Tapeworms in Your Dog?
Worms, and not the earth worm type you dissect in 5th grade science class. Those are at least tolerable. These worms are parasites, tiny, disgusting citters that infest the digestive track, tapeworms. Scientifically called Cestoda, and considered a flatworm, these parasites can be anywhere from less than an inch to several feet in length. Just the thought of a thin worm being over a foot long makes me want to throw up. I think of living, moving pasta… that’s nasty. They live in the small intestine and the head of the worm will fasten to the gut by suckers and hooks. Imagine that. Your digestive track is supposed to be helping your bodily functions and here are these long, slimy, small parasites clung to its’ walls. Not making it’s job any easier. Killing these worms can be tricky. Their bodies are made of segments that each contains egg packets. You must destroy the head in order to completely destroy the worm because if not it will simply regenerate. Like Hercules trying to kill Hydra, not a simple task at all.
These body segments with the eggs are passed in the feces. That is why if your dog has tapeworms you may see then crawling through the fur around the anus. Eek. I don’t know if you are a visual person like I am but if you are I apologize now for all of these metal images you are getting. They will dry up and then resemble rice kernels. His may cause anal inching. One main sign of Fido having worms; dragging and scratching his butt on the carpet.
The most common tapeworm in dogs is Dipylidium caninum, and they are capable of infecting humans. Fleas and lice are greats hosts for tapeworms. A host in this sense simply means “one that furnishes and gives resources for another organism to live.” So basically the fleas and lice carry the tapeworm in them. When they ingest the eggs they now are official tapeworm hosts! I wonder if that makes them prideful? When a dog bites or swallows one of the fleas, he will acquire the parasite. So now, fleas have taken their tormenting to a new level. If you have ever seen a poor dog infested with fleas, you know he scratches and bites consistently so if any of those fleas carry the tapeworm it is inevitable your dog will too. Humans can acquire tapeworm as well if they accidentally swallow an infected flea. I would imagine you would have to be REALLY accidental in that process, I can’t imagine anyone swallowing a flea…even on accident.
There are plenty more types of tapeworms besides D. canium. In fact there are over one thousand species that have been defined in modern science. Taenia, for example, is acquired by eating an infected rodent, rabbit, or sheep. Just make sure Fido doesn’t go out hunting in the woods alone. Diphyllobothrium (leave it to science to come up with a crazy name that no one can read, spell, or pronounce) species live in the organs of fish. Both of these species are common in North America.
Echinococcus ( I feel like that was the name of a long lost dinosaur ) tapeworms around found in deer, elk, goats, sheep, cattle, swine, and some rodents. Since you probably won’t see your Jack Russell winning a fight with an elk, you don’t have to worry about this species. They are very uncommon to dogs. There are two types of this species, echinococcus granulosus and echinococcus multiocularis. They can be transmitted to human usually by eating uncooked meat of a host. If you feed your dog this meat he can acquire them as well. A more uncommon way you acquisition would be to eat your dogs’ feces and ingest the eggs. Just letting you know that it is possible, but please, don’t do that. In fact I hope the thought never even ran through your head until you read that. If infected, humans are not the definitive hosts and adult worms will not develop. Instead the larvae will produce large cysts, called hydatis, in the liver, lungs, and brain. This will cause serious illness and can lead to death. The e. granulosus can be found more in the south, west and southwerstern parts of the U.S. If your dog roams free in rural areas where this could be a problem you should have him checked twice a year by your local vet. One will only be able to define the type of worms after an effective deworming. If you suspect Fido to have worms you should take extreme caution when handling and avoid fecal contamination of food and hands until the worms are defined.
Prevention is always the best way to cure tapeworms. Eliminate all fleas and lice from your dogs’ environment. I feel like that should be common sense for any decently clean person, but just in case you needed to know. Also don’t let Fido go on hunting trips alone where he can eat dead animals, and avoid feeding him raw game or uncooked meats.
But if the unfortunate occasion happens and you must treat Fido, you have options. Go to your local trusted vet and he will guide you through the process. Here are some names of some treatments you may recognize at the vet: Droncit, Cestex, Drontal Plus, Telmintic, and Vercom Paste.
Tapeworms? Take Action
No one wants to deal with these, they are gross and annoying and definitely not convenient. Take action to prevent worms, but be prepared for the worst. Fido will thank you!