Tapeworm 101: What You Need to Know About This Internal Parasite

Tapeworm 101
If you need another reason to protect your dog or cat from fleas, consider that this external parasite can transmit tapeworm that attach themselves to your pet’s intestines. Tapeworm is a unique parasite because it consists of multiple parts that each has its own reproductive system. Because they are so small, it can be hard for you to see them on your pet. When owners do spot tapeworm, it’s typically in the feces, on the rear end of the pet, or near where the animal sleeps. Tapeworm look like tiny grains of rice or seeds.
Types of Tapeworm 
Fleas are the most common carriers of tapeworm and attract a type known as dipylidium caninum. Your pet may also acquire tapeworm by eating a rodent or being bitten by one. Echinococcus and taenia use smaller rodents such as mice, rabbits, and squirrels as a host. They may also show up in sheep or deer. The best way to prevent the latter type of tapeworm is not to allow your dog or cat to eat any type of prey animal.
How Tapeworm Affects Companion Animals
According to the website Pets and Parasites, tapeworm produce few symptoms in dogs and cats. The most obvious signs are white specks in the feces and worm segments on the rear end. It’s only when your pet has numerous tapeworm that problems with weight loss and lethargy start to appear. Occasionally, a dog or cat may vomit a worm that has moved into the stomach. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to detect tapeworm in a routine fecal examination. If you think your pet has tapeworm, please contact Grantsburg Animal Hospital or Wild River Veterinary Clinic for a prompt evaluation.
Treating Tapeworm Infestation
This type of internal parasite is much easier to treat than many others, including heartworm. Treatment normally consists of a drug given orally or by injection that kills the tapeworm and causes it to dissolve in your pet’s intestines. It probably won’t show up in your pet’s stool because the worm is typically digested before it dies. Medication does not produce any unpleasant side effects for your pet.
Preventing your dog or cat from getting fleas and not allowing him or her to chew on animal carcasses is essential in preventing this internal parasite. We offer several varieties of flea prevention in our online store for your convenience. We encourage you to use these products year-round to prevent both fleas and tapeworm in your pet.

Our clinics carry Interceptor Plus, a monthly chewable for dogs that prevents heartworm disease.  It also treats and controls roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.  We also have Drontal Plus Chewables for dogs for treatment and control of roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.  For cats, we have Drontal tablets for treatment and control of tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms.  We also have Profender for cats, a topical solution that treats and controls hookworm, roundworm, and tapeworm infections.

Photo Credit: Cranach / Getty Images

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