Vet Blog

Tapeworms in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

February 16, 2022

Tapeworms in dogs can cause serious health issues such as anemia, weight loss, and intestinal blockages if left untreated.

If you notice any signs of tapeworms infecting your dog, it is important to see a vet as soon as possible for treatment.

Tapeworms are the adult forms of Cestoda, a class of parasitic worms that live in the intestines of their hosts. The most common type of tapeworm in dogs is dipylidium caninum, better known as the "flea" or "cucumber" tapeworm.

Tapeworm Symptoms in Dogs

The symptoms of tapeworms in dogs can vary, depending on the age of the dog and the severity of the infection. The first place to look for signs of tapeworms in dogs is in their poop.

As tapeworms grow, segments of their bodies fall off and pass through a dog's poop. The worm segments will briefly be alive after your dog has popped and noticeable as yellow specks that will wiggle about. After the worm segments die, they dry up and harden, and can be found in your dog's bedding, or in their fur, as well as in their poop.

Tapeworm segments also cause irritation that a dog will attempt to relieve by scooting or dragging their butt on the ground. Other dogs will lick their behinds more often instead. While the former is a more obvious sign that something is wrong, if your dog's grooming habits are out of the norm, it could be a sign of tapeworms.

If a tapeworm or segments of one happen to migrate into your dog's stomach, they will oftentimes vomit up the parasite. At times like these, you may see an entire worm in your pet's vomit. Even after vomiting, there may still be other parasites inside your dog's intestines, so you should seek treatment if you see a tapeworm in your dog's vomit.

In more serious infections, especially in younger dogs, two primary complications may occur. First, intestinal blockage may occur, resulting in your dog experiencing nausea, pain, and an inability to poop.

Second, and more seriously, weight loss may occur despite your dog eating regular or even larger portions of food. Beyond the obvious concerns brought on by a dog being underweight such as losing body mass and energy, many younger dogs experience stunted growth after an infection causes weight loss.

How to Treat Tapeworms in Dogs

While the initial stages of infection may be relatively harmless, it's imperative that you seek testing for your dog if you notice any symptoms of tapeworms. Even if it turns out that the symptoms weren't caused by a parasite, symptoms like weight loss could be caused by even worse conditions like cancer. For the sake of your dog's wellness, speak with your veterinarian so you can find out the root cause.

If your dog has a tapeworm infection, then your veterinarian will probably prescribe a drug known as praziquantel. This parasiticide is available in oral and injection forms and causes the adult tapeworms to detach from the intestinal walls. This allows the worm to be digested as it passes through the dog's gut, which kills the parasite. Note that you will not see the remains or worms in your dog's poop because they will have been digested and dissolved.

How Can You Prevent Tapeworms Infections?

Of course, it's always best to prevent an infection if you can. To do so, it's important to understand that tapeworms have to be passed to your dog from another host. Typically, this host comes in the form of a flea. When a dog swallows fleas that are infected with tapeworm eggs, tapeworms will then be able to grow inside the dog's body. Tapeworms are one reason you should always use some sort of flea spray, powder, collar, oral medication, or topical medication to keep fleas away.

Your dog can also get a tapeworm infection if they interact with other dogs or animals who have fleas. It's always wise to regularly check with your veterinarian and create a deworming plan for your pet, especially if they spend a lot of time outside. Deworming plans are effectively planned, regular shots and treatments for your pets that should prevent or kill any parasites seeking to make your pet their home. For most adult dogs, two regular visits a year is enough to suffice.

What If Your Dog Is Infected?

Here at Animal Care Center of Castle Pines, our holistic approach to veterinary care pushes us to consider every possible cause of a dog's symptoms. Because symptoms of tapeworms are similar to symptoms of other diseases, we make sure to check for tapeworm infection as well as other conditions. Our expert staff is ready to take care of your dog and make sure they receive the necessary care to treat a tapeworm infection. If we find out that it is a different condition, we can provide treatment while ensuring your pet's health and comfort. Contact us today at 303-688-3660 to schedule an appointment.