Next to roundworms, tapeworms are considered the most common worm found in dogs. While no intestinal worm is a pleasant thing, if left untreated, tapeworms can continuously grow inside your dog and become over seven inches long, the largest of intestinal worms. Not a pleasant image in the least. To save your pup from a tapeworm infection, it’s important to understand how to spot them, what to do if your pet has them and how you can prevent them. Let’s take a look and hopefully better understand this parasite and what you can do about them.
How Do Dogs Get Tapeworms?
Dogs get tapeworms by ingesting fleas that contain tapeworm larvae. All your dog has to do is accidentally eat an infected flea when chasing small rodents or licking their own fur. Note that your dog cannot get tapeworm from eating stool, which is a common way it ingests some other worms. Tapeworms need the flea as an intermediate host.
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So, after your dog ingests an infected flea, the larvae attach to the small intestine and grow. As they get bigger, the pieces of the work break off. These little pieces are called proglottid packets, and they contain the tapeworm’s eggs. As I said, these packets come out in your dog’s stool, where they are eventually eaten by fleas, starting the process all over again.
Know the Signs of Tapeworm
Tapeworm is unlike other intestinal worms. Not only are they typically larger, but instead of depositing microscopic eggs in a dog’s feces, tapeworms will leave behind segments of itself as it grows. This behavior can mean that tapeworms are much easier to spot than intestinal worms, showing up as little white pieces in a dog’s droppings.
Aside from being able to see them with the naked eye, your dog will most likely show many other symptoms if infected, like diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, or a distended stomach. While not as common, it is also possible for the worm fragments to get into the dog’s stomach, at which you may even see signs of them in your dog’s vomit. You may also notice your dog licking or biting its anus or scooting on the ground. As the little pieces of the tapeworm break off, they migrate through the skin of the anus, which is itchy and uncomfortable. You may see little things that look like pieces of rice around the skin in this area.
Not that just because you don’t see anything suspicious in your dog’s stool does not mean that it doesn’t have tapeworms. If you notice any other symptoms, you should take your dog to the veterinarian.
Effective Deworming Treatments for Your Dog
Just because your dog has gone through the worming process as a puppy, and continues to do so as an adult, doesn’t mean that they will be immune to tapeworms. Don’t assume that they can’t get worms because they are taking worming medication. To treat tapeworms, you need to see your vet for deworming medication. Your dog will likely need several applications to eradicate all of the worms from its system. Some of these medications can be purchased over the counter and administered without vet supervision, but I strongly recommend using meds prescribed by a vet to ensure the proper dose is given based on the weight and breed of your dog, which is the only way to know that your dog is getting the right dose.
There are also some natural ways to treat tapeworm, like carrots, garlic, cloves, Oregon grape, and apple cider vinegar. While natural methods can effectively remove tapeworms and other intestinal worms, I still recommend that you consult your vet before administering any one of them as some, if overused, can be toxic in certain situations.
The Best Treatment is Prevention
Tapeworms are both easily prevented and treated, and this starts with sticking to a strict worming schedule. Worming medications control all types of intestinal worms, and this process begins when the puppy is as young as two weeks old. The vet will then administer several applications of the worming medication over a few weeks, after which the puppy should be on a regular three-month interval of deworming medication for the rest of their life. While not 100% perfect, this medication will go a long way towards preventing your pup from getting tapeworm.
Remember, fleas that are carrying tapeworm eggs spread tapeworm. So, it would make sense then that a good flea and tick prevention system, whether spray, a collar, a topical liquid, or oral medication, will not only prevent your dog from getting fleas but, in turn, tapeworm. Even with good flea medication, it is important to control fleas elsewhere. Fleas will live on any soft surface of your home, like the carpet and other upholstery. If your dog has had fleas, they will be all over the house, and even if you rid your furry friend of them, they will find their way back unless you have thoroughly cleaned the carpet, furniture, and clothing. Controlling and preventing fleas will go a long way to keeping tapeworms out of your dog.
Dogs can still get them from other sources, especially infected animals like birds and mice that are likely to have fleas. It’s in your dog’s nature to be a hunter, but try and limit hunting as much as possible, and don’t let them roam around unsupervised in areas where other animals have been.
Do it For Your Own Health as Well
Although it is rare, the tapeworm can be passed from dog to human and is done so in a very similar fashion to how your pup gets it in the first place. If your dog has fleas, all it takes is you, or someone in your house, to ingest one of those fleas to get tapeworm. While it may seem unlikely, it is most common in small children that often spend a lot of time near dogs.
The thought of your pup having worms crawling around inside them is unsettling, to say the least. Everybody wants what’s best for their beloved pets, which is why it is important to understand tapeworms and know what can be done to both rid your dog of the nasty parasite and prevent them from getting it. Proper treatment and prevention will not just keep your dog healthy but the rest of your family as well.