Dog Tapeworms Come From Fleas
By Chris Williams on May 29, 2014.
Dogs and cats can get tapeworm from eating poop infected with tapeworm, but more commonly they get tapeworm from swallowing a flea. If your pet has fleas, it’s not unusual for a flea to be ingested during self-grooming. If that flea is infected with a tapeworm larva, the larva is now able to develop into an adult tapeworm in the intestine of your pet.
An adult dog tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) can range from 4 to 28 inches in length. The tapeworm is flattened and made up of lots of small segments called proglottids which are designed to break away in the pet’s intestine. Each proglottid contains tapeworm eggs. The proglottids usually pass out of the body in the dog’s poop, but not always.
Here’s The Really Creepy Part!
Each released proglottid segment, which is pinkish white and about the size of a grain of rice, can move around for a while. They can sometimes be seen crawling around the pet’s anus, stuck to hairs around the anus, or moving on top of fresh poop. A pet owner to find a number of proglottids in his or her bed or other places where the dog has been sleeping! When the rice-size proglottids dry out, they turn yellow in color and release tapeworm eggs.
Fleas become infected when the larval flea (found in pet bedding or carpeting) ingests tapeworm eggs that have fallen from your pet.
How Do I Know if My Pet Has Tapeworms?
You probably won’t know if your dog has tapeworms unless you see the proglottids. Even vets have a hard time diagnosing tapeworms without the physical evidence. Tapeworms are not usually harmful to your pet at low levels. If your pet is heavily infected, it may have weight loss. A dog will sometimes “scoot” or drag its anus across the ground or carpet because the proglottids are irritating to the anal skin. And don’t be surprised if your pet vomits up a piece of the tapeworm.
Children Can Get Dog Tapeworms, Too
The risk of human infection is very low, but children can become infected with dog tapeworm if they accidentally swallow an infected flea. People can’t be infected by accidentally swallowing tapeworm eggs because the eggs can only develop inside a flea. An infected child will usually pass proglottids in a bowel movement or you will find them stuck to the skin around the anus.
Treatment for both dogs and children is a very effective prescription drug that dissolves the tapeworm in the intestine.
All the more reason to make sure that your home and pet are treated for fleas by a professional exterminator, and that you pick up and dispose of pet poop which can be loaded with tapeworm eggs!