It is not entirely polite saying that some living creature is disgusting, but if you think that I am rude, that means that you have never seen any tapeworms. In that case, you probably have not got a dog. If you have the dog but have not met these parasites, you are a fortunate guy, because almost 100% of dog’s population has a ‘privilege’ to host these slimy, ugly worms in their small intestine.
OK. Let’s be serious.
Tapeworms usually won’t cause clinical signs in your dog, but if you see white rice-like segments which exit your dog’s backside, be sure that worms have infected your dog. After these segments dry, they break open and release tapeworm’s eggs into the environment. After passing transmitters (small rodents or fleas), they infect another dog.
What are Tapeworms?
Tapeworms are flat-shaped intestinal parasites which can reach up to 20 cm (8 inches) in length, depending on the type. They have a scolex (a ‘head’ with hooks and suckers, which helps the tapeworm to hook up to the wall of the dog’s small intestine where it steals vital nutrients), ‘neck’, and various body segments. Mature segments, which are usually near the dog’s anus, hold a large number of egg packages.
The scary fact is that each segment (proglottid) has reproductive organs regardless of whether it is a female or a male. Shortly speaking, even though some of them break off, the worm can continue reproducing itself. The only way to ‘kill’ this creature is to separate its scolex from the wall of the dog’s small intestine.
There are several tapeworm species, but the most common pet’s tapeworms are:
- Taenia pisiformis which affects dogs, with rabbits as transmitters
- Taenia taeniaeformis which affects cats, with rats as transmitters
Dipylidium caninum, which affects dogs, cats, and people; with the fleas as transmitters
How do Dogs Get Tapeworms?
Dogs become infected after the whole cycle of worm developing. The process starts when the dog releases the infected eggs into the environment. Be careful! You can unintentionally help the process. After grooming the dog, who hosts the worm, you can pick broken segments (full of eggs) up with the brush. Anyway, immature flea larvae swallow the eggs, and they continue to develop until becoming adults. Responding to a flea bite, another dog directly ingests the infected flea, and the life cycle of the tapeworm is completed.
There is also a possibility of a longer cycle. Stray dogs usually develop a tapeworm infestation after eating small rodents, rabbits, birds, reptiles, rats, fish, which carries worm eggs as a transmitter of infection. Bigger animals including goats, pigs, cows, sheep, horses, and deer can also be potential transmitters of infected eggs.
Dogs with heavy lice or flea infestations and these which eat freshly killed animals have a higher chance of getting infected. Once when your dog digests the tapeworm eggs, they settle into its small intestine. It’s a perfect surrounding for their developing into an adult form. When segments break off, the new cycle begins, making an endless circle of infection.
Symptoms of Tapeworm Infection
Dogs usually don’t show any signs of tapeworm infection. If symptoms appear, they depend on the intensity of the infection, your dog’s health, and its age. Usually, even with a severe infestation, dog behaves regularly, and you can be shocked and disgusted when your vet diagnoses tapeworms. Worms steal nutrients very slowly, and it’s an explanation why there are no dramatic and visible symptoms. Over time, your dogs will start to lose weight gradually, but many pet owners don’t even notice it at all from the very beginning because the dog doesn’t lose its appetite.
On the rare occasions, some general symptoms can occur. You can notice that your dog licks the anal region because it suffers itchy skin in that area. The bad skin condition, irritability, weakness, lethargy, nervousness, painful abdomen, diarrhea, and vomiting can be the first signs that something is wrong. The owners visit the vet only after they notice tiny white rice-like grains stuck to the fur around a dog’s behind (OK, I will skip rice for dinner these days!).
Please, react on time and don’t allow a mass infection develop with intestinal blockage caused by adult tapeworms, which is a real medical emergency.
Diagnosis is Pretty Tricky
Clinical diagnosis is very simple when it comes to the white mobile tapeworm rice-like segments crawl around the anus. They are white colored while they are alive, but change colors to brown after the eggs get dry. You should collect the eggs and bring them to your vet for a definitive diagnosis. Oh, let me not forget to mention the weird situation seeing your dog pulling its anus across the carpet or the ground trying to alleviate irritation of the skin. It’s a sure sign of worm infection!
Unless you spot tapeworm’ segments in the dog’s anal area during visual examination, diagnosis of infection is pretty difficult. The vet gets a diagnosis using the ‘fecal flotation test’, and after the microscopic confirmation the presence of large tapeworm eggs. Unfortunately, it’s possible that the test’s results are false negative even though your dog has tapeworms. That means that that particular sample doesn’t contain eggs and the vet needs to repeat the ‘fecal flotation test’ on multiple stool samples.
Another diagnostic method is to put a piece of duct tape across the dog’s anal area. After removing it (very gently, please), the vet will put it on a glass slide with a sticky-side down, and find out if there are eggs. It’s a perfect procedure for identifying egg packets of the exact type of tapeworms, but can be painful for the dog.
