Tapeworms are thin and flat, like strips of tape. (Hence the name!)
The bodies of tapeworms are actually made up of a head from which a series of segments will grow.
How do dogs get tapeworms? They become infected with Taenia pisiformis tapeworms by eating rabbits, which may carry the infective stage of this worm.
Dogs may also become infected with other species of tapeworms by eating fleas or other intermediate hosts that carry the infective stage.
Residing inside the small intestine of a dog, tapeworms attach to the intestinal wall by means of suckers in their heads.
A long series of segments trail from the head as tapeworms continue to grow. Taenia pisiformis can reach a length of 80 inches (200 cm).
Tapeworm segments containing eggs continually break off and are passed in the infected dogs’ feces. The segments, which look like grains of rice, may be seen in the feces or clinging to the hair on dogs’ hindquarters.
Small mammals, such as rabbits and squirrels, can serve as intermediary hosts for Taenia pisiformis. Small cysts in the muscle of these animals contain young tapeworms.
When a dog eats an animal carcass, it also ingests these cysts. Once inside the dog, tapeworms grow to adult stage.
While large tapeworms can take up a lot of space in the intestines, they seldom cause severe problems for dogs.
With severe infections, intestinal upsets can vary from diarrhea to constipation.
Since the parasites may interfere with the absorption of nutrients, mild weight loss or slow growth may also occur.
Segments, which cling to infected dogs’ hindquarters, can cause irritation. As a result, dogs may scoot or drag their rear end across the floor.
Health Risk To People
It is very rare for canine tapeworms to be transmitted to humans.
Treatment and control of canine tapeworm infections involves the use of dog dewormers that effectively remove the tapeworm head, as well as the segments.
Safe-Guard® Canine Dewormer is effective against Taenia pisiformis tapeworms.