Does your dog have tapeworm?
Tapeworms are a common problem for most dogs. These parasites can live in the intestine for a long time before you notice any health problems, but there are still a number of warning signs to look out for.
There are several different types of tapeworm that can infect your dog, but the most common is contracted through fleas, which often carry the worm larvae. These larvae are often ingested by a dog when he grooms, and they attach themselves to his gut before growing into flat, white worms between four and eight inches long. The worms feed slowly and there are often no clear symptoms for a long time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spot them if you know what you’re looking for:
As the tapeworm grows, some of its segments will fall off – sometimes to be seen in dogs’ faeces or crawling in their bedding. These segments may either look like moving pieces of rice or, if they are dried out, hard yellow specks that can stick to your dogs´ fur.
If infected, your dog may ‘scoot’ around the floor a lot, or bite or lick their bottom, trying to relieve the itching caused by tapeworm. However, there are more common reasons for scooting, such as blocked or irritated anal sacs, or skin inflammation. Either way, your vet will be able to help.
As the tapeworms grow inside your dog they may cause vomiting. You may then see the segments or the actual worm in the vomit. Of course, vomiting can indicate a huge variety of problems, from eating something they shouldn’t to more serious conditions. If your dog vomits frequently or displays other symptoms such as lethargy or severe diarrhoea, then see the vet as soon as possible.
In cases of heavy tapeworm infection, your dog may lose weight, despite eating normally. This is due to the tapeworm feeding on the nutrients in the dog’s food. Like vomiting, weight loss can have a variety of causes. If there are no obvious reasons for the weight loss, such as increased exercise or a change in diet, then your dog might need to visit a vet for treatment.
Viewed under a powerful microscope, tapeworms look like creatures from another planet and can be alarming, but they are easy to treat and remove. Worming medication like Drontal can be given as a tablet and it works quickly to kill any worms that might be lurking in your dog’s gut and your dog will soon be back to full health.
Of course, like most infestations, prevention is better than cure and there are a number of steps you can take to keep your dog safe from tapeworm. The best way is by maintaining a regular schedule of flea treatments, whether it’s a spot-on, collar or oral medication. Other tapeworms can be contracted after scavenging from dead livestock such as sheep or cattle. Not letting your dog roam unsupervised and checking their coat regularly for fleas will help to steer them clear of this unpleasant parasite.
Did you know…
Tapeworms in dogs have been known to grow up to sixteen feet long (but most are only a few inches…).
Find out more about worming tablets for dogs here.