What Can You Do?
If you hear that any dog in the park has tapeworms, you should pay attention to your dog and look for common symptoms. No matter how creepy it sounds, you should inspect your dog’s anus and try to see traces of irritation and rice-like worm segments at the area. If you see them, the good idea is to pick it up.
Yes, I know, it is disgusting, but you can’t expect a prescription from the vet without verifying the presence of tapeworms. Check your carpets. You can easily spot the same tiny segments there. Collect a stool sample (try to avoid physical contact with the worm) and bring it to the vet for the microscopic examination.
Sometimes your dog has to get injections, but most medicaments are for oral use, and you can give them to your dog at home. Carefully follow vet’s instructions. Prepare the medicine, especially if your dog refuses to receive any treatment. Ask someone for help. Otherwise, you need to hold dog’s head with one hand and give the medicine using the other one. Pay attention! Very often dogs merely spit the pill. After successfully finishing the ‘give the dog a pill’ action, reward your pet and turn the unpleasant experience into an enjoyable event.
Treatment is Mostly Not a Problem
To completely get rid of the tapeworm infestation, you need to ‘kill’ the heads of all worms which are attached to the wall of your dog’s small intestine. All of them MUST be destroyed. Otherwise, be sure that tapeworms will regenerate.
Nowadays, the best dewormers on the market are Droncit, Tradewinds Tapeworm Tabs, and Drontal Plus. Before you start using one of them, consult your vet. He will choose a therapeutic approach which best fit your pet depending on its size and age.
Don’t worry! Dog’s tapeworm infestation is very treatable, and the procedure is effective and simple. The medicine will dissolve tapeworm in the intestine, but be careful – your dog has been treated, but can’t be protected from re-infection. Medications will destroy active tapeworms, but some eggs will survive. The best thing you can do is to undertake flea control in the house and to take your pet to the vet for aftercare from time to time. Plus, I highly recommend Frontline. It has literally saved my dog.
Effective Natural Methods for Treating the Tapeworm Infection
Don’t want worms around anymore? The secret is in the healthy diet based on raw meat and fermented food which has probiotic properties. Yes, the natural food can keep your dog worm-free.
Garlic – you can add a small amount of powdered garlic to the dog’s food for at least two months. Avoid garlic if your dog is anemic.
Pumpkin Seeds – grind raw pumpkin seeds and give the dog up to one teaspoon of seeds before the meal.
Kefir – you can give your dog raw goat milk kefir or coconut kefir as part of the meal or as a separate snack.
Cloves – give this strong antiparasitic to your dog in small quantities, which may help it to get rid of tapeworms.
Parsley – cook it in water about three minutes. Give the liquid to the dog with a meal or make ice cubes, which will make the procedure more comfortable.
Peppermint and Cinnamon – giving the mixture of these ingredients to the dog can help in cleaning its intestinal tract.
You can also use the powder of black walnut hulls, grated carrot, ginger, papaya leaves, and so on. The experience says that these herbs can be beneficial for the organism of your dog. With the ‘mother nature’ on your side, you can’t lose.
Can Humans Get Tapeworms From Their Dogs?
Many people are gravely concerned after they discover tapeworm segments stuck to their dog or scattered everywhere around the house, especially if they have children. Frankly, it is not impossible for a human to get tapeworms, but it is tricky. Plus, it’s utterly impossible getting tapeworms from the segments found on the ground.
To get infected, your dog has to swallow a parasite (actually, has to eat contaminated flea or a small rodent). It is the same with people. There are only a few cases in the world when humans (children) accidentally have eaten larvae of the flea. There are rare reports of infections in children with Dipylidium Caninum, but there are still no reasons to be afraid. These infections are not connected with any significant disease.
As a responsible pet owner, you won’t allow your dog to ingest rodents or to swallow fleas whenever possible. In any case, most urban pets eat prepared foods, and there is a small chance of eating small mammals. Rural, suburban, stray, and hunting dogs are the more significant problem. They can easily eat various rodents or raw meat, and to become a severe link in the ‘chain’ of infection.
Anything considered tapeworms are not dangerous neither for you and your family nor your furry friend. Worms are only disgusting and ugly. Try to detect symptoms on time and successfully resolve this problem as soon as possible. Protect your pet from flea and keep the house clean. Basically, that’s all you need to do to avoid confrontation with these horrible creatures.
- 1 What are Tapeworms?
- 2 How do Dogs Get Tapeworms?
- 3 Symptoms of Tapeworm Infection
- 4 Diagnosis is Pretty Tricky
- 5 What Can You Do?
- 6 Treatment is Mostly Not a Problem
- 7 Effective Natural Methods for Treating the Tapeworm Infection
- 8 Can Humans Get Tapeworms From Their Dogs?