Dog Health Part 13: Tapeworms


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Tapeworms in Dogs - Introduction

Is your older dog or your young pup experiencing unexplained stomach cramps?

You may also have noticed, that your dog has lost a lot of weight or keeps licking his behind more than usual.

These are signs that your dog may have tapeworms.


Immediate care is necessary to prevent tapeworms from getting worse.

What are tapeworms in dogs?

Tapeworms are parasitic flatworms that live in the intestines of various animals, including humans.

They are ribbon-like, white-colored worms that have hook-like suckers on their body.

They use these hooks to latch themselves onto the intestinal walls of their host and suck the nutrition passing through the intestine.

A tapeworm’s body is made up of its head and sections of body called “proglottids”.

Each proglottid contains tapeworm eggs. As the tapeworm grows, the oldest proglottid detaches and falls off, carrying the eggs outside the host’s body.

It is from here that fleas and rodents pick up tapeworms and in turn, infect your dogs. 

Dogs and puppies are very vulnerable to tapeworms. The same sub-species of tapeworms that infect humans, infect dogs as well.

If you’re worried about cross-transmission of tapeworms, don’t be.

It happens very rarely and usually, tapeworms don’t move from your dog to you or from you to your pet. 

There are only two instances when transmission of tapeworms may occur from dogs to humans.

First, is when a person accidentally swallows a tapeworm infected flea when they’re licked by their dog.

The other is when you’ve recently handled your dog’s feces and not cleaned your hands properly after.

The eggs in your pet’s feces may contain worms and eggs, which you may accidentally ingest. But both of these occurrences seldom happen. 

How common are tapeworms in puppies and dogs?

Tapeworms are one of the most common conditions in canines. Even newborn pups can sometimes have tapeworms.

This usually occurs when the pregnant mother has tapeworm eggs in her body and the fetus ingests the eggs when in-vitro.

Tapeworms can occur after birth, at any stage in a dog’s life. Although they’re not very fatal, they can do a lot of damage to your fur baby’s health.

Quick treatment can ensure that tapeworms don’t wreak any permanent havoc on your pet.

Common causes of tapeworms in dogs and puppies

Ingesting fleas 

Your pup or dog will get tapeworms if he swallows a flea that has been infected by tapeworms.

Fleas are common in dogs. Your dog may accidentally lap up the infected flea when he is grooming himself.

Tapeworm infection can also occur when you groom your pet and you fail to clean the floor properly.

Your dog may lick the floor, lapping up the infected flea or any tapeworm eggs in the process.

If your dog is a hunting dog or has the tendency to chase small rodents like mice, rats and squirrels, you need to make sure they don’t lick these animals.

They may get tapeworms from them if they’re not careful.

Additionally, make sure your other pets are properly groomed and flea-free, before allowing your dog to play with them. This will limit his risk of getting tapeworm. 

Eating tapeworm infected meat

Another way dogs and puppies get tapeworms, is through consumption of infected meat.

Raw meat contains tapeworm larvae and eggs.

If your dog eats raw meat, their chances of getting a tapeworm infection increases.

Offal (organ meats) in particular, often contain many tapeworm larvae. 

Always remember to heat your dog’s meals at least 145° F (63° C) before serving him. 

If you’re planning on not using any meat you’ve purchased for the next few days, remember to freeze it properly.

Ideally, red meat must be frozen for 7-10 days and seafood for 24-48 hours at -31° F (-35° C), before heating it up and serving.

Boiling meat and offal for at least 30 minutes kills the tapeworm larvae

Licking tapeworm infected feces or vomit

As we’ve discussed, tapeworm larvae and eggs can remain in feces. Your dog may get infected if he licks or eats an infected animal’s feces or vomit.

It’s imperative that you clean-up after all your pets, before your dog has the chance to eat infected bodily fluids.

When going hiking or traveling, you should also keep an eye out to make sure your fur baby doesn’t go too close to any stray stools or vomit. 

Types of tapeworms that can infect dogs

There are three sub-species of tapeworms that affect puppies and dogs:

Dipylidium caninum

Dipylidium caninum is the most-common tapeworm sub-species to infect dogs.

