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Randy Walker DVM

About Tapeworms...

Tapeworms (scientifically named Diplidium caninum, Taenia pisiformis, and Taenia taeniaformis) are common parasites of dogs and cats in our area. Tapeworms live in the small intestine and compete with the pet for the food they eat. (See Dog Tapeworms and Cat Tapeworms)

What Are The Symptoms Of Tapeworms?

The most common symptoms are scooting on the rear end to relieve the itching caused by the crawling, egg containing segments which are shed by the worm. In some cases the pet will be unthrifty (dull coat) and will show weight loss. The pet will also sometimes experience mild diarrhea, gas, vomiting, and lack of energy. In a small percentage of severe cases, tapeworms can cause intestinal blockage due to their bulk. In most cases, however, the tapeworms cause little impairment of health.

How Are Tapeworms Transmitted?

Tapeworms are transmitted when the pet ingests (meaning to take in by mouth) an intermediate host containing the infectious stage of the tapeworm. Creatures that can act as intermediate hosts for tapeworms include fleas, mice, rabbits, small mammals, and many small insects. Tapeworms can also be transmitted when dogs and cats eat raw (or poorly cooked) pork, fish, or beef. After the pet ingests the infectious stage, the tapeworm then embeds its head into the wall of the small intestine. Here it forms a long segmented body. The end segments (called proglotids) are the oldest ones and they contain the infectious egg of the tapeworm. These last segments will periodically break-off and crawl around on the pet's rear end or in the stool. After leaving the body the tapeworm segment dries and is eaten by one of the intermediate hosts listed above (flea, mouse, rabbit, etc). In the intermediate host the tapeworm undergoes another part of its life cycle and is then infectious for a dog or cat if they ingest the intermediate host (such as when biting fleas, eating raw beef or pork, or hunting for mice or rabbits). The tapeworm infects the pet directly and does not have intermediate stages in which immature larvae migrate through the body (as is the case with some other parasites such as roundworms).

How Are Tapeworms Diagnosed?

Tapeworms are usually diagnosed by observing the tapeworm segments in the stool and around the anus. Tapeworm eggs are also occasionally found on a stood sample analysis under the microscope.

Can People Catch Dog Or Cat Tapeworms?

Generally speaking the answer is "no" although it's possible to catch dog or cat tapeworms under certain bizarre circumstances. When proper common sense hygiene is observed people will not become infected with dog or cat tapeworms. It should be noted, however, that people can get infected on occasion with other species of tapeworms but not from dog or cat tapeworms. Humans usually get tapeworms from eating poorly cooked meat products (beef or pork).

How Are Tapeworms Treated?

We treat tapeworms with special deworming products in either a tablet or injectable (shot) form.

How Effective Is The Injection For Tapeworms?

This dewormer has been shown to be 100% effective.

Is A Follow-Up Injection Needed For Tapeworms?

No. Because of their direct life cycle the tapeworms are eliminated all at once. However, it should be noted that re-infection with tapeworms is not uncommon.

How Can A Pet Become Re-infected With Tapeworms?

If they are still in the same environment, that environment is unaltered, and the dog or cat engages in the same behavior (hunting mice or rabbits, biting fleas, eating raw meat, etc) then these pets can become re-infected.

How Can Re-infection With Tapeworms Be Prevented?

Eliminate fleas from the pet when they are present and follow a flea prevention program. Try to prevent the pet from hunting small mammals such as mice or rabbits. Do not feed raw meat or fish to dogs or cats.

Besides Tapeworms, Are There Other Internal Parasites That My Dog Or Cat Can Become Infected With?

Yes. In addition to tapeworms dogs can become infected with roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms (all of which are worms), coccidia (which are one-celled parasites), and giardia (a protozoa parasite) among others. Cats can become infected with roundworms and hookworms, coccidia, toxoplasma (a one-celled parasite), and giardia among others.

- Randy Walker DVM
Sun Lakes Animal Clinic
May 17,2004

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