Dog Tapeworms: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on March 13, 2016

My Foster Lab Mix that Got Tapeworms

Dog tapeworms, causes and treatment. Dog tapeworm life cycle.
Dog tapeworms, causes and treatment. Dog tapeworm life cycle. | Source

Causes of Tapeworms

There are actually three tapeworm species affecting dogs and cats: Dipylidium caninum, which is capable of infecting dogs, cats and people and uses the flea as an intermediate host, Taenia pisiformis, which infects only dogs and uses rabbits as an intermediate host, and Taenia taeniaeformis, which affects mostly cats and uses rats as intermediate hosts. Therefore, as a dog owner your main concern should be not to ever allow your dog or cat to swallow fleas or ingest rabbits, mice or rats.

The tapeworm cycle works as such:

1) A dog affected by tapeworms poops in the grass a bunch of tapeworm segments. Such segments known as ''proglottids'' squirm around releasing small packets of eggs.

2) Flea larvae consume the eggs, but also do mice, rats, and rabbits which are the tapeworm's intermediate hosts.

3) The eggs hatch inside the host. The dog then ingests the infected flea or rabbit and then the developed tapeworm attaches to the wall of the small intestine, where it produces several proglottids that are pooped again in the grass.

4) The life cycle continues as a flea, mouse, rat or rabbit ingests the eggs.. and so forth.

Symptoms and Signs of Tapeworms

Tapeworms are not really known for causing any major problems in dogs, their effect is quite self limiting. At the least, owners may notice their dog's stomach tends to rumble more than usual since tapeworms may increase intestinal motility. At times, stools may be covered in mucous, or the dog may be quite ''gassy''.

Generally, owners know their dogs have tapeworms when they notice tapeworm segments stuck to their dog's behind or on top of the stool. Tapeworm segments (the proglottis, mentioned above) resemble grains of rice, but when they move about they are capable of stretching and may look quite long. Generally, such segments will move about for a bit and then after releasing the egg packets they will dry out.

Tapeworms are one of the worms affecting dogs that manifest their presence visibly to the eye. Unlike several other worms, diagnosis is mainly not based on running a fecal test and looking for the presence of eggs (fecal flotation test) but rather from dog owners noticing signs of their presence.

Treatment For Dog Tapeworms

If the dog has been infected by tapeworms due to the presence of fleas, it is imperative to practice good flea control. This not only means applying topical products such as Frontline, but also controlling fleas in the environment, by using products that contain ''Insect Growth Regulators'' therefore that kill eggs and larvae preventing them from becoming adult fleas. This goes to the root of the problem.

The dog however must also be treated at the same time to get rid of the whole tapeworm and break the cycle. The most common medication prescribed for dogs with tapeworm is ''Droncit'' also known as ''praziquantel''. The tablets are prescribed to be given all at once. This medication causes the tapeworm to lose its ability to stay attached to the small intestine, and therefore it detaches, and is therefore digested and eliminated.

Today, there is a non prescription medication against tapeworms known as ''Tradewinds Tapeworm Tabs.''The medication works fairly quickly and the entire tapeworm is generally not seen as it is mostly digested. If there are still fleas in the dog's environment, the dog may be re-infested and generally, the presence of tapeworms may be seen again within a month.

Can Humans Get Tapeworms From Their Dogs?

This is the big question that causes many people to be concerned when they discover their dog has worms.. Those tapeworm segments found stuck to the dog's behind and at times left in the areas the dog sleeps may concern families with children. Truth is, it is quite difficult for a human to get tapeworms, but it is not impossible.

Fortunately, humans cannot get tapeworms from the segments found around the home, or by touching the dog's feces. In order to get tapeworms, according to the Center for Disease Control '' The tapeworm that your pet was diagnosed with is more than likely the flea tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). Dog or cat tapeworm infections are a result of your pet swallowing a parasite-contaminated flea. Only in very rare instances do humans accidentally swallow the contaminated fleas.''Children may be more likely to ingest flea larvae due to their tendency to put their hands in their mouth after being on a floor or carpet.

Personal Experience

When my foster dog had whitish looking worms in the stool, I did not think at first they were tapeworms as I was used to seeing them as small grains of rice on my cat's bottom. These worms on the contrary were longer and stretching as they moved. But yet, they were not long enough to look like roundworms. So I took a stool sample with some of the worms along in a ziplock bag,

The vet looked at the sample and readily said they were tapeworm segments and that they looked bigger than grains of rice since they tend to stretch as they move. Four tablets of Droncit (which cost me 16 dollars) inserted in a hot dog did the trick and I knew he got all right, when about five hours later, my foster dog went to poop. I found long shoe- laces- like strips of tapeworm segments and knew it all worked fine.

Below are pictures of before and after..they will disgust many readers, but they are valuable so dog owners know what kind of stuff can be in their dog's intestinal tracts..I myself was horribly disgusted, but was happy she finally got it all out!

Viewer dicretion advised: may make you lose your appetite! Picture with live tapeworm segments

dog tapeworm segments
dog tapeworm segments | Source

Viewer dicretion advised: may make you lose your appetite!Picture (five hours later) with dead tapeworm segments and all...

dog tapeworm treatment
dog tapeworm treatment | Source

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Alex Earle 4 months ago

        Thanks for this helpful article!

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

        I would estimate it might take one day. Check the poop for dead tapeworm. Did you use a product containing prazinquantel?

      • profile image

        pupsRups 2 years ago

        This was excellent. I bought the On The Shelf dewormer and I wonder if it works just as fast? It's only been two hours and little wigglies are still falling out.

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

        Glad to hear the pictures of dog tapeworms (yet gross) have helped you.

      • profile image

        Ronda 2 years ago

        Thank you so much!!! I found one my dog's butt.. I googled looking for info if was contagious to humans!! It was your pictures that helped a lot!!!

      • alexadry profile image

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

        Many owners are not even aware many times of tapeworms, unless they closely inspect feces and bums, because they often do not cause any major symptoms.

      • dpethealth profile image

        dpethealth 6 years ago from San Jose, CA USA

        Useful knowledge. My dog went through the same experience recently. Had to give him pills (all at once) and treat him with flee medication. Have no clue how he got it, but treatment seems to help. At least worms was gone from the poop

      • susannah42 profile image

        susannah42 6 years ago from Florida

        Scarry information. Iwill watch my pooch closely.

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

        A great hub on a topic that is not nice but sadly very common. I am sure that Many will benefit from reading this one.

        Thanks for sharing.