Tapeworms are a yucky reality for some dogs. Dogs can catch the parasitic worms in a variety of different ways, including fleas or chowing down on raw meat. If your pooch is infested with tapeworms, some key symptoms might clue you in on the situation.
Tapeworms reside in dogs' small intestines. They typically affix themselves to the small intestinal walls through their mouthparts. For United States canine residents, Dipylidium caninum tapeworms are particularly prevalent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tapeworms run the gamut of possible lengths. Some of them grow to a few feet long, while others don't even get to one inch. Tapeworms generally don't lead to major medical issues in infected canines, according to veterinarian Ernest Ward of the VCA Animal Hospitals website. Humans can catch tapeworms, but not straight from their canines. People can only get tapeworms through ingesting fleas that carry them.
When tapeworms develop, parts of their body split up into different sections. These sections, in turn, travel into your pet's intestines. As a result, you might observe parts of tapeworms inside of your dog's stool. These parts also frequently appear just below dogs' tails, in their hair. They have a dry appearance and are usually off-white or pure white in coloring. These parts of tapeworms are sometimes reminiscent of rice. If you ever see anything that looks like it could be a section of a tapeworm in your dog's stools, take a sample of your dog's stool to the veterinarian immediately.
The presence of tapeworms often can make dogs feel extremely uncomfortable. They often react to this discomfort through scooting their rear ends around on the floor. They do this as a means of minimizing the unpleasant feelings of the tapeworms, specifically intense itchiness. Persistent licking and chewing of the rear end also frequently denote tapeworms in dogs, though it can also indicate issues unrelated to tapeworms, too. When dogs have significant tapeworms, they sometimes exhibit symptoms such as diarrhea, loss of weight and bodily feebleness, says Martin Zucker, the author of "The Veterinarians' Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs." Significant amounts of tapeworms can be highly problematic for puppies. They can bring upon serious issues in pups, such as intestinal obstruction, insufficient development and anemia. Some dogs with tapeworms don't exhibit any symptoms at all, however, says veterinarian Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld, author of the "ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs," which is why your vet's opinion is important.
Treatment of tapeworms is generally straightforward, Ward says. If a vet determines that your dog is indeed infested with the pesky creatures, she can suggest a deworming medication for him. She can give him the drug via injection or offer him oral medication. Treatment for tapeworms involves encouraging the dissolving of the parasites. If a vet prescribes tapeworm medication for your pet, be sure to closely adhere to her administration instructions.
Fleas are often closely involved in the spreading of tapeworms in dogs. Because of that, keeping the external parasites far away from your pet can often be extremely helpful for keeping tapeworms far away, too. Talk to your vet about the use of flea management options in your dog, whether topical, powder or anything else suitable. Your vet can give you information regarding flea management that works and is safe.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Tapeworm Infection in Dogs
- PetMD: Tapeworm Dog Symptoms
- Cornell University Baker Institute - Animal Health: An Overview of Canine Tapeworm Infections
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dipylidium FAQs
- The Veterinarians' Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs; Martin Zucker
- Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook; Debra M. Eldredge, et al.
- ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs; Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images