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Dogs Infected With Tapeworms May Not Initially Display Any Obvious Symptoms


Tapeworms, also called cestodes (cestoda class), are parasitic flatworms. The main species that affect dogs are Dipylidium caninum, Taenia pisiformis, Enchinococcus granulosus, and Echinococcus multilocularis. Of these Dipylidium caninum is commonly found in dogs.

Although tape worms do not pose a serious health threat to dogs except in extreme cases one type, Echinococus multilocularis, is especially deadly if passed on to humans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control > (CDC):

"Echinococcus multilocularis is the causative agent of alveolar echinococcosis in humans. ... In accidental cases, humans as aberrant intermediate hosts may also acquire E. multilocularis infection by egg ingestion. Although a rare disease in humans, alveolar echinococcosis is of considerable public health importance because it can be lethal in up to 100% of untreated patients. Treatment is still difficult, and therapy may cost $300,000 per patient.

The parasite has an extensive geographic distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, including parts of North America (Alaska, Canada, and some of the lower contiguous states of the United States), Asia (some of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, China, and Japan), and some European countries."

  Head (scolex) of tapeworm
  Centers for Disease Control

Head (scolex) of tapeworm


Transmission results when tapeworm eggs are ingested and make their way into the small intestines. The tapeworm matures and attaches its head (scolex) to the wall of the intestines. The neck of the tapeworm begins growing sections (proglottids) each of which contain digestive and reproductive systems.

These sections contain both male and female structures and can reproduce indepenently. As more sections are created the tapeworm becomes longer and longer. Adult Dipylidium caninum tapeworms can reach 18 inches in length.

Eventually sections at the tail end are filled with microscopic eggs and the section breaks off and is expelled from the host. These sections which are about the size of a grain of rice can be seen to move or wiggle. In this way they are able to make their way out and can sometimes be seen on the fur at the rear end. Eggs are also expelled in the feces.

  An egg packet of Dipylidium caninum
  Joel Mills - Creative Commons License

An egg packet of Dipylidium caninum


D. caninum tapeworms infect animals that are exposed to fleas. This is due to its particular life cycle. Once D. caninum eggs are expelled from the host they are ingested by larval fleas. These infected fleas are then ingested by another animal such as a dog when it licks its coat or chews at the fleas.

Dogs infected with tapeworms may not display any symptoms at all. The first sign may be seeing rice sized egg packets at the rear of the dog on or near the anus or in the feces.

Your veterinarian can advise you about availble treatments that have proven effective such as Epsiprantel and Praziquantel.

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