General Information About Tapeworms in Dogs

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By Tess Thompson

Being aware of the possibility of worms in dogs is an essential part of owning a dog. You need to know about the symptoms of worm infestation right from the day you bring a dog into your home.

Tapeworms are one of the intestinal parasites that require keen observation for diagnosis. For dog owners to know whether their pet is infested with tapeworms, it is important for them to know about their appearance, lifecycle and symptoms.

Dog tapeworm gets its name from the tape-like appearance that it has. A tapeworm is flat and has segments. It has a head and a neck, and the remaining part of the tapeworm is broken into segments. The tapeworm uses muscular grooves present in the head to attach itself to the intestines of the host. New segments are continually formed in the neck region. The ones at the end mature and are shed periodically.

Each segment has its own reproductive organs and contains a large number of eggs that are grouped in packets. Once mature, these segments are detached from the main body and are excreted. Mobile segments can be seen near the anus of the dog or on top of fresh feces. Once the tapeworm segments dry up, they look like uncooked rice or cucumber seeds.


Even though there are five types of tapeworms that can infest dogs and cats, their life cycles are similar. All tapeworms need an intermediate host before reaching an infective stage. Herbivores such as sheep, pigs and fish are the most common intermediate hosts. There are two common ways through which tapeworms reach a definitive host.

The first route that the tapeworm can take to reach the definitive host is when an intermediate host ingests tapeworm eggs. These eggs generally come from the feces of a definitive host. The eggs hatch in the digestive system of the host and migrate to the lungs and the liver. If the dog ingests any kind of infected offal (waste parts of a butchered animal often considered inedible by humans), he is likely to get infected. This is one of the most common routes through which feline parasitesenter a cat’s body also.

The other process of infestation begins when flea larvae swallow tapeworm eggs. The most common place where this occurs is in flea-ridden beddings and carpets. When an infected flea bites the dog, he often unintentionally chews or ingests the flea. The flea is digested and the tapeworm eggs hatch and attach themselves to the intestinal linings.


Tapeworms do not have a digestive system of their own. They can only absorb food through their skin. While looking for symptoms of worms in dogs, it is better to remember that tapeworms are not very pathogenic. Generally tapeworms cause more discomfort to the intermediate host rather than the definitive host.

But they can cause weakening and loss of energy to the definitive host. Excessive weight loss is also one of the key symptoms of tapeworm infestation, especially when they are present in large numbers. Some dogs may drag their anus on the ground to relieve themselves of the irritation caused by tapeworms in that area. If the tapeworm moves into the stomach, it can cause irritation and vomiting. A heavy infestation of dog tapeworms may cause intestinal blockage, but this occurs only in rare cases.

Infection caused by fleas can be diagnosed by physical evidence. An adult tapeworm is rarely seen but the segments are easily noticed since they tend to be expelled out of the body.Infection caused by eating an infected intermediate host is difficult to diagnose as the segments are small and difficult to notice.


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