Tapeworm Treatment for Dogs

Tapeworm, artwork

While tapeworms seldom cause major health concerns, they can cause discomfort and itchy when they emerge from your dog's back end (not to mention how disgusting they are!). It's crucial to understand how your dog gets tapeworms so you can get rid of them and prevent them from returning.

What Are Tapeworms?

Tapeworms are flatworm that dwell in the intestines of dogs, cats, and other animals in a ribbon-like fashion. There are various variations, but the most common are Dipylidium caninum and Taenia species.

The tapeworm's head is known as the scolex or holdfast. It has hooks and suckers that help it stick to the small intestinal wall. There is no mouth on tapeworms. Tapeworms have no digestive system at all. Instead, they take in nourishment through their many bodily parts.

These segments, known as proglottids, are joined together like a chain. The parasite adds additional segments to its neck on a regular basis. Adult worms continue to grow segments for the rest of their lives, reaching frightening lengths (ranging from 15 centimeters to 20 meters!). Hundreds of segments may be found in them. Male and female reproductive organs are found in each proglottid. The section matures into hundreds or possibly thousands of eggs. The segments closest to the scolex are the most developed, and once "ripe," they are shed from the worm's body and pass in the feces of a puppy or dog, where they can be eaten by an intermediate host.

Before they can infest your dog, immature worms must spend time developing within an intermediary host. Dipylidium caninum uses the flea for this, but Taenia species require time in another vertebrate, usually rats or rabbits.

If your dog has fleas, it is likely to have Dipylidium tapeworms as well. Tapeworm eggs are consumed by flea larvae, which grow as the flea matures. When a pet chews to soothe the itching, it frequently eats the flea and contracts tapeworm.

Animals that are allowed to hunt are at the highest risk for Taenia tapeworms.

Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs

For a short time after leaving the body, segments may move independently like small inchworms, but when dried, they resemble rice grains. Infested puppies usually have segments attached to their hair or on their bedding around the anal area. The segments eventually dry out and burst, releasing the eggs within into the environment. Tapeworm eggs are occasionally transmitted and excreted. In many cases, a veterinarian check of the pup's faeces for eggs is inconclusive. Finding the segments on the pet is considered diagnostic.

Tapeworms are often regarded an inconvenience rather than a medical hazard. Moving proglottids can irritate the anal area, causing dogs and pups to lick themselves excessively or "scoot" their backs on the floor or ground. Due to the presence of huge numbers of worms, puppies may develop a gastrointestinal impaction in rare situations.

Treatment and Prevention of Tapeworms

There are a number of safe and effective tapeworm treatments available, including pills, injections, and spot-on treatments. Some require a veterinarian's prescription, while others are accessible over the counter. The tapeworms will be eradicated after a single treatment, but dogs can be reinfected at any time. The best strategies to avoid tapeworm infestation are to keep fleas under control and to avoid hunting.

Human Health Risk

Some tapeworms that can infect canines can pose a health concern to humans. Dipylidium tapeworms can be contracted by swallowing an infected flea, which generally affects youngsters. While Echinococcus granulosis tapeworms are not prevalent in dogs, they do sometimes infect humans in Alaska and the Southwest, causing cysts to grow in the liver, lungs, and other organs.

In the north-central United States and Alaska, Echinococcus multilocularis can be found. Although human infections are uncommon, they can be fatal owing to the growth of liver tumors. Consult your veterinarian to learn if these tapeworms are a concern in your region.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


"Tapeworm Infection in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.", "Dipylidium FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.", "Tapeworms and Hydatid Diseases. Department of Health, State Government of Victoria." ;