Tapeworms are a common parasite that can infect dogs. Today our Santa Cruz vets discuss tapeworms in dogs - including the common symptoms and treatments.
Tapeworm Infection in Dogs
Flat, segmented parasites, tapeworms infect dogs using hook-like mouths to attach themselves to the intestines of a canine host. They can grow to as large as 11-inches, and as they mature will shed segments that exit the host via their feces.
Spotting Stool Tapeworms in Dogs
Tapeworms can sometimes be spotted moving on anal hairs or through the feces of an infected animal.
How Tapeworms in Dogs Spread
Eating fertilized tapeworm eggs is not a concern, as unlike other parasites this does not pose a risk of infecting the dog which consumed them. Instead, a tapeworm cannot infect a dog until having already passed through the system of a flea. When a dog eats a flea that is bothering them, they run the risk of unknowingly swelling with it tapeworm eggs the flea has eaten. As the flea is digested, the tapeworm inside hatches and is now able to wreak havoc on your dog's insides.
Are tapeworms in dogs dangerous?
While generally uncomfortable, dogs are not going to experience a health crisis should they be infected with tapeworms. For puppies it can be more dangerous more often, should their growing intestines be overwhelmed by a large number of tapeworms.
How Tapeworms in Dogs are Diagnosed
One sign of tapeworms you can find at home is if your dog begins scooting. They will drag their bums on the ground in an effort to relieve the irritation caused by the parasite. This is not a sure thing, however, there are many possible explanations for scooting in dogs.
Your veterinarian can take a more comprehensive approach, by observing the white or golden worms present in your dog's feces. Passing worm segments happens periodically, not consistently, and so an annual fecal exam is likely to miss them. As a result, dog owners should contact their vet if they detect anything strange in their dog's stool, and save the sample for them to make a professional diagnosis.
Treatment for Tapeworms in Dogs
Dogs who are diagnosed with tapeworms have a relatively easy path to recovery ahead, modern anti-parasite medications can quickly and safely kill the parasite inside your dog and disintegrate the corpses, allowing them to pass them through their anus. As they've been disintegrated, they shouldn't be detectable any longer and your dog should experience no undue discomfort passing them.