Understanding the Canine Tapeworm Life Cycle

Canine tapeworm disease is caused by parasites inside fleas which infect dogs when they swallow the flea while licking or cleaning themselves. Understanding the canine tapeworm life cycle can help identify symptoms of an infected dog.

The Tapeworm Parasite

Tapeworms are made up of a series of segments about the size of a grain of rice. Their eggs packets are eaten by flea larvae, which then hatch and grow inside the flea's body cavity. When the infected flea is swallowed by a dog, it is digested and the tapeworms are released into the dog's intestine and attaches to the wall lining. The tapeworm gets its nourishment from the food that passes through the dog.

As the tapeworm grows, the older segments fall off and form egg packets. The egg packets are passed in the dog's feces where the flea larvae then eat them. The cycle starts over again when the dog eats the infected fleas.

Symptoms of Canine Tapeworms

Symptoms of canine tapeworms include excessive scratching or chewing around the anus in an attempt to relieve the itching felt when the worms are passed. Tapeworm segments may also be seen in stools and the dog may have an increased appetite to compensate for the nutrients being lost because the tapeworm is absorbing them.