Pet Tips

Dogs and Tapeworms – Pet tip 163

The simplified tapeworm story is that tapeworms are parasites that live in your dog’s intestine and they usually get into your dog’s intestine by way of ingested fleas. The flea itself is the host and is necessary for your dog to get a tapeworm. This is why certain fleas and tapeworms work together to survive, reproduce, and why they are inextricably related. Tapeworms are made up of small segments resembling grains of rice but the entire tapeworm can average many inches in length. The tapeworm grows by absorbing the nutrients from food that the dog eats. As the tapeworm continues to grow, its segments are shed and leave the dog’s body through its rear end. Each segment has the ability to move around and will move around until it dies but not before releasing eggs. The eggs are often released when the dog is relaxed or sleeping and they are usually noticeable. These eggs are eaten by nearby fleas and then the dog can ingest the flea through grooming, and thus the flea/tapeworm cycle continues. The fleas themselves can also jump quite a distance and have the ability to jump from pet to pet. If a human has the misfortune of swallowing this same type of flea, a human can also get a tapeworm. It’s not that common but it happens.

Although tapeworm segments are quite disgusting for the average dog owner to witness, they usually don’t severely harm your pet. This is because although the tapeworm does steal nutrients from your dog, it normally doesn’t steal enough of them to drastically affect your dog’s behaviour or energy level. That said, if you have a very active dog you may notice a decrease in its energy level. Additionally, if the dog has multiple tapeworms then weight loss and energy loss can be noticed. Other consequences to your dog commonly include irritation and itchiness of your dog’s anus. If this is the case a common symptom to look out for is scooting. Scooting behaviour is exhibited when a dog drags its bum along the floor in order to relieve the itchiness.

In order to get rid of these tapeworms you’ll need to see your vet who can properly administer the necessary medication to get rid of them. Luckily these medications are very effective. Your vet may suggest a second treatment a few weeks later in order to get rid new fleas that your dog may have ingested. Although in most parts of Canada and the U.S. tapeworms are seasonal diseases, in parts of the world where it is consistently humid, tapeworms can be a problem all year long.

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