Tapeworms tapeworms

Shaped like rice, these parasites live in the small intestine.

What they do:

They may cause debilitation and weight loss when they occur in large numbers. Sometimes, the dog will scoot or drag its anus across the ground or carpet because the segments are irritating to the skin in this area. The adult worm is generally not seen, but the white segments which break away from the tapeworm and pass outside the body rarely fail to get an owner's attention!  

Occasionally, a tapeworm will release its attachment in the intestines and move into the stomach. This irritates the stomach, causing the dog to vomit the worm. When this happens, a worm several inches in length will be seen.

The dog sheds segments of the tapeworm containing the eggs in its feces. These segments are flat and move about shortly after excretion. They look like grains of rice when dried and can be found either in the dog's stool or stuck to the hair around his anus. Tapeworms cannot be killed by the typical over-the-counter wormer; see the veterinarian for appropriate treatment.

How Tapeworms Are Transmitted 

The most common canine tapeworm is transmitted by fleas. Flea larvae become infected by ingesting tapeworm eggs that have been shed in the dog's feces. Dogs become infected if they swallow an infected flea while grooming. The tapeworms grow to maturity in the dog's gut. Tapeworm segments which contain eggs are then shed in the dog's feces. Tapeworms also can be transmitted when dogs eat the raw meat of infected intermediate hosts.   A dog who hunts or eats wildlife infested with fleas may get tapeworms.

Tapeworm Eggs

Adult tapeworms live in the guts of dogs, where they lay their eggs. The eggs are released with the dog's feces, where they then dwell.

Tapeworm Transmission and Growth

As the larvae grow within the eggs, the eggs may be ingested by flea larvae that are also present in the dog feces. If a dog ingests an infected flea, the tapeworm larvae may hatch and mature in the gut of the dog.

Adult Tapeworm

The larvae mature within the gut of the dog where they may travel as far down as the anus. They generally lay their eggs in the gut.