Many dog owners are horrified when they find out their pets have tapeworms. These canine pests are actually fairly common but easy to eradicate.
According to The Dog Health Guide, there are various types of tapeworms. The most common is the one that dogs contract by eating fleas. Rural dogs who are around animals like sheep, rats and mice experience a different type. Hunting dogs can contract up to a dozen varieties.
The most common way dogs get tapeworms is swallowing fleas infected with tapeworm eggs. This typically occurs when the flea is biting the dog, who tries to remove it with his or her mouth. Often, dogs swallow some of the fleas. Dogs also contract a different type of tapeworms by biting into an infected rodent.
There are a number of symptoms an owner might notice that could signal an infestation of worms, TapewormsInDogs reports.
Decrease in appetite. When a dog is infected with tapeworms, he or she often shows a marked decrease in appetite. Whether the dog actually loses weight or not is linked to the length of the infestation. Most pets simply act unenthusiastic about any food, including treats.
Visible segments. This is undoubtedly the strongest proof any owner will find. Visible tapeworm segments could appear in either the dog’s feces or vomit. They look like small grains of rice.
Dull coat. Except in the case of an extreme infestation, this symptom is seldom initially visible. Over time, the coat of an infected dog begins to look dull. Some but not all dogs whose coats grow dull also lose some of their fur.
Pot belly. A common sign of tapeworms in a dog is a distended abdomen. An owner usually only notices a dog’s pot-bellied appearance in unusually severe or advanced cases. Some dogs develop problems walking normally or look like they’re experiencing joint problems. Many owners mistake the enlarged abdomen as rapid weight gain instead of a sign of tapeworms.
Digestive symptoms. Once infected, many dogs start to show gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are often associated with a variety of canine medical problems but are common signs of a tapeworm infection. Vomiting occurs when tapeworms move from the intestines to the stomach. Sometimes a veterinarian spots worm segments in both the dog’s feces and vomit.
Anal itching. It might appear to the owner that an infected dog has become obsessed with his or her tail and anal area. Tapeworms cause significant behavioral changes in pets, including constantly licking or scratching the anal area because of itching from segments that broke off the tapeworm. Scooting or dragging the rear end on the floor frequently is another symptom, though it could be a sign of other medical conditions. Some dogs develop so much irritation from dragging their rear ends that the area around the anus becomes very red and sometimes even bleeds.
Fortunately, tapeworms in dogs are now easy to treat with medicine tabs in one or two doses, depending on the infestation. If ingesting fleas caused the worms, a flea prevention program should help prevent additional problems.