Tapeworms, which can grow to over 2 feet in length, attach themselves to the intestinal wall in their host. From there, they parasitize nutrients from the host’s diet. Although tapeworms do not frequently cause symptoms or major illness, they can lead to malnutrition over time. In puppies, this can stunt growth and proper development and cause a dull, dry coat and other health problems if nutritional imbalances are not corrected.
"As with other types of intestinal parasites, an appropriate worming drug is necessary to eliminate a tapeworm infection."
The most telling indication of a tapeworm infection is the presence of tapeworm segments around the anus or in the feces. Tapeworms are segmented parasites capable of regeneration, and their pouch-like pieces contain eggs. The pieces detach for release in the stool for propagation. Visible segments generally resemble sesame seeds or grains of rice.
Transmission and Diagnosis of Tapeworm Infections in Dogs
Dipylidium caninum is the most common tapeworm species to affect dogs. Dogs contract the infection by ingesting an intermediary host, typically fleas or lice. Humans can also contract this tapeworm in the same manner as dogs. Other types of tapeworms may be acquired by eating live, raw, or undercooked host animals such as small rodents, rabbits, sheep, fish, wild game, or cattle. Consuming feces that contains tapeworm eggs may also result in infection.
Affected dogs pass tapeworm segments in their stool, and it is possible to confirm the presence of a tapeworm infection by observation of segments around the anus, in the stool, or on bedding. Your veterinarian can perform a fecal examination to be certain.
Treating Your Dog’s Tapeworms
As with other types of intestinal parasites, an appropriate worming drug is necessary to eliminate a tapeworm infection. Because tapeworm segments grow back, the head must be destroyed to kill a tapeworm. Drontal Plus and Droncit Canine are common products for treating tapeworm infections in dogs. Your veterinarian can advise you on proper dosing for your puppy or dog.
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