Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that occur rather frequently in dogs. In addition to a primary or “definitive” host, tapeworms need an intermediate host for transmission. Depending on the tapeworm species, intermediate hosts include fleas, lice, rodents, rabbits, sheep, horses, pigs, and others.
Tapeworms take up residence in a primary host’s small intestine. They can grow to as long as several feet!
They use the hooks and suckers on their heads to attach themselves to the host’s intestinal wall and absorb nutrients from the host.
The body of the worm is made up of segments that contain egg packets. The worm grows by producing new segments in the worm’s neck region. The mature segments are at the end of the worm’s body and contain plenty of eggs.
Upon reaching maturity, the end segments detach from the worm’s body and emerge via the host’s
feces. These segments are about one quarter of an inch (6 mm) long and can move.
If your dog has tapeworms, sometimes you can see fresh segments crawling through the
hair near his anus. When dry, they look like grains of uncooked rice.
When an intermediate host ingests contaminated feces, the tapeworm eggs start to hatch inside the intermediate host’s body. The resulting larvae migrate and take up residence in the host’s body tissue where they partly develop.
When a definitive host (dog) ingests the infected intermediate host, the larvae will then develop into adult tapeworms.
Common Tapeworms that Affect Dogs
There are several species of tapeworms.
The most common tapeworm that affects dogs is Dipylidium caninum because the intermediate hosts are fleas and lice.
Dogs can easily get infected by the tapeworm when he bites and ingests an flea or louse that has ingested the worm eggs.
Another species of tapeworm that affects dogs is Taenia, whose intermediate hosts are small animals including rodents, rabbits, and sheep.
Diphyllobothrium is another species of tapeworm that dogs can acquire through eating fish organs. Both Taenia and Diphyllobothrium are found in Canada and the northern part of the United States.
Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs
As tapeworms suck nutrients from the intestinal wall of a dog, they can drain nutrition from the dog, but not to the extent caused by hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.
Dogs that are not heavily infested show little or no symptoms. Dogs that are heavily infested may show signs of abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss.
Sometimes, fresh segments of the worms cause anal itching and the dog may scoot on the floor to relieve the itch.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
Diagnosis of tapeworms is by identifying segments of the worms in a dog’s feces or near his anus.
Conventional treatment of tapeworms in dogs is the use dewormers such as Drontal Plus, Cestex, Telmintic, and Vercom Paste.
However, if your dog is not heavily infested with tapeworms, you may want to consider using milder home remedies which are safer but still effective.
The most effective way to control the common tapeworm in dogs is to eradicate fleas and lice from the environment.
For other types of tapeworms, discourage your dog from roaming and eating dead animals and do not feed any raw fish and meat to the dog.
Home Remedies for Tapeworms in Dogs
Before resorting to the more potent dewormers, you may want to try these home remedies to see if you can eradicate the worms in your dog:
- Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds are effective in eliminating tapeworms in dogs. You need to grind up some fresh whole seeds every time you feed it to your dog. Add 1/4 to one teaspoon of the freshly-ground seed meal to your dog’s food.
- Wheat Germ Oil: Up to 1 teaspoon of wheat germ oil per meal can be given to your dog.