Recognizing tapeworm symptoms in your dog
Dogs can be infected with hydatid tapeworms when they eat the entrails and internal organs of infected animals, including mice, rats, squirrels, groundhogs, rabbits, skunks, raccoons or deer. Tapeworms can also be passed on if dogs eat infected coyote or fox feces.
Treat dogs regularly with an effective de-wormer and never allow dogs to eat animal entrails or droppings or feces to minimize the risk of serious illness for both you and your pet.
You can also consult this guide to help you spot the symptoms of dog tapeworms.
Several different types of tapeworms can infest your dog, including the Taenia and Echinococcus species. The most common, Dipylidium caninum, is contracted through fleas that carry the worm larvae. A dog can ingest these infected fleas when grooming. These worms attach themselves to the wall of the dog's gut and can grow up to 60 cm long!
In the gut they feed slowly on your pet's intestinal contents, competing with your dog for nutrients. These parasites can live in your dog’s intestine for a long time before you notice any health problems.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t spot some warning signs if you know what to look for.
Symptoms of Dog Tapeworms
Tapeworm in dog stool
As the tapeworm grows, segments containing heaps of eggs will be released into your dog’s stool. They may be spotted around your dog’s rear end or in their bedding. These segments may look like moving pieces of rice or, if they are dried out, hard yellow specks that can stick to your dog’s coat.
A dog with tapeworm may scoot around the floor or bite or lick their rear end to try to relieve the itching caused by tapeworms. That said, a dog could scoot for many reasons, such as blocked or irritated anal sacs or skin inflammation. A visit to your veterinarian can help you get to the root of your dog’s discomfort.
As the tapeworms grow inside your dog, they may cause vomiting. You may see segments of tapeworm eggs or the entire worm in your dog’s vomit. Of course, vomiting can indicate a variety of other problems, from indigestion to more serious conditions. If your dog vomits frequently or displays other symptoms such as lethargy or severe diarrhea, see your veterinarian without delay.
In cases of heavy tapeworm infection, your dog may lose weight, despite eating normally. This is because the tapeworm is feeding on the nutrients in your dog’s gut.
Like vomiting, weight loss can have a variety of causes. If there are no obvious reasons for your dog’s weight loss, such as increased exercise or a change in diet, then you should take your dog to the veterinarian for assessment.
Preventing and Treating Tapeworm
Although tapeworms can cause alarming symptoms in your dog, they are easy to treat and remove. Deworming medications quickly kill worms lurking in your dog’s gut.
Of course, like most infestations, prevention is better than cure. There are a number of steps you can take to keep you and your family safe from tapeworms:
- maintain a regular topical flea treatment schedule
- treat your dog regularly with an effective de-wormer
- avoid letting your dog roam unsupervised where they could eat entrails or stool that is infected with Taenia or Echinococcus tapeworms