Canine Health Menu

Tapeworms

Issue Description
Tapeworms that infect canines belong to the Cestoda class of parasitic platyhelminthic worms which almost exclusively inhabit the intestinal tracts of vertebrate animals. The worms do attach themselves to the inner walls of the intestine, but do not suck blood in the same volume as do hookworms. As the worms mature they shed mobile segments that are then passed in the feces and may often be seen around the anus, on the dog's coat, or in bedding. Though it is not among the most harmful of parasites, it is still important to minimize tapeworm infections in your companion animals, as they may be passed to other mammals and occasionally humans.


Symptoms and Diagnosis
Because tapeworm infections often cause minimal problems, clinical symptoms may be slight or nonexistent. The most common cause for suspicion of tapeworm infection is the sighting of small segments on the dog's coat, around the anus, in his bedding, or on carpet frequented by the dog. These segments resemble grains of rice when new but change color slightly and become golden as they dry. Segments may cause irritation and cause your dog to lick the anus excessively or scoot across the floor in an effort to alleviate the irritation. Occasionally a tapeworm will release its attachment to the intestinal wall and move into the stomach, causing digestive upset and resulting in an episode of vomiting. The 5 to 8 inch long worm may sometimes be observed in vomit.

Though clinical symptoms are not common, especially severe tapeworm infestations may cause debilitation and weight loss if left untreated.

Once suspicion has been established, laboratory diagnosis is quite simple. Your veterinarian will examine a stool sample under the microscope in search of characteristic eggs. If eggs are detected, treatment can begin immediately.


Treatment
There are a variety of treatments for canine tapeworms. Drugs can either be injected or given orally that will cause the worms to dissolve. Fleas play a role in the infection of canine tapeworms. Therefore, controlling fleas is an important part of treatment. There are a number of topical treatments, collars, and powders that you can use for effective flea control.

Prevention
Flea control (FrontLine or BioSpot, for example) is the best way to prevent this type of tapeworm infestation. Treating animals as well as the home, yard, kennel and bedding is recommended. Regularly picking up dog feces may help as well. Children should not be allowed to play on or near contaminated areas, and dogs who may be infected should be kept away from childrens' play areas.

Dogs
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