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Tapeworms in dogs
A wide range of tapeworm species are capable of infecting dogs. One of the most commonly found species in dogs are Dipylidium caninum, a tapeworm spread by lice and fleas. Dogs that eat rodents and rabbits can become infected with a tapeworm named Taenia pisiformis. Other examples of tapeworms capable of infecting dogs are the tapeworms in the genera Echinococcus, Mesocestoides, and Spirometra. All tapeworms belong to Cestoda, a class of parasitic flatworms. Cestoda species live in the digestive tract of vertebrates, such as dogs and humans, as adult. As juveniles, these tapeworms can be found in a much broader range of animals.
What are tapeworms?
Dipylidium caninum is the most common tapeworm species in dogs. This tapeworm will attach itself to the intestines of the dog and start to grow. Adult specimens can reach a length of 20 cm (8 inches) and consists of a long row of segments. An adult tapeworm will regularly release the end segments, which contains tapeworm eggs. Sometimes, the dog owner will be able to see these mobile segments near the anus of the dog or in the dog’s faeces. They look a bit like rice grains and will turn golden as they dry.
How do dogs catch tapeworm?
A dog can become infected with Dipylidium caninum by swallowing a flea infected with tapeworm eggs. As mentioned above, an infected dog will release tapeworm eggs in its faeces and around its anus. A flea larva will then eat the eggs and become infected. When the flea becomes an adult, it will still be infected. When the adult flea causes skin irritation for the dog by biting, the dog will lick the area, thereby ingesting the infected flea. The flea will be digested in the intestine of the dog and a tapeworm will be released. The tapeworm attaches itself to the intestinal lining of the dog and starts to grow.
Keeping your dog and its environment free of fleas is a good way of preventing the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm from getting to your dog.
Tapeworm symptoms in dogs
In most cases, a tapeworm infection will not cause serious harm to your dog. A large number of tapeworms in a dog can however lead to weight loss and debilitation. Some dogs will start to scoot or drag the anus across the ground since their skin is irritated by tapeworm segments. You may be able to see white segments coming out of your dog or being present in its faeces. These segments are released parts of the adult tapeworm.
It is possible for a tapeworm to let go of the intestines and migrate to the stomach of the infected dog. This will cause stomach irritation and the dog will vomit the worm. In the vomits, you can see a several inches long tapeworm.
Tapeworm treatment for dogs
Today, we have a safe and efficient way of treating dogs infected with tapeworms – medication containing the active ingredient Praziquantel. This anti-tapeworm medication can be administered orally or by injection and will make the tapeworm dissolve inside the intestines of the dog. Most dogs suffer from no significant side effects of Praziquantel treatment.
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West Highland White Terrier