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Fox Tapeworm Infection (Cysticercosis) in Dogs

Cysticercosis in Dogs

Cysticercosis in dogs is a seldom-seen ailment caused by the larvae of Taenia crassiceps, a species of tapeworm. The eggs, suspected to be present in the feces of infected foxes, are typically ingested by rabbits or other rodents. Subsequently, these eggs develop within the abdominal and subcutaneous tissues, eventually forming substantial masses of cysticerci, the larval stage, within the abdominal cavity, lungs, muscles, and beneath the skin. Complicating matters, the cysticercus is capable of undergoing asexual reproduction, leading to rapid multiplication.

While occurrences are infrequent in Europe or the United States, the condition tends to manifest more often in older dogs or in young pups with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms and types of cysticercosis include the presence of cysticerci masses beneath the skin or within various organs, leading to several complications such as:

  • Anemia
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Respiratory distress (if located in the lungs)
  • Yellowish skin tone (if located in the abdominal cavity)


The causes of cysticercosis in dogs remain unclear, although three hypotheses have been proposed:

  • Ingestion of parasite eggs present in the feces of an infected fox (potentially a coyote).
  • Autoinfection, where the dog reinfects itself by consuming its own feces containing Taenia crassiceps eggs.
  • Consumption of Taenia crassiceps in its larval stage (cysticercal).


To diagnose cysticercosis in your dog, it’s important to provide your veterinarian with a detailed history of your dog’s health, including the onset and characteristics of the symptoms. Your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive physical examination along with various tests including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel. X-rays will aid in assessing the extent of the spread to internal organs, while ultrasound imaging will help distinguish these masses from solid tumors.


Treatment typically involves surgical removal of the larval masses. However, depending on the severity of secondary symptoms, your veterinarian may first need to stabilize and hospitalize the animal.

Living and Management

Thankfully, the stages during which dogs exhibit clinical signs are not zoonotic, so owners need not fear contracting the worms from their dog. Nonetheless, your veterinarian will arrange follow-up appointments to assess the dog and monitor, often using abdominal ultrasounds, for potential spread of lesions and the emergence of new lesions in different locations.

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