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Tapeworms in Dogs

Everything to know about Tapeworm in Dogs

Is your beloved pooch suffering from weight loss despite eating normally? It is possible that Tapeworms may be feeding on the nutrients that your dog is consuming every day. Of all parasites your dog can ever get, the tapeworm is the easiest to identify and treat. Although it may result in some uncomfortable symptoms, a tapeworm wouldn’t result in something serious if the treatment is commenced at the right time. The sooner your dog receives treatment, the better it would be.  

Tapeworms usually enter the system of a dog once they swallow any flea that has already been infected with the larvae of the parasite. The larvae can mature within your dog’s body and develop into tapeworms. They have hook-like suckermouth that can attach to the walls of the intestine where they feed and grow. They can grow up to 4-28 inches long.

What are tapeworms?

What are tapeworms

Tapeworms are parasites that generally live in the small intestine of various species of animals and humans. Its body is made up entirely from small segments referred to as proglottids, these segments break off from the end of the worm and contain the eggs of the parasite. Intact proglottids can move by themselves and can pass the egg on to the feces of the host animal.

There are three main groups of tapeworms that can be of concern for domestic animals. Each group can pose a different level of risk to the people and can spread between animals and humans.

Dipylidium caninum is the most common kind of tapeworm found in cats and dogs worldwide. This tapeworm can be passed on to another dog once it swallows the infected flea containing the larvae from the host dog. After an animal swallows the infected flea, the tapeworm matures into adults in the small intestine and starts shedding their eggs.

Infection of Dipylidium caninum does not make dogs or people severely sick. However, the experience of having these parasites in the body can be uncomfortable especially if left untreated. This is because the proglottids shed by the worms move by themselves and get stuck around the anus. This can result in a severe itching sensation in your pet that can cause your dogs to scoot. 

Occasionally, infected cats or dogs can vomit segments or the entire tapeworm. Infection with a large number of worms can result in weight loss. It is easier to treat this infection by taking anti-parasites prescribed by a certified practitioner.  Your vet will require frequent trips to get the condition diagnosed and treated. 

How to recognize the signs of tapeworm in dogs? 

Signs of tapeworm in dogs

As tapeworms grow within your dog’s body, some of the segments will break off and will be eliminated from the body through excretion. You will notice white rice-like segments in your dog’s faces if they have a tapeworm in their body. If the segments end up in your dog’s stomach, then they would throw up and you may see a worm in their vomit. 

Tapeworms can also irritate your dog’s bottom. This is another common sign of a dog having a parasite. Other common signs include:

  • Weight loss despite having a normal appetite

If there is heavy infestation, then your dog may start losing weight despite having a normal appetite. This is because the worms are feeding on the nutrients that your dog is receiving from their food.

  • Distended abdomen

Because of the infestation, the dog’s abdomen will look distended because of the lack of proper nutrients in their diet. Given that the worms are parasitic in nature, the nutrients the dog ingest will all benefit the worms rather than the dog.

  • Lethargy

Another common sign in tapeworm infestation is lethargy, this is because the dog is missing out on the needed daily food value as the worms steal it from their eaten food. They will appear out of energy or will be seen laying down for a longer period than usual.

  • Diarrhea

A type of gastrointestinal disease that may happen in the occurrence of tapeworms in your dog. They might produce loose stool that may contain white rice-looking segments of the tapeworm. 

  • Vomiting

You may come across segments of the worm or the entire worm itself in their vomit. Remember that vomiting could be due to several other issues, there could have been indigestion or must be suffering from other conditions.

  • Dull coat

Dull coat can mean that your dog is malnourished and is not getting enough nutrients to supply the coat with a healthier gloss, this primarily is caused by the tapeworm infestation.

  • Visual evidence of tapeworms 

The segment has heaps of eggs which will be released along with your dog’s feces. You can also spot the segments around your dog’s bottom and also on their bedding. These segments may appear like moving pieces of rice. 

  • Scooting on their bottom

If your dog has been infected, then they may scoot around on the floor or lick or bite their bottom to relieve the itching sensation. However, you must remember that dogs can scoot for several reasons such as skin inflammation or due to irritated sacs. It is better to schedule a vet visit to get your dog tested to understand the cause of discomfort.

