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How to Get Rid of Tapeworms in Dogs

If you’re a pet owner, tapeworms might be a familiar concern. These parasites can impact a dog’s well-being and lead to unpleasant gastrointestinal problems. Although tapeworm infestations in dogs are typically not deemed as severe or life-threatening, they still require attention. Here’s a rundown on tapeworms in dogs, covering their nature, transmission, treatment, and prevention.

What Are Tapeworms in Dogs?

Tapeworms are among the various intestinal parasites that can impact dogs. These worms typically have a flat and segmented structure, with each segment referred to as a proglottid. To the human eye, they often resemble grains of rice. Among the tapeworm species that can affect dogs are those belonging to the cestode family, such as Taenia, Echinococcus, Metacestoides, and Dipylidium caninum, with the latter being the most common type found in dogs.

Symptoms

Symptoms of tapeworm infestation in dogs, whether they are puppies or adults, are not always evident. Typically, signs may include observing your dog licking or biting at its anus or engaging in scooting behavior on the ground due to itching. This itching sensation occurs as segments of proglottids detach from the adult tapeworm within the intestine and move through the anal opening. As a result, you might notice small rice-like segments around your dog’s anus or in their feces. Excessive scooting may lead to anal irritation. Weight loss may occur in heavily infected dogs, and occasionally, dogs with significant adult parasite burdens may vomit whole tapeworms dislodged during vomiting episodes.

How to Spot Tapeworms in Dog Poop

Tapeworm proglottids may appear to be moving around the anal opening as they exit the intestinal tract. Once dried, they may resemble grains of rice stuck to the fur around the anus and under the tail. These proglottid segments might also be visible on or within recently passed feces, resembling grains of white rice or sesame seeds. Inside the proglottid packets are tapeworm eggs, which cannot be seen without a microscope. Although tapeworm eggs can be detected in fecal samples under a microscope, their absence doesn’t necessarily indicate that the dog is free of tapeworms, as the expulsion of proglottid packets is unpredictable.

What Causes Tapeworms in Dogs and Puppies?

Tapeworms in dogs and puppies are caused when they ingest fleas infected with tapeworm larvae. This transmission typically occurs during grooming, where dogs inadvertently consume infected fleas while licking their fur. Fleas serve as the intermediate host in the tapeworm transmission cycle. Consequently, dogs don’t become infected by ingesting feces containing proglottid packets with fertilized tapeworm eggs. Therefore, even if a dog frequents a litter box, they won’t contract tapeworms from eating cat feces. In order for a dog to acquire tapeworms, they must consume a flea carrying the tapeworm larvae. Understanding this mechanism involves grasping the tapeworm life cycle.

Life Cycle of Tapeworms in Dogs

The tapeworm life cycle initiates when a dog ingests the intermediate host—a mature flea carrying tapeworm larvae. Upon digestion of the adult flea, the tapeworm larvae are released into the dog’s small intestine. There, they adhere to the intestinal wall and progress to adulthood. As the adult tapeworm grows, segmented proglottid packets, comprising the worm’s body, detach. These packets are expelled from the intestine with the feces or migrate through the anal opening, affixing to the fur around the dog’s hindquarters and tail. Egg packets deposited in the environment are consumed by larval fleas, where they mature into immature tapeworm larvae as the flea itself advances to adulthood.

How to Treat Tapeworms in Dogs

Tapeworms in dogs can effectively be treated with a parasiticide medication called praziquantel. This drug comes in both oral and injectable forms and is administered based on the dog’s weight. Upon administration, praziquantel prompts adult tapeworms to detach from the intestinal wall, allowing them to be digested as they pass through the dog’s digestive tract. Consequently, it’s typical not to observe worms in the feces post-treatment. Praziquantel is accessible in both prescription and over-the-counter preparations. As with any over-the-counter medication, it’s important to consult your veterinarian to determine a safe and efficient dosage before administering it at home. While side effects of praziquantel are rare, they may include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Are There Home Remedies for Tapeworms in Dogs?

While the allure of finding a home remedy for tapeworms in dogs may be strong, it’s crucial to note that there are no scientifically proven home remedies. Dewormers are a cost-effective and reliable treatment option for tapeworm infestations in dogs. Various “home” remedies often suggested for treating and preventing tapeworm infestations include garlic, apple cider vinegar, pumpkin seeds, and turmeric. Garlic and apple cider vinegar are believed to create an unfavorable environment for immature larvae in the gut. Pumpkin seeds and coarsely chopped carrots are thought to physically dislodge attached worms from the intestinal lining, facilitating their expulsion through the digestive tract with feces. Turmeric is promoted for its anti-inflammatory properties, purportedly aiding in gut healing post-tapeworm infestation. However, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian before attempting to treat your dog with any over-the-counter treatments or home remedies.

Can Humans Get Tapeworms From Dogs?

Transmission of tapeworm infestation to humans from dogs is relatively rare and typically involves the ingestion of an infected flea. This occurrence is slightly more frequent in children, particularly in environments where proper personal hygiene is lacking or in cases of significant flea infestations within the household or yard.

How To Prevent Tapeworms in Dogs

Preventing tapeworms in dogs is straightforward and doesn’t demand much effort. Here’s how you can ensure your dog remains free of tapeworm infestations.

Use Flea and Tick Prevention

The best method to prevent tapeworm infestations in dogs is by consistently using approved flea prevention products. There are various safe and effective options accessible, both through prescription and over the counter, in forms such as topical and oral medications. Adhering to a regular flea prevention regimen for your dog will notably diminish the flea population within your home environment and safeguard your dog against new flea infestations, particularly if you frequently visit dog parks or other public areas.

Practice Good Hygiene

Regularly cleaning up your dog’s feces helps minimize the chances of perpetuating the tapeworm life cycle in the soil. Practicing proper personal hygiene, including frequent handwashing, and instilling this habit in young children, significantly lowers the risk of tapeworm transmission to humans.

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