This tapeworm typically spreads from either fleas or through licking infected feces and vomit.

You’ll know your dog might have a Dipylidium caninum infection if he suddenly starts to lose a lot of weight.


Taenia hydatigena and Taenia pisiformis tapeworms occur in livestock and wild animals.

They are almost 1 meter long in length. Infection from this sub-species of tapeworm occurs when your dog eats uncooked meats that contain tapeworm eggs or larvae.

These tapeworms cause an infection called taeniasis, which often shows no symptoms. But you may be able to spot the tapeworm in your pet when he defecates.

Segments of the worms sometimes fall out with the stools.

Echinococcus granulosus

Echinococcus granulosus is the smallest tapeworm of all three sub-groups and they are present in all types of animals.

Just as with Taenia hydatigena, Echinococcus also occurs through consumption of raw meat and sometimes when your dog licks infected stools.

Echinococcus granulosus can sometimes cause a rare condition called hydatid disease, which can sometimes be fatal.

Severe tapeworm infection causes infected and tapeworm larvae filled cysts on the dog’s intestinal walls, causing immense pain and affecting intestinal health.

This disease is more common in herd dogs than any other breed, because of their proximity to livestock like sheep. 

Dog tapeworm symptoms you need to look out for

There are some dog and puppy tapeworm symptoms that can be easily noticed by just paying attention to the health of your fur baby. Here’s what you need to look out for:

  • Your dog has excessive vomiting and stomach cramps.
  • Your dog moves by scooting on his bottom.
  • Your dog licks or bites at his anus.
  • Your dog’s coat loses its shine and texture.
  • Your dog loses a lot of weight suddenly.
  • Your dog has been unexpectedly lethargic for a few days.
  • You see long, white-colored worms in your dog’s stools.

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Analysing the poo: What do tapeworms look like in dog poop?

Tapeworms in puppies and dogs are very easily visible in their poop/scat. You need to know what to look for.

Sometimes the entire tapeworm may fall out while your dog is defecating. But often, they fall out in segments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that you can see tapeworm proglottids at the anus opening.

They’ll resemble small rice-sized particles on the entrance of your dog’s anus or at the top of his tail. They may even look like grains of seed.

When you see this, don’t try to clean your dog immediately. 

The eggs and larvae might still be active and you may unknowingly get infected yourself. 

Instead, use treatments that are specially designed to kill tapeworms in puppies and dogs. 

How to get rid of tapeworms in dogs and puppies?

Normally, you don’t need to take your puppy or older dog to the vet when he has tapeworms.

But, if you’re unsure whether this is a tapeworm infestation or another parasitic infestation, please do visit the vet.

An X-ray will be used to diagnose the tapeworm infestation.

Once you know what your fur baby suffers from, you can move onto treatment.

There are specially-formulated tapeworm de-worming medicines available for puppies and dogs in the market. 

These over the counter tapeworm medicine for dogs kill tapeworms work in one of two ways:

Starving them

Some medicines, when ingested, absorb the sugars and nutrients in the intestines.

These are sugars the tapeworms need to survive and grow. 

Over a period of a few days, the tapeworms starve completely, die and pass out through your dog’s feces.

While this variant of medicine is great to treat grown worms, they don’t kill unhatched eggs. So, the risk of re-infection is present.

Paralyzing them

The other variant of tapeworm de-worming medicines is more effective since it helps throw out the eggs as well.

These medicines paralyze the tapeworms, larvae and eggs, thereby, loosening their grip on the intestinal walls.

The parasites then slip out of your pet when he’s passing stools. 

5 best canine de-worming medicines you can find on Amazon

There are numerous brands of over the counter tapeworm medicine for dogs available online. Each of these comes with specially-formulated medications that help ease your pup’s discomfort and pain.

You also get complete directions on the packaging, which tell you how to kill tapeworms in dogs.

Let’s look at our top 5 line-up:

Bayer Tapeworm Dewormer

This powerful tapeworm de-worming medicine from Bayer, comes in a 5-count, 34 milligrams bottle.

