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Banish Tapeworms Forever

Updated: Feb 16

One of the most prolific parasites you're bound to encounter when you have a dog or cat as a family member, tapeworms are certainly unwelcome guests. Below is a nifty little diagram that outlines the life cycle of a tapeworm and how they find their way into our beloved pets.

Tapeworms are flat, segmented intestinal parasites of the cat and dog. They belong to a different family (cestode) than other intestinal parasites, such as hookworms and roundworms, which are other common intestinal parasites of cats and dogs. Several types of tapeworms are known to infect pets, but the most common species observed in dogs is Dipylidium caninum.

The tapeworm uses its hook-like mouthparts for anchoring to the wall of the small intestine. Eventually, adult tapeworms reach lengths of up to 11 inches. As the adult tapeworm matures, individual segments (proglottids) break off from the main body of the tapeworm and pass in the dog’s feces. The segments resemble grains of rice or cucumber seeds and are about 1/2 inch long and about 1/8 inch wide. Occasionally, they can be seen moving on the hairs around the anus, or more commonly, on the surface of freshly passed feces.

As the proglottid dries, it becomes a golden color and eventually breaks open, releasing the fertilized eggs into the environment. A proglottid may contain as many as 20 tapeworm eggs.

If you've seen the "little piece of rice" in your dog's feces before, those are tapeworms. This is part of why flea prevention is so important. If we can keep the fleas away, we can keep the tapeworms away! There are many prescription products that can help you toward that goal.

Tapeworms do not normally cause serious health problems in adult dogs. Occasionally, dogs will drag their bottoms on the ground, a behavior known as scooting, in order to calm irritation associated with the proglottids. Scooting can also occur for other reasons such as impacted anal sacs. It is important to have your dog examined by your veterinarian if scooting is noted.

Effects of tapeworm in dogs can include:

  • Irritation around the anus, causing scooting and licking behavior.

  • Diarrhea

  • Lack of energy

  • Weight loss

  • Poor skin and coat condition

In puppies, heavy tapeworm infestation can be more serious. Stunted growth, anemia, and intestinal blockages can occur.

Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian or hospital staff your specific pet and their needs so you can be matched with the product that would serve you best!


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