Tapeworms are parasitic flatworms growing inside the small intestine. But, how do you know if your pet has a problem and exactly how they get them? Or, can humans can get tapeworms from dogs. Learn all about tapeworms in dogs, the symptoms, treatment, and how to to prevent them in the first place.
These are valid questions that need reliable answers because the health of our dogs matters. Responsible pet owners should know the signs of tapeworm, how to prevent it, and what treatment exists.
What are Tapeworms in Dogs?
Even though the thought of tapeworms in dogs is disgusting, but if their numbers are limited, they are of the least harmful parasites. In adult dogs, flatworm parasites can be treated easily. The flatworms can also be simple to prevent transmission — they are typically transmitted through raw meat and fleas.
However, in puppies, tapeworms can be dangerous because the parasites affect the weight of the host.
How do Dogs Get Tapeworms?
The most common tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum, needs a host that serves as a middleman to get to pets — fleas.
So, how do dogs get tapeworms? This is how it happens:
- An infected animal defecates
- Tapeworm eggs end up in its feces
- Fleas eat said eggs
- Eggs grow in the fleas to the larval stage
- Fleas get on the next available dog
- Fleas are sometimes ingested by dogs when scratching or grooming, which can sometimes be infected fleas
- Larva travels through the dog’s digestive tract and finally attaches to the small intestine.
- Every so often, segments or pieces of the tapeworm break off, ending up in the dog’s poop, which continues the cycle to infect another animal, eventually.
Can Humans Get Tapeworms from Dogs?
Yes, humans can get tapeworms from dogs. It is possible, especially when fleas are prevalent! It’s not through petting, however. But, if your pet has fleas, you may ingest an infected flea, which could lead to you getting a tapeworm.
What Do They Do?
As tapeworms attach to the small intestine, using the hooks of their scolex (the head), they essentially steal the nutrients from their host.
An adult tapeworm can reach up to 28 inches in length! And each of its segments contains eggs.
Tapeworm Symptoms in Dogs
Signs that your pet has tapeworms can be difficult to notice because they are more subtle than other parasitic infestations. In the former, there aren’t many apparent symptoms, whereas, in the latter, they are easy to spot. Here are some signs of tapeworm symptoms in dogs:
- weight loss
- scooting (dog sliding its bum on the floor)
- tapeworm segments in your pet’s fresh feces and around its anus just after defecation (visible movement of small white segments)
Noticed any of the above? Take a stool sample to your dog’s veterinarian, where a quick diagnosis can provide peace of mind and immediate treatment if need be.
Tapeworm Treatment for Dogs
Once diagnosed, tapeworm treatment for dogs is relatively easy. Elimination of the parasitic infestation is possible only when the tapeworm’s head is destroyed, or the scolex, as that is where its strength lies.
Sometimes, a tapeworm may be eliminated whole if the scolex becomes dislodged, either vomited or passed in its feces.
Niclosamide and praziquantel are two safe and effective medications used to treat these infestations in pets. The vet may administer them either by injection or orally. OTC medications to treat these parasitic worms are also sold in pet stores.
The medications will likely dissolve the tapeworms in dogs so that they won’t be visible in its feces.
Your dog can only get the common tapeworm by ingesting infected fleas, so flea prevention is key.
Only one infected flea is enough for a dog to get a tapeworm infestation.
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