A single dosage is enough to treat mild-to-moderate tapeworm infection.

This product has been designed for Dipylidium caninum and Taenia pisiformis tapeworms.

Bayer Tapeworm Dewormer is a very effective medicine for dogs of all ages.

It can be safely administered to pups as young as 4 weeks old.

This medicine comes in the form of tablets and they can be crushed and mixed with dog food. They can also be administered orally.

Administer only ½ the tablet for pups under 10 pounds. 1 tablet for dogs 10-15 pounds. 1½ tablets for dogs 16-30 pounds.

2 tablets for dogs 31-45 pounds. 2½ tablets for dogs 46-60 pounds. 3 tablets for dogs over 60 pounds.

Excel Products’ Safe Guard treats against Tapeworms, Roundworms, Hookworms, and Whipworms

Excel Products’ Safe Guard medicine is designed not just for tapeworms, but also whipworms, roundworms and hookworms.

This pack contains three packets of medicine, each of 4 grams. A single pouch can be used for pups/dogs up to 40 pounds.

The medicine is formulated using fenbendazole, which is a powerful prescription drug given to de-worm dogs.

This medicine comes in the form of granulated treats. They’re easily eatable individually or mixed with food.

You can administer the Excel Products’ Safe Guard medicine to pups from 6 weeks of age. Even pregnant dogs and aged canines can be administered this medicine safely.

The medicine must be given for 3 days consecutively and the results last for up to 6 months. 

Durvet Triple Medium and Large Dog Wormer

Durvet’s Triple Medium and Large Dog Wormer is an Anthelmintic drug formulated to treat a severe parasitic infestation in large dogs.

It can only be used in adult dogs over 25 pounds and not puppies.

This is a three-in-one medicine that can be used to kill tapeworms, hookworms and roundworms.

This over the counter tapeworm medicine for dogs comes in a pack of 12 and contains the flavored chewable medication.

You can even crush it and mix it with your pet’s meal. A single administration of the tablet has an effect for about 30 days.

Dogs 25-50 pounds require 1 tablet, those 50–100 pounds need 2 tablets, 100-150 pounds require 3 tablets and dogs over 150 pounds need 4 tablets.

Panacur C Canine Dewormer Dogs (Fenbendazole)

The Panacur C Canine Dewormer contains 22.2% fenbendazole.

This supercharges the deworming medicine to treat moderate-to-severe tapeworm infections. The medicine can be used on puppies as young as 6 weeks old.

The medicines come in the form of chewable treats of 1 gram per packet and there are 3 packets in this box.

Each packet is capable of treating dogs up to 10 pounds.

In addition to tapeworms, Panacur C Canine Dewormer can treat whipworms, hookworms and roundworms.

The medicine is very safe to use and can be given alongside heartworm medication.

The medicine must be given three days in a row to yield results and the chews may need to be softened before administering. 

Advantus Soft Chew

The Advantus Soft Chew isn’t expressly designed to kill tapeworms. But it is specially formulated to kill fleas that contain tapeworm larvae.

Perfectly safe to be used daily, this soft chew has an acting time of 1 hour.

Made from synthetic ingredients, this chew comes beef flavored.

Combining it with tapeworm medication can prevent the risk of re-infection in puppies and dogs.

Top tips to prevent tapeworm re-infection in dogs and puppies & Conclusion

Pet parents can easily prevent tapeworm infection and re-infestation by being responsible pet owners. You must:

  • Regularly groom your dog and get rid of fleas that may infect them with tapeworm. You can use flea sprays or anti-flea soft chews.
  • Clean up after your dog so no tapeworm larvae or eggs are stuck on surfaces touched by your dog.
  • Take care to ensure your dog doesn’t roll around in dog poop.
  • They should also not lick or eat stools from other animals.
  • Cook meats properly to kill any parasites they may have.
  • Change their collars regularly to prevent tapeworm eggs from sticking to their collars.
  • Consult the vet to set up a regular parasite check-up routine.

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.

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