Tapeworms in Pets
Jeffrey Smith, B.S. – Veterinary Technician
- What are tapeworms?
- Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum) are flat intestinal parasites that attach to the inside of dogs and cats intestines and feed off of food passing through. They can grow to half a foot in length or longer.
- How do I know if my pet has tapeworms?
- The most common symptom of tapeworm infection is the appearance of egg sacs in your pet’s feces and/or around the rectum. These egg sacs are usually described as resembling a grain of rice. The adult tapeworm sheds the egg sacs as it grows, which are then expelled when a pet defecates. Tapeworm infections generally do not appear on a routine fecal screening.
- How did my pet get tapeworms?
- Tapeworm infections are caused by the ingestion of a flea that was infected with tapeworms. Flea larvae are infected via ingestion of tapeworm eggs that then mature as the flea larva matures. The adult flea is then ingested by a dog or cat and digested, leaving behind the adult tapeworm. Fleas are ingested when pets bite themselves due to itching caused by the fleas or while grooming.
- What is the treatment for tapeworms?
- There are several medications that treat tapeworm infections; these are available from your veterinarian in several forms. However, the most effective method of tapeworm control is flea control. Tapeworm infections have very mild if any symptoms in dogs and cats. What is more concerning and poses greater health risks to your pet is their method of infestation, the flea. Control of fleas both on your pet and in their environment is crucial to prevent re-infection.
- Can I get tapeworms from my pet?
- Tapeworm infection in humans is very rare but is possible by the ingestion of an infected flea.
Jeffrey Smith, B.S.