Tapeworms in dogs are an unpleasant and debilitating endoparasite that can be seen in puppies and adult dogs. The most common type of tapeworm is known as Dipylidium Caninum.
The size of the worm can vary but they can grow to 50 cm in length (although they can grow to many feet in length) and are found in the small intestines of dogs. The worms are segmented, with a small head – the parasites head will attach itself to the wall of the intestine – the segmented body will contain multiple eggs that will mature inside the individual segments of the worm’s body. For the tapeworms to be effectively killed their head needs to be dead or detached from the body.
It is more common to see the broken segments (which look like seeds) in the dog poop or around the dog or puppy’s anus rather than a full length tapeworm. Inside each of these segments will reside a cluster of eggs. The segments can also be found in the dogs coat, on the carpet and on the dog’s bedding and sleeping area.
The Life Cycle Of Tapeworms In Dogs
The life cycle of the worm starts with a flea! As the eggs are excreted by the dog or puppy flea larvae will swallow the eggs. Now the process starts inside the flea larvae – because as the larvae start to grow and develop so do the tapeworms (inside the now adult fleas). This results in the fleas being highly infectious to dogs, puppies and other animals.
The infected and infectious adult flea will now be killed and eaten by your dog or puppy where the tapeworm larvae will be released inside the intestines of your pooch where they will start to develop and grow into adult worms.
Signs & Symptoms Of Tapeworms In Dogs
A serious infestation of tapeworms in dogs and puppies can result in diarrhea and stunted growth in puppies.
There are other types of tapeworms with one variety (rare in family dogs but sometimes seen in working dogs) known as Echinococcus granulosus – this type will normally only grow to about 9 mm in length and also live inside the dog or puppy’s small instestine. This type of tapeworm is transmitted after the infected dog excretes the eggs. The resulting eggs will then be eaten by sheep – after being eaten by the sheep the parasites will develop into a hydatid cyst.
After the infected sheep has died the dog will become infected through eating the carcass of the dead sheep – particularly in the tissue, lungs and liver – this is because the cysts have developed in the tissue. This will result in the dog becoming infected. There are few signs that are noticeable in dogs that have been infected with this type of tapeworm – but the coat may appear neglected and in bad condition, signs of diarrhea may also occur. It is possible for the Echinococcus granulosus worm to number in the thousands inside an infected dog or puppy.
This type of tapeworm is more common in working dogs that feed on dead sheep carcasses (the parasites can also infect cattle, horses and goats etc) – working dogs should be wormed regularly and owners should not feed their dogs offal as this can transmit the parasites.
Treatment For Tapeworms In Dogs
If you think that your dog or puppy has been infected by the parasite you should take him or her straight to the vet – keeping your dog free of fleas will also help to stop your pooch from swallowing any fleas that have been infected with the worm larvae.
Common treatment and medications for the tapeworm can include Drontal Plus, Vercom Paste, Telmintic and a variety of other medications.