19 Jul, 2017

Dog Health Part 13: Tapeworms

19 Jul, 2017

Tapeworms are parasitic flat worms with segmented bodies.  The head of most tapeworms consists of suckers or grooves, which enable them to attach themselves to your dog’s intestine.  Each of the segments of the tapeworm has its own reproductive organs.  As a result, the tapeworm continually forms new segments in the neck region and the segments at the end are cast off as the tapeworm ages.

 

The mature segments of the tapeworm contain multiple eggs and are grouped into packets.  Often, these are found near the dog’s anus and look like a piece of rice or a cucumber seed.  It is the site of these egg packets that leads to the diagnosis of tapeworm in most pets.

 

Types of Tapeworms

 

There are several different types of tapeworms that infect dogs, they are:  Dipylidium caninum, Taenia species, Echinococcus granulosus, Diphyllobothrium latum, and Spirometra mansonoides.  The treatment used to get rid of the tapeworm generally depends on the type of tapeworm your dog has.

 

(note: don’t worry about the names of the drugs too much – you can either google them, or just write it out for the pharmacist if you don’t want to remember it)

 

Dipylidium Caninum

 

Dipylidium caninum can cause abdominal discomfort and nervousness in your dog.  It may cause your dog to vomit and to even have convulsions, which are thought to be caused by toxins produced by the tapeworm.  In addition, the active segments that form around the anal region can cause your pet to excessively lick the area or to scoot its bottom across the floor.

 

Praziquantel is the most common treatment and is found in products such as Tradewinds Tapeworm Tabs and Droncit.  Your dog’s body weight is used to determine the dosage, though the medication cannot be given to a pregnant dog.

Epsiprantel, sold under the brand name of Cestex, is another effective treatment but cannot be used on puppies less than seven weeks old.  Flea and lice control are the best preventative measures to take to keep your pet from developing this type of tapeworm.

 

Taenia Species

 

There are nine species of Taenia found in North America, with six of them affecting dogs.  Dogs infested with a type of Taenia species tapeworm rarely show any signs of infection other than the eggs sacks in the anal region and segments attached to the fur.  Taenia species tapeworms are generally treated with antihelmintics, such as Drontal Plus and Cestex.  The best way to prevent infection is to keep your dog from eating raw meat and from preying on wild animals.

 

Echinococcus Granulosus

 

Similar to Taenia species, dogs rarely show signs of infection from Echinococcus granulosus, unless there are huge numbers of tapeworms present.  The eggs are not uniformly passed through the stool and when an egg is found, it is difficult to distinguish from the Taenia species.  Treatment usually consists of using Praziquantel.

Preventing Echinococcus granulosus includes never feeding your dog raw meat.

Diphyllobothrium Latum

 

Diphyllobothrium latum lives in the small intestines of your pet and is most commonly found in the Great Lakes area because it is transmitted through fish.  The Diphyllobothrium latum tapeworm grows to be very large, but there are very few signs of infection in dogs.

Praziquantel is also used to treat Diphyllobothrium latum, although it still is not FDA approved for this purpose. To prevent your pet from becoming infected with Diphyllobothrium latum, you should not feed it raw or undercooked fish.

 

Spirometra Mansonoides

 

Spirometra Mansonoides most commonly infects felines, though it can also infect dogs.

It is most commonly found in the southern United States, particularly in Florida and along the Gulf Coast. 

There are usually no symptoms of a Spirometra mansonoides infection, though severe cases can cause irritability, weight loss, and change in appetitie.  Praziquantel is also used to treat this type of tapeworm.

To prevent Spirometra mansonoides from infecting your pet, prevent it from eating snakes, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and rodents.

 

Tapeworms are a serious problem for all animals, including dogs.  If left untreated, they can cause a great deal of pain and ultimately death.  Since there are so few symptoms associated with many types of tapeworms, it is important to watch your pet closely for signs of infection.  This requires keeping an eye on the anal region and on your pet’s stool.

 

In addition, routine visits to your veterinarian and the administration of vaccinations will prevent the problem from developing in your pet.  Similarly, if tapeworms do get a hold of your pet, your regularly veterinary visits will ensure the infestation gets caught early and can be eradicated before causing too much harm to your pet.

Remember to obtain good pet insurance as well, as it can help defray any medical costs incurred for preventive medication, or for medication to remove the tapeworms in your beloved pooch.

You can get your free pet insurance quote here!

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