Dog Parasite - Tapeworms


Overview - The worms attach themselves to the inner walls of the intestine, but do not suck blood in the same volume as do hookworms. As the worms mature they shed mobile segments that are then passed in the feces and may often be seen around the anus, on the dog’s coat, or in bedding. Though it is not among the most harmful of parasites, it is still important to minimize tapeworm infections in your companion animals, as they may be passed to other mammals and occasionally humans.

Once outside the body, these segments dry out and release their egg cargo. These eggs may then be eaten by flea larvae present on the dog or in the carpet or bedding of the dog’s environment. As a dog chews or licks in order to alleviate the itching caused by fleas, he often will swallow fleas themselves. If the flea has at any point consumed tapeworm eggs, these eggs will be released into the digestive system during the digestive process. As this happens, the eggs hatch and the new worms attach themselves to the intestinal lining to start the cycle anew.

Parasite target -inhabit the intestinal tracts

Symptoms - The most common cause for suspicion of tapeworm infection is the sighting of small segments on the dog’s coat, around the anus, in his bedding, or on carpet frequented by the dog. These segments resemble grains of rice when new but change color slightly and become golden as they dry. Segments may cause irritation and cause your dog to lick the anus excessively or scoot across the floor in an effort to alleviate the irritation. Occasionally a tapeworm will release its attachment to the intestinal wall and move into the stomach, causing digestive upset and resulting in and episode of vomiting. The 5 to 8 inch long worm may sometimes be observed in vomit.

Though clinical symptoms are not common, especially severe tapeworm infestations may cause debilitation and weight loss if left untreated.

Treatment - A number of very effective, very safe de-worming agents are available through your veterinarian. If your dog has been diagnosed as having an active infection of tapeworms, a drug which causes the worms to dissolve will be administered either orally or by injection.

Because fleas are an important vector in the transmission of tapeworms, flea control is an important part of eliminating tapeworm infections. There are numerous powders, collars, and topical treatments available. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations and more information.

Prevention - Proper and effective flea control is of paramount importance. Once parasites have been detected, proper and thorough de-worming is necessary, and periodic de-worming may be indicated for dogs at a high risk of infection. Consult your veterinarian if you think you dog may fall into this category.

As is the case with all parasite prevention programs, proper hygiene is vital. All pet feces should be disposed of promptly, especially in yards, playgrounds, and public parks. Practices such as frequent hand washing should be encouraged, and children should not be allowed to play in potentially contaminated environments.

Human Contact - human infection is extremely rare and unlikely. An infected flea must be ingested for infection to occur.

Source: Baker Institute for Animal Health