Fleas, Internal Parasites and Deworming, Shelter and Rescue Resources

Tapeworms and Fleas: More Than Just a Flea Problem

If your dog has fleas, he could have tapeworms too.

Dipylidium caninum, the most common tapeworm species in dogs, is transmitted by fleas. Dogs can’t get tapeworms directly from other dogs or even cats. These parasites infect your pet through an intermediate host, like a flea.

Tapeworm Life Cycle in Dogs and Cats

Flea larvae in carpeting and pet bedding eat D. caninum eggs eliminated by an infected pet. As the flea matures, so does the tapeworm. By the time the flea is an adult, the tapeworm larvae is at a state where it can infect a dog. When a dog nips at a biting flea and accidentally swallows it, he swallows the infectious tapeworm larvae, as well.

Inside the dog, the adult tapeworm hooks onto the dog’s intestinal wall. Once attached, the tapeworm begins to grow a long tail of segments, each segment with its own digestive tract and reproductive system. The tapeworm continues to grow as it absorbs nutrients passing through the dog’s intestines. As a segment reaches the tail end of the tapeworm body, it drops off, full of eggs. These eggs are passed through the dog into the world, where they are eaten by flea larvae and the cycle begins all over again.

Tapeworm Treatment in Dogs and Cats

If you see little, flat white “grains” in your dog’s droppings, that’s a good sign your dog has tapeworms. Panacur C® is a highly effective wormer but can only be used in dogs. Another choices for dogs is Worm X Plus®. The active ingredient in this wormer is Praziquantel, which is effective in the removal of tapeworms. It’s safe for dogs and puppies over four weeks old. Do not use Praziquantel with pregnant dogs. Effective dewormers for cats are Drontal® Cat and Profender® Cat.

Does Tapeworm Mean My Dog Has Fleas?

Remember, for effective removal of tapeworms you need to control fleas, as well. Make sure you use effective flea and tick products to control fleas both on your pet and in your environment for complete flea and tapeworm control. Rotate your flea and tick products to ensure efficacy.

To find the best flea protection for your dog or cat use Revival’s Flea & Tick Finder.
Flea and Tick Finder button

If you need help with how to treat fleas or tapeworms in dogs or cats, call us at 800.786.4751.

Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services. This article has been updated/reviewed by Dr. Greer.

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.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.