How Do Dogs Get Tapeworm?: Prevention Tips

Dogs are generally some of the easiest types of pets to take care of because of how hardy and resilient these animals are. That is why a lot of dog owners simply give their pets the bare minimum, and they are still able to live healthy lives that can last for a decade or so. But, even if you take good care of your dog, what you need to consider here is the fact that these animals are still prone to different health conditions.

The existence of tapeworms in your dog’s body is one of the conditions you may need to try to minimize if you really care about your dog’s health. Tapeworms are fairly common in most dogs and are usually not too serious to the point that you should be alarmed. Nevertheless, you still have to make sure that your dog is as free of these as possible.

What are tapeworms?

Tapeworms are actually small parasites that live internally in dogs and in other types of animals. They are of the same family as roundworms and hookworms in the sense that they are some of the most common types of parasites found internally in dogs, cats, humans, and all other different types of animals. The tapeworm gets its name from its appearance, which is flat and segmented to make it look like tape.

Reasons why your dog has tapeworms

Tapeworms are, again, fairly common in a lot of different animals. However, what you should also know is that these parasites can infect your dog’s internal systems through a lot of different means. Here are some of the reasons why your dog has tapeworms:

  1. It ingested the tapeworm’s eggs. This is the most common reason why dogs have tapeworms. They get the tapeworms from a lot of different sources, such as when they are grooming themselves, and they happen to have tapeworm eggs on different parts of their coat. Another way they ingest it is through fleas, which they commonly ingest whenever they are trying to get the flea off of their body. Fleas are actually common carriers of tapeworm eggs. 

In some cases, the dog may get the tapeworms whenever it is scavenging its surroundings for food or if it happened to come into close contact with other animals that may be carrying it.

  1. The digested tapeworm eggs will soon find their way into the dog’s small intestine, where it will settle for quite a while until the eggs hatch and become adults. An adult tapeworm can be as long as about 28 inches, but there are some cases when it can be longer than that.
  2. Because tapeworms are actually segmented in the sense that their bodies are formed by different independent parts, the segments may end up breaking apart and will find themselves in the dog’s stool. The segments contain tapeworm eggs, which would then find a new host when the stool is ingested by another animal or is actually eaten again by the same dog.

Symptoms of tapeworms

  • The best way to tell if your dog has tapeworms is to check its stool. A dog’s stool is one of the main carriers of tapeworm segments, which are also some of the most common carriers of tapeworm eggs. You probably won’t ever see a full adult tapeworm in the dog’s stool since the dog only actually excretes the segments, which will die out shortly after they are excreted. 
  • Due to how irritating the tapeworm segments are when it latches on to the dog’s bottom, the dog will often scoot or drag its butt around to try to relieve itself from the irritation. This is another indication of the presence of tapeworms.
  • You may also try to check the dog’s vomit if it happens to throw up. There are some cases when a segment may find itself in the dog’s vomit. 

Effects of tapeworms

Generally speaking, tapeworms are not too harmful as dogs and animals have actually come to develop strong immune systems that allow them to withstand the presence of tapeworms in their systems. Tapeworms are quite common in humans and animals alike and are not expected to do a lot of damage except in cases when the infection is already too heavy.

When your dog has a heavy tapeworm infestation, the most prominent effect you should expect is that it will be too difficult for it to lose weight because of how some of its nutrients are going to the tapeworms. Other than that, the dog will still eat normally and will not feel a lot of effects coming from a heavy tapeworm infestation in its internals.

Another effect that tapeworms may have on dogs is the simple irritation they cause when they latch on the dog’s behind after they are excreted through feces. Dogs often find this to be quite irritating to the point that they will scoot or even drag their butts around to try to feel some sort of relief from the irritation.

Treatment and prevention

While tapeworms are not too harmful, you should still try to minimize their numbers or totally eliminate them from your dog because of how they may cause your dog to lose significant weight even if it is actually eating well. This is important for dog owners and breeders who want to make sure that their dogs are healthy and are at the right weight range.

Treatment of tapeworms is actually quite easy. You simply have to take the dog to a vet and take a stool sample that will indicate the presence of tapeworms in its system. Once the presence of tapeworms is confirmed, the vet will prescribe a prescription drug that is used to treat tapeworms by causing them to dissolve in the dog’s intestine and then get excreted out. The medicine may be administered orally or through an injection. It also has no known side-effects that are generally serious.

Preventing tapeworm is the next step to make sure that your dog is as free from them as possible after you have eliminated them from its body. Do the following to prevent them or to minimize their numbers:

  • Keep them free from fleas as much as possible because fleas are some of the more common carriers of tapeworms.
  • Clean up after your pet as soon as possible because of how the dog’s fecal matter contains tapeworm eggs that can easily find their way back to your dog or to other animals around it.
  • Make sure that the dog is as far away from other animals that are infected with tapeworms.
  • Sanitize your house or the dog’s environment to see to it that there are no other possible ways for it to get infected by tapeworms.
  • Children should be taught to wash their hands right away after playing with your dog. This is because tapeworm eggs may find their way into the children’s hands and maybe ingest by either the children or the dogs, which will then start a new cycle of life for the tapeworms. Also, keep the kids away from areas that are often soiled with dog feces to make sure that they are as free as possible from tapeworm eggs.
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Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

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