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, eliminate shedding of infective eggs and larvae, and prevent cycles of re-infection.
The only way to complete cure a dog of tapeworms is to destroy the heads of all of the parasites – especially those that are attached to the lining of the small intestine. If the heads are not destroyed, the tapeworms can regenerate, much like a lizard can regrow its tail. There are a number of de-worming medications that successfully treat tapeworm infection. However, they are not necessarily the same drugs that are effective against other types of internal parasites. Many owners make the mistake of buying over-the-counter de-wormers on the assumption that they will get rid of all intestinal parasites, including tapeworms. Only a veterinarian can identify the precise medication, and the dosage, that is appropriate for a dog with a particular species of tapeworms.
Even the most effective tapeworm medicines will not prevent re-infection if there are adult fleas or lice in a dog’s environment, or if the dog has access to rabbits, rats, rodents or other infected intermediate host animals. Both the dog and its environment must be treated and managed to ensure that the tapeworm lifecycle is effectively broken.
The prognosis for dogs with tapeworms is excellent, as long as their owners follow appropriate treatment and de-worming protocols.