Tapeworms are long, flat worms that make their home right in a dog’s intestines. Their bodies are made up of a variety of segments, each of which are equipped with their own reproductive organs. In addition, they have a hook-like mouth that allows them to latch onto your dog’s organs.
An adult tapeworm has the potential to grow up to eight inches long. As the tail end of the worm proceeds to mature, the end segments will break off and pass through the dog’s stool. While the idea of tapeworms is rather scary, the good news is that they are easy to diagnose, treat and prevent so that you dog can can remain both happy and healthy!
Symptoms of Tapeworm
It is crucial that all dog owners are aware of the various symptoms of tapeworm infestation so that they can quickly begin treating the parasites as soon as they appear. One of the most common signs is dried, white colored pieces of tapeworm in the dog’s feces or caught in the fur right around their anus. They will be about the size of small seeds or a piece of rice. Another symptom of tapeworms is that the infested dog may lick or bite their anus, or scoot their backside across the ground in order to satisfy the itching sensation.
Because the tapeworms attach themselves along the dog’s intestines, other symptoms include weight loss, an increased appetite, diarrhea, lethargy and irritability. Other less common symptoms include dry and flaky skin, abdominal pain and a visibly duller fur coat.
Causes of Tapeworm
In most occurrences of tapeworm, a dog will have ingested a flea that contains the eggs of the parasite. This typically happens whilst they are grooming themselves or when they’re lounging on infected carpet or bedding. As a result, dogs with a heavy flea infestation are also much more likely to get tapeworms.
In addition, dogs can become infested by another form of tapeworm by eating small mammals, such as rats. Some dogs are at increased risk of catching tapeworm, particuarly those who have access to freshly killed domestic or wild animals.
Most tapeworm infections are not difficult to diagnose. The most common way that a veterinarian will test for tapeworms is with a method known as fecal flotation. It involves inspecting a fresh stool sample under a microscope for bits of dead tapeworms or their eggs, both of which are easily distinguishable. This test will usually need to be performed several times in order to avoid false negatives or positives.
Another way that vets will diagnose tapeworms is by placing a small piece of cellophane tape along the dog’s anal area. They will then remove the tape and examine it under a glass slide with a microscope to see if any organisms or eggs are present.
Fortunately, once a dog is diagnosed with tapeworms, they aren’t too difficult to eliminate. There are a wide variety of medication options that can be discussed with your veterinarian. These include praziquantel (Biltricide), fenbendazole (Panacur, Safe-Guard), and espirantel (Cestex). Each of these de-worming medications can be delivered to the dog via a shot or as an oral tablet.
Tapeworm medications should never cause your dog to have diarrhea, vomit or have another other adverse side-effects. If any of these symptoms become apparent while your dog is on the medication, it is essential to stop using it immediately and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
While treating your dog for tapeworms, you should also be attempting to eliminate whatever caused the problem in the first place. It is important to keep your pet away from rotting animals and prevent them from hunting. Furthermore,you should treat your dog for fleas, even if they are not immediately apparent. All bedding should be washed and the carpet should be vacuumed to remove any lingering fleas from the home. Your dog should also be thoroughly washed with a flea-killing and repelling shampoo to prevent any further outbreaks.
The prognosis for dogs with tapeworms is excellent! As long as you keep up with your dog’s medication as well as sticking to the other de-worming protocols, your dog will make it through the infestation without any further negative impact on their everyday lives.
There are a number of things that owners can do to successfully prevent their dog from becoming infested with tapeworms. Due to the fact that fleas are one of the most common causes of tapeworms, it is very important to control their population both in your home and on your dog. Speak to your dog’s vet about special collars, powders or sprays as these are all great ways to keep fleas far away from your pet. In addition, you should make an effort to not let your dog roam around outdoors when unsupervised. Supervision is especially important because it allows you to keep an eye on them so that you can stop them if they attempt to get into or eat something that they are not supposed to, such as garbage or animal faeces.
While it is fairly uncommon, it is possible for humans to contract tapeworms from their dogs. To contract tapeworms, you have to swallow a flea. The most effective way to prevent yourself and others in your home from contracting tapeworms is simply to always wash your hands after handling your dog.