Do Tapeworms in Dogs Die When They Hit the Air?

by Betty Lewis
    Keep your dog and his bedding free of fleas to minimize his risk of tapeworm infection.

    Keep your dog and his bedding free of fleas to minimize his risk of tapeworm infection.

    BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

    If your pup has been scooting across the floor, or you spy little white segments resembling rice in his poop, he's probably infected with a tapeworm. Though that parasite traveled quite a distance to see daylight, he's not dead when he hits the air. In fact, he's starting a new cycle.

    Dipylidium caninum is the most common tapeworm infecting dogs and cats and is introduced to your dog's system when he ingests an infected flea. This tapeworm is made of many small segments, referred to as proglottids, approximately 1/8 inch in length, sometimes making a tapeworm more than a foot long. The worm's head is at the top of the chain of segments, and as the proglottids mature, they break off and exit your dog's body when he poops or they find their own way out. Each segment contains between five and 30 tapeworm eggs, which are shed by the proglottids into the environment to be ingested by fleas and perpetuate the tapeworm life cycle.

    Fresh air doesn't kill a tapeworm, but the right medication will. Medications containing praziquantel, prescribed by your vet, will kill the tapeworm. Since the parasite is transmitted by fleas, effective flea control is crucial to keeping your pup free of tapeworm infection. Your vet can recommend a flea preventive for your dog -- and any other pets in the family -- to ensure he doesn't host this unwelcome visitor.

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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