Parasitic worms are not only unpleasant to look at but also can be detrimental to your dog's health. Here, our Glendale vets discuss what tapeworms are and how to get rid of tapeworms in dogs.
How Are Tapeworms Contracted?
Tapeworms can infect your dog in a variety of ways, including the Taenia and Echinococcus species, which your dog can pick up from eating infected animals while hunting or scavenging. Dipylidium caninum, the most common tapeworm in dogs, is contracted through fleas that carry the worm larvae. The most common way for your dog to consume infected fleas is during grooming. The tapeworm larvae will then attach to your dog's stomach and grow into flat, white worms that can grow to be 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 matures, some of its segments containing a large number of eggs will be excreted in your dog's feces. The segments may also be visible around your dog's bottom or in their bedding. These segments may resemble moving rice grains or dried-out, hard yellow specks that can cling to your dog's fur.
When a dog is infected, it is common for them to scoot around the floor on their bottom or bite or lick their bottom due to the intense itching. However, keep in mind that dogs scoot for a variety of reasons, including blocked or irritated anal sacs or skin inflammation. If your dog is scooting and showing signs of discomfort, you should take them to the vet.
As the parasite grows inside your dog, vomiting is a common symptom. Of course, vomiting can be an indication of a variety of other issues, ranging from indigestion to more serious conditions. If your dog frequently vomits or exhibits other symptoms such as lethargy or severe diarrhea. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see your veterinarian right away.
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.
Weight loss, like vomiting, can have a variety of causes. If there are no obvious causes for the weight loss, such as increased exercise or a change in diet, your dog may need to see a veterinarian for evaluation.
How to Get Rid of 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.
As with most infestations, prevention is preferable to cure, and there are several steps you can take to protect your dog from parasites. One method is to follow a regular flea treatment regimen, whether you use a spot-on, a collar, or an oral medication. Check your dog's coat for fleas on a regular basis to help keep the potentially parasite-carrying pests at bay.
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.