If you notice any of the above signs, then you need to rush your pet to a vet for a thorough examination. It would be great if you could carry a stool sample in which you have spotted segments. 

Your dog could be infested with several kinds of tapeworms. However, Dipylidium caninum is the most commonly noted parasite in dogs. These are easily contracted through fleas that could be carrying the larvae. Dogs do not show detectable symptoms for a long time. However, you can keep an eye on the signs and act immediately if you sense something is not right with your pet.

Treatment options for tapeworms in dogs 

Treatment options for tapeworms in dogs 

Treatment available for tapeworm infestation is usually quite effective and might include administering deworming medications. Once the tapeworms have been successfully eliminated from your dog’s body, you can take preventative actions to lower the risk of your dog getting infected again. 

Do not forget to inform the veterinarian about any supplements or medications that your dog is taking. This will assist them in providing the best treatment decision for your dog’s case. Tapeworms can result in numerous health complications in dogs including weight loss, vomiting, and itchy bottom. Some tapeworms can also cause serious problems in humans. Hence, it is best to keep an eye on the symptoms before they become a major problem.

Prevention of tapeworm infestation in dogs

Prevention of tapeworm infestation in dogs

Although tapeworms can result in alarming symptoms in your dog, the condition is quite easy to diagnose and treat. Deworming medications such as tablets and chewable can kill the worms in your dog’s gut quickly. It is better to prevent the condition entirely.

However, if your pet gets infested with the worms, then there are several measures that you can take to keep your dog safe.  

The best measure for preventing the condition entirely is to maintain a regular schedule for flea treatment. You can use a collar or spot-on to keep your pet free from fleas. You can also give them oral medications that your vet has prescribed for flea infestation.  

You also need to make sure that your dog does not roam around unsupervised. This way, you can prevent him from contracting tapeworms from scavenging or exploring the surroundings. 

For reducing the likelihood of infection, you need to 

  • Applying a flea preventive to your pet
  • Avoid letting your dog roam around unsupervised
  • Schedule regular visits with the vet 
  • Clean up after your pet especially in public parks and playgrounds

Can humans be affected by tapeworms?

Can humans be affected by tapeworms 

Certain tapeworms that are found in dogs can result in serious diseases in humans. However, the species that are considered to be dangerous are not found everywhere. The most common ones that cause an infection in dogs are not associated with any major condition. 

If you don’t maintain hygiene, then you are at risk. However, the chances are quite low. For a human to become infected with Dipylidium, they need to accidentally swallow the infected flea. Most of the cases reported as of now involve children. The most effective way of preventing infections in humans is by controlling fleas. A child infected will pass the segments during bowel movements or can find them stuck to the skin around the anal region.

It is essential to teach your kids the importance of hygiene especially if you have a pet at home. Ask them to wash their hands thoroughly after playing with your beloved pet. Train your dog not to venture around in unhygienic places (Donaldson, 2010). Keep them on a leash while walking them in the neighborhood or keep an eye on their whereabouts. This way you can keep both your pet and your children free from any kind of infection.

In summary

Treatment for tapeworms in dogs can be done with a proper diagnosis. A vet will be able to examine the stool sample and confirm the infestation. Several forms of medications are available for the condition including drugs that can dissolve them in the intestines. Some medications can be administered only by qualified vets. 

Whatever course of treatment your vet prescribes, you need to follow it for the entire duration specified. The likelihood of your dog passing on the infection to you is fairly low. However, you need to take care of your children and ask them to wash their hands to prevent transmission in the first place.

The treatment is effective and easy. Prevention would make the best method of treatment. Appropriate measures for controlling fleas would help in preventing tapeworm infestation from spreading.   


  1. Pearson, Richard. (2020). Tapeworm Infection. Merck Manual Consumer Version 
  2. Blagburn, B. (2010). INTERNAL PARASITES OF DOGS AND CATS. Novartis. 
  3.  Kennedy, M. (2007). Parasites in Dogs: Tapeworms. Food Safety Division Alberta Agriculture and Food.
  4. Donaldson, J. (2010). Train your dog like a pro . New Jersey : Howell Book House.
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