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Health & Wellness

Tapeworms in dogs: symptoms and treatment

They may show up in your pet’s poop.

Unfortunately, there are several worms that’d love nothing more than to be acquainted with your pup. The Dig has covered hookworms and roundworms, and now, we’re talking to Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, about tapeworms, which are common parasitic worms that can cause adverse health effects for your pup. 

Read on to learn more about tapeworms, how your pup can catch them and ways to prevent them in the future. 

What causes tapeworms in dogs? 

Dogs (no dog breed, gender or age that is more predisposed than another) become infected with tapeworms by ingesting fleas that carry the tapeworm larvae, Dr. McCullough says. Once a tapeworm is inside your pup, it’ll attach itself to their intestinal wall and mature into an adult. Each worm is flat and segmented, meaning they’re like short lines that connect, and they each have a digestive and reproductive system. 

“The segments at the end of the tapeworm detach and travel to the anus and are passed into the feces,” Dr. McCullough says. “The eggs are then ingested by flea larvae.”

There’s one silver lining, though, an infected pup can’t spread tapeworms to other animals, Dr. McCullough adds. And the only way people can contract tapeworms from a dog is by ingesting infected fleas. 

Tapeworm symptoms in dogs

According to Dr. McCullough, dogs don’t typically show symptoms of tapeworms – but she recommends watching out for some changes in their health just in case. “Some dogs may have itchy or irritated skin around their anus caused by tapeworm segments in that area,” she adds. “Diarrhea, vomiting, or if severe, signs of an intestinal obstruction may also occur in some dogs.”

Always talk to your veterinarian about treatment options for tapeworms. If this condition is left untreated, Dr. McCullough says the worms will continue to reproduce and cause a severe infestation. “This puts dogs and especially puppies at risk of an intestinal obstruction caused by worms,” she adds. 

RELATED: Giardia in dogs: what it is and how to treat it

Tapeworms in dog poop

Another way to determine if your pup has tapeworms is to look at their poop. Dr. McCullough says you may notice tapeworm segments that look like grains of rice. 

Contact your veterinarian if you spot segments in their stool or if they start showing symptoms of tapeworm. Veterinarians often diagnose tapeworm by looking for segments in a dog’s fur, around their anus and in their stool.

“Fecal lab testing may also be conducted, but false-negative results frequently occur due to intermittent presence of eggs and unequal distribution of eggs in the stool,” Dr. McCullough adds. 

How to get rid of tapeworms in dogs

Treating tapeworms can be done through vet-approved, prescription, oral deworming medication, Dr. McCullough says. If you want to prevent a tapeworm infection in the future, talk to your veterinarian about flea preventives. 

Don’t be alarmed if your veterinarian recommends a second round of treatment a few weeks after their initial tapeworm treatment. “This is because eliminating fleas can take longer than eliminating tapeworms, thus giving dogs the opportunity to reinfect themselves,” Dr. McCullough says. 

If your dog is ever around fleas, watch out for itchy or irritated skin around their anus, diarrhea or vomiting. The way to stop a tapeworm infection is by preventing fleas from affecting your pup. Talk to your vet about the best flea prevention for your dog so that you can protect your best friend’s future health.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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