Tapeworms in dogs are also known as Dipylidium caninum. They are the most common tapeworms in dogs. They are segmented flat intestinal that live in your dog’s intestinal tract by using their mouthparts to attach to the small intestine. They are about ¼ to ½ inches long, adult tapeworms can reach up to eight inches and can grow to 20 inches long.
The lifecycle of the tapeworm begins as the segments of an adult tapeworm is passed through feces. These segments are full of eggs and get broken open as they dry out in order to liberate the eggs that are held inside the segment. Either a flea or adult louse ingests the eggs allowing the egg to develop into an immature form of the insect. If your dog eats the insect, the immature form develops into an adult and the life cycle begins all over again.
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Are tapeworms in dogs dangerous?
Just the word tapeworm could make any dog owner concerned. It is natural to worry if your dog’s health is at risk due to a tapeworm. Puppies or dogs that have a severe tapeworm infestation can experience intestinal blockages, anemia and it could stunt growth.
Generally, mild cases of tapeworms do not cause serious health problems in dogs.
Signs of Tapeworms in Dogs
One of the most common symptoms is your dog dragging his behind on the floor and trying to chew, lick or bite around his anus.
In addition to these obvious signs, you may also notice segments of the tapeworm in your dog’s feces. These will look like white or ivory colored pieces that resemble the seeds of a cucumber. If you suspect that your dog has tapeworms you can also inspect the fur around your dog’s anus, usually the tapeworm segments will stick to your dog’s hair.
If this happens, remove them carefully with a paper towel and save them in a plastic bag. You will want to bring it along with you to the veterinarian.
Diagnosis of Tapeworms in Dogs
The veterinarian will conduct a fecal examination to determine if your dog has tapeworms. The veterinarian will be looking for the presence of tapeworms in your dog’s feces or anal sac.
The veterinarian may ask you questions regarding your dog’s health, behavior, eating habits and if he has exhibited any of the signs. If you were able to bring in the segments found on and around your dog’s anus, the veterinarian will take the opportunity to examine it and consider the results when diagnosing your dog.
Treatment for Tapeworms in Dogs
Once the veterinarian confirms that your dog has tapeworms a course of treatment will be established.
Generally treatments are given on an outpatient basis. The veterinarian prescribes medication either orally or by injection, depending on the severity of the condition. It causes the tapeworms to dissolve and naturally pass through the intestinal tract, ultimately being released from your dog’s body through his feces.
After the full treatment is complete the veterinarian will request a follow up visit to assure that the tapeworms have fully been cleaned out of your dog’s system.
Preventing Tapeworms in Dogs
You can take preventative measures by controlling the flea infestation in your home and yard. Keeping your dog free from fleas is considered the best protection against tapeworms in dogs.
The first step you will want to take is to speak with the veterinarian for effective and safe flea control for your dog. The veterinarian will consider your dog’s lifestyle and exposure to flea infested areas.
Next you will want to find safe flea repellent treatment for your lawn and the area surrounding your home. You will want to continuously maintain the flea situation due to the fact that your dog just has to ingest one flea in order to get tapeworms.
Although the treatment and medication for tapeworms in dogs are highly effective, reinfection can occur if your dog is exposed to infected fleas.
Why do dogs keep getting tapeworms?
If you are a dog owner that has a dog that keeps getting re-occurring tapeworms, there is a specific reason.
It means your dog is exposed to fleas on a continuous basis. This doesn’t mean that the fleas are in your immediate environment, especially if you already took measures to assure fleas are not welcome.
However, your dog may be exposed to fleas at the groomer, local dog park or even just taking a walk around the neighborhood. In this case you will want to speak to your veterinarian about the issue. Chances are the flea treatment your dog is receiving to protect him is either not strong enough or it’s not working properly. The veterinarian will provide new options or adjust the strength of the flea deterrent your dog is already using.
Whether you live in an apartment, condo, home, on a ranch or farm, you will want to take every measure to control the flea population in your immediate surroundings. This will help prevent reoccurrences of bouts with tapeworms in your dog.
Also remember that at the first sight of signs of tapeworms in your dog, you should contact the veterinarian immediately. The sooner you get your dog treatment the quicker the tapeworm treatment can start and your dog can return to his normal, healthy self again.