Tapeworms are flat intestinal parasites composed of small segments that typically infect humans and animals. The tiny segments found in tapeworms are known as proglottids and are approximately the size of a grain of rice.
Tapeworms have hook-shaped mouthparts, which they use to attach themselves to the small intestinal walls of their hosts like humans and dogs. Once they’ve done that, they begin to absorb nutrients. As they grow, the proglottids begin to fall off and are eliminated through fecal discharge, prompting the reproduction of more worms.
Tapeworm infections rarely cause serious problems and are easy to treat. However, if you suspect your dog is infected with tapeworms, it’s best to have it treated by a veterinarian before the condition can escalate and cause more difficult-to-treat conditions. This post looks at what you need to know about dog tapeworms, including symptoms and treatment options.
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Causes of tapeworms in dogs
Before looking at some of the symptoms of a dog infected by tapeworms, here are the most common causes of tapeworms in dogs.
- Swallowing infected fleas or being bitten by fleas
The most common tapeworm species that affects dogs is Dipylidium caninum. This species can grow up to 50cm long. Dogs may be infected with this tapeworm species when a flea bites them or when they swallow an infected flea. For example, a dog may accidentally swallow an infected flea or get bitten by one while undergoing grooming.
The tapeworm larvae then attach themselves to the walls of the small intestine and feed on nutrients absorbed in the dog’s body. This causes it to mature and break off. Nonetheless, falling off triggers reproduction and the cycle continues until treatment is administered.
- Ingesting raw carcasses
Another species of tapeworms that affect dogs is Taenia spp. This usually occurs through the ingestion of raw carcasses or an infected rodent. Similar to a Dipylidium caninum infection, this species also absorbs essential nutrients from the gut and keeps reproducing unless medical intervention is made.
- Contact with other infected pets or surfaces
Fecal discharge from other pets or animals may contain species of tapeworms that affect dogs. For instance, cow faces may have Taenia spp, a tapeworm species that affects dogs.
Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs
Dog owners should seek medical advice from a veterinarian if they notice any of the symptoms mentioned below.
- Visible proglottids on the surface of freshly discharged dog feces. The rice grain-sized proglottids fall off as the tapeworm matures and become visible after a dog’s fecal discharge. Therefore, a dog owner can tell when their dog has tapeworms by checking for these tiny segments on the surface of freshly passed dog poop.
- Proglottids crawling near the anus, backside, or the dog’s bedding.
- Irritated or itchy anus. A dog scooting or dragging its bottom on rough surfaces like rugs could be a sign that it has irritation or itchiness in the anus and the cause may be a tapeworm infection.
- Hardened golden-colored stains sticking on a dog’s fur. This often occurs when the worm dies and begins to dry before or after fecal discharge.
- Severe infection may sometimes lead to loss of weight. This can happen even when a dog has been eating properly.
- In rare cases, severe tapeworm infections can cause a dog to throw up if they end up in the abdomen. Consequently, a dog owner can tell it’s a tapeworm infection because the worms are visible in the vomit.
Diagnosis Of Tapeworms In Dogs
Diagnosing tapeworms in dogs requires a vet to examine the discussed symptoms. Yet some symptoms, such as proglottids on freshly passed dog poop or a dog’s anus, are not a frequent occurrence. Thus, a routine fecal examination may not be helpful. That’s why vets recommend that dog owners bring a sample of their dog’s stool with them for a more straightforward diagnosis.
Treatment Options For Dog Tapeworm Infections
The most effective treatment option for tapeworms in dogs is prescription drugs. Most vets prefer this option because it’s safe and has no side effects. The drugs are given in the form of tablets or an injection. Some, like praziquantel are available as topical formulas. These medications work by dissolving tapeworms.
Prevention Strategies Of Tapeworms In Dogs
While treating tapeworms in dogs is relatively easy, prevention is always the better route to undertake. Here are some of the ways you can use to prevent your dog from getting infected with tapeworms
- Regularly deworming dogs: Like humans, dogs need to deworm frequently to prevent parasitic infections. As such, it’s important to talk to a vet so they can advise on the most effective deworming medication to prevent tapeworm conditions.
- Flea control: Some proven ways to keep a dog’s environment free of fleas include using flea sprays, oral medication, topical ointments, flea collars, or flea powder.
- Scheduling frequent visits to the vet: Regular checkups help the vet monitor a dog’s health, preventing tapeworm infections and other infections.
- Maintaining good hygiene for a dog: Bathing a dog is an excellent way to get rid of fleas, which makes it an effective method of preventing tapeworms.
- Keeping your dog on a leash when outside keeps them away from garbage and carcasses, consequently preventing them from ingesting tapeworm-infected fleas or consuming tapeworm-infected rodents.
Can A Dog Owner Get Tapeworms By Being In Contact With Their Dog?
Yes, they can. Nonetheless, cases wherein dogs pass a tapeworm infection to humans are rare. One way this may happen is if an individual were to swallow an infected flea accidentally while petting their dog. This is why regular visits to the vet are essential.
Another possible way tapeworms in dogs can be transmitted to humans is through unintentional ingestion of an infected dog’s poop. This is also rare in adults, but children may be susceptible, especially while playing in public spaces like the park or a playground. To maintain safety, both children and adults must uphold utmost hygiene.
For example, you must always wash your hands with soap and adequate water after coming into contact with a dog. Parents should ensure kids observe proper hygiene measures after being in a public playground or park as well.
More importantly, individuals should seek medical advice if they suspect that they have acquired a tapeworm infection from their dog.
Tapeworms are parasites that typically infect humans and animals like dogs. Dogs can get tapeworms through flea bites or by consuming raw and infected carcasses. Plus, dogs can get tapeworms from interacting with already-infested dogs. It’s best if you see a veterinary for proper treatment if you suspect your dog is infested with tapeworms. The insights mentioned above include the symptoms and treatment options available if you suspect your dog has tapeworm infection.