Dog Tapeworm Symptoms

The dog tapeworm, also known as Dipylidium caninum or taenia, is an intestinal parasite. The parasite is located in the dog's intestine and feeds on the dog's food, so puppies and weaker dogs may get anemia.

Methods of Infection

The tapeworm may be contracted by ingesting a flea that carries tapeworm eggs. In rare cases, a dog may get infected with a tapeworm by eating a rodent or small animal that carries a taenia.

Dog Tapeworm Symptoms

The tapeworm is a larger parasite that is made up of several segments. These segments, called proglottids, carry tapeworm eggs and may detach from the body of the tapeworm. These segments may be visible in the feces of the dog or come out of the dog's rectum when he sleeps. Each proglottid is the size of a rice grain and may move or be still.

Other signs and symptoms of dog tapeworms include:

  • Mild weight loss, because the tapeworm feeds on the dog's nutrients
  • Vomiting, because the parasites cause intestinal irritation
  • Itching around the anus; the itchiness is caused by the proglottids that may be in the rectal area, and the dog will drag his backside on the floor to ease the itchiness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Visible tapeworm segments in the rectal area or in the dog's fur in the behind area
  • Anal irritation

A vet will need a stool sample to establish if the dog has a tapeworm, but if you notice tapeworm segments, the diagnosis should be clear. The vet may also determine the type of tapeworm: taenia or Dipylidium caninum.

Tapeworm Treatment

Tapeworms don't cause much harm to dogs, except for irritation and itchiness in the anal area. However, you need to treat the condition to keep your dog clean and healthy.

The vet will prescribe tapeworm medication. Only one dose should kill the parasite, as tapeworms don't have a larval form like other worms have. The medication will remove the coating of the tapeworm and dissolve it, together with the eggs. The tapeworm will not be visible in the feces, as other worms, as the tapeworm dissolves. To make sure your dog is fully cured, repeat the examination of the feces 2 weeks after administering the treatment.

Regular dewormers are not effective in treating the tapeworm.

As part of the treatment, you need to get rid of the fleas from your household to prevent re-infection. Use flea shampoos or powders to eliminate the fleas from your pet, and change your dog's bedding. Clean the home using chemicals, as these will burn the fleas. If you have a yard, make sure to clean it too.

Tapeworm Prevention

Tapeworms, especially Dipylidium caninum, may be prevented if you keep your pet free of fleas. Get a flea collar and use tick repellents to make sure your dog doesn't get infected while playing with other dogs.

Supervise your dog to make sure he doesn't eat rodents or rabbits that may carry tapeworm eggs.