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When caring for a dog and keeping them safe and healthy it is necessary for any responsible owner to be aware of tapeworms and what they can mean for their furry friend. Tapeworm infections are common in pets and easy for any dog to get. To protect your dog it's important to understand what tapeworms are, how a dog can get them, what they will do to a dog, and what an owner needs to do if their dog does become infected with tapeworms.

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What Are Tapeworms?

Tapeworms are an intestinal parasite that infects dogs. Dipylidium Caninum is the most common type of tapeworm and can be found all over the world. Tapeworms are an intestinal parasite and so will use a dog's body as a host. Once the tapeworm has infected the dog it will use its digestive system to survive and grow.

Happy and active purebred Welsh Corgi dog outdoors in the grass on a sunny summer day
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How Do Dogs Get Tapeworms?

Fleas are the most common culprit in tapeworm infections in domestic dogs. Fleas may contain tapeworm larvae which mature into adult tapeworms inside a dog's digestive system. This occurs when a dog ingests a tapeworm-infected flea in grooming itself. Less common, a dog may contract tapeworms through eating rodents and other small animals.

dog scratching fleas MRBIG_PHOTOGRAPHY / Getty Images
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Are Tapeworms Dangerous?

Tapeworms often affect a dog's comfort and health but the condition is not life-threatening and rarely harmful. Often the most problematic complication is weight loss as a result of the tapeworms' presence in the intestines and poor appetite. Complications are confined primarily to discomfort experienced by the dog, which is expressed through several noticeable symptoms.

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What Are the Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs?

Weight loss and obvious discomfort are the most common symptoms of tapeworms in dogs. The parasite's consumption of contents in the dog's digestive system, as well as irritation caused by the tapeworm's presence, may lead to poor appetite and weight loss. Passing segments of the tapeworm and larva may irritate the dog's bowels and anus, causing the dog to drag their bottoms on the ground.

sick dog tapeworms jhorrocks / Getty Images

How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Tapeworms?

There are several telltale signs of a tapeworm in dogs. The most common sign is the dog dragging its bottom on the ground to relieve irritation. This behavior is called scooting. The appearance of eggs or wriggling segments of the tapeworm in the dog's anus or feces is also a sign of a parasitic infection. Tapeworm segments might also be visible in a dog's vomit.

dog with tapeworm Wavetop / Getty Images

What Should I Do If My Dog Has Tapeworms?

If a tapeworm infection is suspected the best course of action is to immediately bring the dog to a veterinarian. A veterinarian may miss the signs of a tapeworm infection so it is important to make them aware of the symptoms observed. Once the parasitic infection is confirmed, the veterinarian will provide treatment to rid the dog of the tapeworms.

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How is a Tapeworm Infection Treated?

Tapeworm treatments are simple and effective. The most commonly used treatment is veterinarian-prescribed anti-worm medicine called praziquantel. This medicine is administered orally or by injection and works by dissolving the tapeworm and any tapeworm eggs in the digestive system. The dissolved parasite and eggs exit the body through the dog's normal bowel movement.

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How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Tapeworms?

Preventing a tapeworm infection in dogs relies nearly entirely on preventing a flea infestation. A variety of anti-flea medicines and treatments are available, both over-the-counter and by prescription. Exercising caution when bringing a dog anywhere fleas may be present is important, too. Once the dog is treated for tapeworm, it is key to ensure both the dog and its home are free of fleas in order to prevent a recurrence of tapeworms.

Dog flea tapeworm treatment PK-Photos / Getty Images

Can People Get Tapeworms From Dogs?

While it is possible for a person to get tapeworms through a dog, it is unlikely as it would require a person to ingest an infected flea. Most commonly if a human gets a tapeworm infection it will be a child who has been playing with an infected dog. Being vigilant with preventing your dog from getting fleas eliminates the worry. Ensuring children know to always wash their hands after touching a dog will also protect them.

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What Should I Do if I or My Children Get Tapeworms From a Dog?

If you or anyone in your family becomes infected with tapeworms from a dog then it is important to go to a doctor right away. Your doctor will be able to administer anti-worming medicine orally similar to the treatment for dogs. Once that has been done it is important to bring the infected dog to the vet to get their tapeworm infection and flea problem treated. This will ensure no one has a secondary infection from the dog.

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