Tapeworms in dogs are a common problem. Your pet can easily pick up the tapeworm parasite, which will go onto develop into an adult worm inside their intestines.Content
In fact, tapeworms can grow up to 16ft inside a dog!
Dogs often won’t show signs of a tapeworm infestation, so it’s important to know how your pet might pick it up so you can take control of tapeworm.
What are tapeworms?
Tapeworms are intestinal parasites, and there are several different types of tapeworm that can affect dogs. Infected dogs may not show any symptoms, but some may develop itching around the bottom, vomiting and weight loss.
The most common type of tapeworm in dogs is the flea tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum. Living in the dog’s gut, tapeworms feed off the food the host animal eats, reducing the number of nutrients available. Incredibly, a tapeworm has six sets of teeth that it uses to attach itself to the intestinal lining!
The flea tapeworm are long, flat, white worms , and can be up to 50cm long. They are made up from segments, which are shed at intervals and pass into your dog’s poop.How do dogs become infected with tapeworm?
Dogs (and cats) become infected by tapeworm through an intermediate host, such as a flea, or hunting and scavenging other infected animals.
- Ingesting fleas
The Dipylidium caninum tapeworm parasite is contracted through fleas, which act as an intermediate host, when flea larvae ingest tapeworm eggs. When a dog eats an infected flea, such as during grooming, the parasite settles in the dog’s small intestine. Here, the tapeworm is able to continue the next stage of its lifecycle, eventually maturing into a fully grown adult tapeworm. Wormers will interrupt this growth, that’s why it’s so important to stay up-to-date with treatment.
Other types of tapeworm can be contracted after scavenging from dead livestock, such as sheep or cattle, being fed raw offal, or hunting rabbits and rodents also pose a risk.Four symptoms of tapeworm in puppies and dogs
Tapeworms feed slowly and a long time can pass before dogs show any outward symptoms. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spot them in your dog if you know what you’re looking for:
- Worm segments
As the tapeworm grows, some of its segments will fall off – sometimes to be seen in dogs’ faeces or crawling in their bedding. These segments may either look like moving grains of rice or, if they are dried out, hard yellow specks that can stick to your dog’s fur.
- Scooting action
If infected, your dog may ‘scoot’ around the floor, or bite or lick their bottom, to try to relieve the itching caused by the tapeworm segments. However, there are more common reasons for scooting, such as blocked or irritated anal sacs, or skin inflammation. Either way, your vet will be able to help.
Your dog might vomit as a tapeworm grows inside them. Of course, vomiting in dogs can indicate a huge variety of problems, from eating something they shouldn’t to more serious conditions. If your dog vomits frequently or displays other symptoms such as diarrhoea, lethargy or inappetence, then see your vet as soon as possible.
- Weight loss
In a severe tapeworm infestation, your dog may lose weight, despite eating normally. This is due to the tapeworm feeding on the nutrients in the dog’s food. Weight loss can have a variety of causes. If there are no obvious reasons for the weight loss, such as increased exercise or a change in diet, then your dog should visit a vet.How is tapeworm diagnosed?
Viewed under a powerful microscope, tapeworms look like creatures from another planet and can be alarming, but they are easy to treat and remove.
All dogs can get intestinal worms, but regularly doing a faecal egg count at least every three months, gives you peace of mind to know your dog is happy and healthy and to treat if worm eggs are found.
Although it’s rare, humans can also be infected by tapeworm, and they can cause serious health concerns in people. Humans pick up the tapeworm parasite by ingesting tapeworm eggs passed in dog’s faeces or less commonly by accidentally ingesting an infected flea. Children are most likely to be affected, which is why there is all the more reason to practice good hygiene and encourage hand washing after playing with animals and in the great outdoors.