms in Dogs
If your pooch is infected you may notice tapeworm segments moving on your pet's anal hairs or through your dog's feces.
How Tapeworms in Dogs are Diagnosed
One sign of tapeworms you can find at home is if your dog begins scooting. They will drag their bums on the ground in an effort to relieve the irritation caused by the parasite. This is not a sure thing, however, there are many possible explanations for scooting in dogs.
Your veterinarian can take a more comprehensive approach, by observing the white or golden worms present in your dog's feces. Passing worm segments happens periodically, not consistently, and so an annual fecal exam is likely to miss them. As a result, dog owners should contact their vet if they detect anything strange in their dog's stool, and save the sample for them to make a professional diagnosis.
Treatment for Tapeworms in Dogs
Dogs who are diagnosed with tapeworms have a relatively easy path to recovery ahead, modern anti-parasite medications can quickly and safely kill the parasite inside your dog and disintegrate the corpses, allowing them to pass them through their anus. As they've been disintegrated, they shouldn't be detectable any longer and your dog should experience no undue discomfort passing them.
Preventing Tapeworms in Dogs
Controlling fleas is one of the very best ways to reduce the risk of your pooch becoming infected with tapeworms. Keeping your pet on flea prevention medications is a great way to do that.
We also recommend cleaning up after your pet as soon as they have passed a stool and keeping your yard free of dog waste.
Finally, keep your dog away from dead animals (roadkill) that may be carrying infected fleas.Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.