Tapeworm Infection in Dogs
What are Tapeworms?
Tapeworms are parasites that live inside a dog’s small intestine. They can range from less than one inch to several feet in length. Dogs get tapeworms when they eat an intermediate host that has tapeworm eggs, larvae or cysts inside it. The intermediate host can be a bird, fish, reptile, sheep, cow, goat, deer, elk, horse, pig, rabbit or rat. Fleas and lice also carry tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms bury into the sensitive lining of a dog’s intestine, feeding on blood and sucking up essential nutrients slowly and steadily over a long period of time. Adult tapeworms develop egg packets, which eventually break off and are passed out in the dog’s feces. These egg packets can move on their own, which is a bit creepy to see. Tapeworms usually don’t cause many symptoms in dogs, other than occasional stomach aches, anal itchiness, butt scooting and weight loss. Owners may see tapeworm segments crawling around their dog’s rear end. They look like grains of rice or sesame seeds.
Dogs become infected with tapeworms by eating an intermediate host that contains tapeworm eggs, larvae or cysts. Intermediate hosts are organisms that other organisms, usually parasites, live inside of while they are going through some transitional stage of development. For example, the parasite may hatch from an egg into its larval form inside of its intermediate host. The intermediate host may or may not also act as the carrier, or vector, that transmits the parasite
In most cases, dogs with tapeworms do not show many signs of discomfort or distress. Frequently, they act (and presumably feel) completely normal, even if they have a severe tapeworm infection. It is very common for owners to be astonished, and usually disgusted, when they find out that their dogs are carrying a heavy tapeworm load. While these parasites survive by sucking blood and key nutrients out of their canine hosts, they tend to do
Tapeworm infection in dogs is not particularly difficult to diagnose. The most common way to detect tapeworms is by fecal flotation. This procedure involves processing a fresh stool sample and examining the end-product under a microscope for tapeworm eggs, which are quite large and usually are readily distinguishable from the eggs of other intestinal parasites. Sometimes, a dog will have tapeworms, but the particular stool sample will not contain any eggs, or at least not
A dog should be treated for tapeworm infection when eggs or egg packets are detected in its fecal sample or when worm segments are detected around its perianal area. Treatment should also take place in the less common case where tapeworms are diagnosed in a dog that presents to a veterinarian with symptoms of weight loss, abdominal pain and general ill-thrift. The goals of treating tapeworms are to remove adult worms from the gastrointestinal tract,