Tapeworms In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Tapeworm, computer artwork.

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Tapeworms in dogs are internal parasites that infest the walls of the small intestines using hook-like mouth parts. They are small, flat, segmented worms with each segment being about a quarter to half an inch long, and adult tapeworms can grow to 8 inches in length. The medical term for a tapeworm infestation is cestodiasis, and it can occur in other animals, including cats and humans, as well. It is important to treat tapeworms in dogs so the infestation is not transmitted to other animals or humans in the home. Treatment of tapeworms in dogs is usually simple and effective if done promptly. If you see the signs of tapeworm infestation in your dog, get to the veterinarian immediately so they can prescribe treatment. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for tapeworm in dogs.

Symptoms Of Tapeworms In Dogs

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The symptoms of tapeworm infestation in dogs may begin with signs of itchiness or irritation around the anus. Dogs may begin scooting their bottoms on the ground or licking at the area. Another sign is visible, cream-colored segments of the worms appearing near the anus or in the dogs’ feces. These segments are shed in the intestines and are passed in feces. They release eggs into the environment when they dry out. Sometimes, the segments can be present in vomit, as well. It’s rare for dogs to show signs of illness when they have a tapeworm infestation, but they may show signs of weight loss if the infestation is severe.

Causes Of Tapeworms In Dogs

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The initial cause of tapeworm infestation in dogs is ingestion of tapeworm eggs. These are often present in adult fleas, which dogs may swallow if they are grooming themselves or chewing at flea bites. They may even ingest fleas if they are trying to groom another pet or animal that has fleas.

Tapeworm eggs may also be transmitted through an infested host animal, such as rodents or birds. Dogs sometimes hunt or scavenge for these animals, or they may investigate a recently killed animal that harbors tapeworm eggs. You should always prevent your dog from picking up wild animals, alive or dead, whenever you can because they can carry parasites and diseases.

Treatments For Tapeworms in Dogs

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Treatment for tapeworms in dogs begins with a proper diagnosis. A veterinarian will be able to test a stool sample to determine if tapeworms are present and prescribe treatment accordingly. There are several forms of tapeworm medication, including drugs like praziquantel, which can dissolve tapeworms in the intestines. Some tapeworm medications are available over-the-counter, but even these should be used only with veterinary recommendation. Whatever treatment your veterinarian recommends, you should use it for the full duration prescribed, even if your dog doesn’t show signs of having tapeworm any more.

The likelihood of a dog passing a tapeworm infection to humans is fairly low, as a human would have to swallow an infected flea to become infested. This is known to happen in children more often than adults. It is more likely to be transmitted to other animals in the home. Treatment is easy and effective with few side effects, so it’s best to deal with a tapeworm infestation promptly.

The best method of treatment is prevention. Proper flea control and avoiding dead or living wild animals are helpful solutions. Disposing of feces quickly can also help prevent tapeworm infestations from spreading.

Has your dog ever had a tapeworm infestation? How was it treated? Let us know in the comments below!

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