Table of Contents
Overview & Causes | Symptoms & Identifying | Treatment | Transmission to Humans
"Unlike roundworms and other parasites, dogs are not infected by eating tapeworm eggs, but via an intermediate host, most commonly the flea. When a dog ingests an infected flea while grooming, the tapeworm then grows in the intestines, and can live for years, often without immediate symptoms.
The parasite is segmented and you may see pieces of the tapeworm in your dog's feces, which look similar to grains of rice, as the pieces break off and are excreted.
They are not always dangerous and are easily treatable but can be uncomfortable for your dog. They can be a more serious issue in puppies, however. Flea control is the main preventative."
There are four types of tapeworms in dogs. Tapeworms hook onto a dog's small intestine with its mouth. Tapeworms can be as long as 8 inches to 2 feet long. One unique characteristic of these worms is that they are made up of 1/8 inch segments that break off over time and end up in your dog's stool.
The pieces that break off contain eggs that are released as the broken off segment dries. Pieces look like dried pieces of rice or cucumber seeds.
Although there are many species, there are four common types of tapeworms that affect dogs (and cats) in North America:
- Dipylidium Caninum - Most common; contracted by eating fleas. Found throughout the world.
- Taenia (several species) - Contracted from infected rodents, rabbits, and sheep (from the animal or from eating waste), and may be more commonly found in rural dogs who are around farm animals or in hunting dogs.
- Echinococcus (Granulosum and E. multiocularis) - Smaller and more rare in the US. Found in sheep, horses, rodents, and humans.
- Spirometra mansonoides - More common in cats but can infect dogs as well; common to eastern, southern, and Gulf Coast US states.
What Causes Tapeworms in Dogs
Tapeworms are most commonly spread when a dog swallows a flea that
contains the tapeworm eggs. It usually happens when the flea is biting
the dog. Since dogs try and remove the fleas with their mouth, they
may swallow some of them.
Some species of tapeworms, such as Echinococcus, is found in rodents and small animals such as rabbits. If a dog bites into an infected animal or eats the feces of the animal they can get tapeworms. Hunting dogs can contract up to 12 varieties of tapeworms.
Canine Tapeworm Symptoms
All types of tapeworms in dogs are not usually harmful. If you see your dog dragging its anus across the floor, it may be irritated due to segments that broke off the tapeworm. Sometimes worms will move from the intestines to the stomach. If this happens, your dog will probably vomit up the worm. Common symptoms include malaise and mild diarrhea.
Identifying Canine Tapeworms
Tapeworm segments can be seen with the eye in your dog's feces. Pieces of the worm sometimes can be seen in dog's hair around the anus.
Eggs are found by placing the feces in water and seeing the eggs and pieces of the worm float to the surface.
Dog Treatment for Tapeworms
Tapeworms can be treated with a de-wormer, in tablet form or injection. Tapeworm tabs for dogs (for example, with Droncit Canine Cestocide Tablets and Tape Worm Tabs for Dogs and Puppies) are commonly used and cause the worms in the intestines to dissolve. Treatments are very effective and include praziquantel and epsiprantel. Although single doses are usually sufficient an additional dose may be needed. Since fleas spread the worms, a flea collar or flea preventative is helpful in preventing the problem.
Note that pinworms are often confused with tapeworms. While humans can get pinworms, dogs do not.
Some owners that do not want to use medical approaches use herbal remedies specially chosen for their known anti-parasitic, antiseptic, and bactericidal properties such as PetAlive Parasite Capsules to naturally expel internal parasites like heartworm, roundworm and tapeworm in dogs.
Humans and Dog Tapeworms
It is not common for people to get tapeworm from dogs. However, young children can get tapeworms if they swallow fleas while playing with a
dog or if they come in contact with partially digested fleas in a dogs
mouth. A child may have no symptoms or suffer from diarrhea and itching
around the anus.
Tapeworm is not passed between adults or children but it can also be contracted from an infected flea in the environment such as a sandbox or on the beach. Treatment in humans is effective using the drug niclosamide.
Payne, PA and Carter, GR - Internal Parasitic Diseases of Cats and Dogs (IVIS)
DrGreen.com - Dog Tapeworm and Children (Feature Article)