If your dog is obsessively scratching and licking his anus while performing the famous dog butt scoot, a tapeworm infection is a definite possibility. Scratching and licking are not solely tapeworm infection symptoms. The only way to be positive of your dog's symptoms is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
Hosting a Tapeworm
The flea is the main culprit for infecting your dog with tapeworms. However, a flea by itself can cause excessive scratching and licking. Tapeworms are made of segments that resemble grains of rice when found in dog feces. As these segments dry, they break open and release a fertilized egg into the environment. The egg is eaten by flea larvae, so now you have a flea vector ready to transfer the tapeworm to your dog. Eating dog feces does not cause the tapeworm infection, but biting and licking at the irritation caused by fleas causes the dog to ingest the infected flea and the whole process of a tapeworm infection begins.
The fleas can cause generalized or localized body scratching, but the main focus of a dog infected with tapeworms is the anus. As segments are passed in your dog's stool, the anal region becomes irritated, which leads to the scratching and licking. The tapeworm segments may be found on the feces, in your dog's fur, around the anus, on bedding or in the carpet. In some cases, live worms are recognizable. If the head of the tapeworm detaches from the small intestine, your dog may vomit or pass a stool with the entire adult tapeworm. Common canine tapeworms can be 8 inches long.
There are several possibilities that could cause a dog to scratch and lick that have nothing to do with tapeworms. Allergies, yeast dermatitis, pain or other kinds of worms can cause compulsive scratching and licking. Head injuries, epilepsy or even a viral or bacterial infection can cause scratching and licking. Like people, some dogs even develop anxiety and the compulsive behaviors could be associated with your dog's mental health.
The only way to be sure of what's causing your dog's symptoms is take him to the veterinarian. Bring a stool sample to help your dog's vet determine if worms are present, so a parasiticide for deworming can be administered immediately. Flea treatments are also available through veterinarians, which can prevent a tapeworm infection in the future. Fleas can be prevented with powders, collars and topical treatments. If tapeworms are not causing the problem, a veterinarian can diagnose and treat the cause to relieve your dog from his itchy irritation.
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.