Internal Parasites and Deworming
Tapeworms in Dogs and Cats
February 19, 2023
Tapeworms are flat intestinal worms made up of multiple small segments, which are about three to five mm long. Tapeworms generally live and attach themselves on the wall of the small intestine by using their hook-like mouths. Once attached, the tapeworm begins to grow a long tail of segments, each having its own reproductive system. When a segment reaches maturity, it drops off with its eggs and passes through the feces.
There are several common tapeworms that infect dogs and cats, including Dipylidium caninum, Taenia species, Echniococcus granulosus and E. multiocularis, Spirometra mansonoides, and Diphyllobothrium latum. The most common tapeworms found in dogs and cats are Dipylidium caninum and the Taenia species.
How Do Tapeworms Spread in Dogs and Cats?
Unlike with other worms, dogs and cats cannot become infected with tapeworms simply by eating worm eggs. Instead, tapeworms first pass through an intermediate host, such as a flea, rabbit, bird, or rodent. For example, the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm egg starts out in the environment where it is swallowed by immature flea larvae. Once inside the flea, the egg develops and can be transmitted when a dog ingests a flea during grooming or in response to a flea bite. When a dog passes the worm segments in the feces, the process can start all over.
Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs and Cats
The most common symptom of tapeworms in dogs and cats is the appearance of grain-like rice around an animal’s anus or in the feces. Dogs may constantly lick their anus or scoot their butt along the ground. In severe cases, animals may suffer from vomiting, weight loss, a dull coat, lack of appetite, fatigue, or diarrhea. Although tapeworms don’t usually cause serious health problems, heavier infestations can be serious, resulting in anemia and intestinal blockages.
How Do You Know If An Animal Has Tapeworms?
Unlike hookworms and whipworms which are too small to see in the stool, tapeworms are large enough to be seen in the feces or around the anus. Diagnosis is made by observing tapeworm segments found in the feces of the dog or cat.
Treatment of Tapeworms
Tapeworms are usually treated with a dewormer containing Praziquantel or Fenbendazole for dogs such as Safeguard Canine Dewormer. Panacur C is a highly effective wormer for dogs, or you can choose to use Worm X Plus or D-Worm Combo. For cats, we suggest using Drontal for Cats or Profender for Cats.
For the effective removal of tapeworms, it is crucial to control fleas as well. It is important to control the fleas on your pet and in the environment for complete flea and tapeworm control.
How Do You Prevent Tapeworm in Animals?
Keeping your animals on a regular worming schedule with a dewormer will help control and prevent parasites. Another factor in successfully preventing tapeworms is to control the fleas on your pet and in your environment. It’s also a good idea to keep your pet from coming into contact with intermediate hosts such as mice, rats, squirrels, and rabbits.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.