tapeworm in dogsWith January being National Walk Your Pet Month, it’s important to consider your pet’s safety from parasites while you’re out walking year-round. Parasites are one of the primary health risks to dogs, particularly if you and your dog love to go rambling in wooded areas or paddling in rivers and lakes.

Dogs can pick up anything from ticks and fleas to giardia on their outdoor excursions, unless you take appropriate steps to protect them.

Targeting Tapeworms

Tapeworm in dogs is one of the more common parasitic infections, but fortunately it’s also relatively simple to get rid of. Dogs acquire tapeworms in a number of ways:

  • By consuming feces passed by an infected dog
  • By contracting fleas that ingested the tapeworm eggs, then swallowing these same fleas when they lick themselves
  • By licking and swallowing the larvae from infected fleas that are present on the ground or in the dogs’ bedding

Even if you’re able to stop your dog from eating anything unhealthy while out on a walk, it’s almost impossible to prevent him (or her) having contact with potentially infected flea larvae outdoors.

Signs of Infection

Tapeworm infections often don’t produce any noticeable symptoms, so you may not even know your dog has the parasite. The signs you’re most likely to see are evidence of rice-like segments on his coat, around the anal area or in his feces. The segments start out white but turn a slightly golden shade as they dry.

These can cause skin irritation, so no matter how clean you keep your dog if you see him licking himself or “scooting” across the floor, there’s a possibility he has tapeworms. Left untreated, tapeworms in dogs causes weight loss and general poor health. Tapeworm in puppies is more dangerous than in adult dogs, because their immune systems are not yet strong enough to fight the infection.

Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosing a tapeworm infection is best done by testing a stool sample. Many veterinarians ask for samples to be brought in regularly, but at the very least you should provide a sample for testing when your pet comes for his annual wellness checkup. If tapeworms are caught early they are easy to eliminate, using a drug that dissolves them. Your veterinarian will give your dog an appropriate deworming medication which is usually an oral or chewable pill.

Prevention Beats Cure

As with all parasites, prevention is a better strategy than trying to cure an infection after the fact. Fleas play such a large role in tapeworm infestation that it’s helpful to take steps to avoid having them in your home. The best flea treatment for dogs is one that works, so use a recommended flea and tick control product such as:

  • Trifexis: Provides protection against fleas, heartworm and other internal parasites.
  • Advantage Multi: A once-a-month topical application that offers protection against fleas and heartworm
  • Comfortis: Once a month oral flea treatment for dogs.
  • Vectra or Vectra 3D: A monthly treatment that protects dogs against ticks and fleas. Can also be used to guard against fleas in cats.
  • Seresto Collar: (dogs or cats) Kills fleas, repels and kills ticks. Protection lasts for 8 months. This collar is odorless, powder-less and leaves no greasy residue!

Keep your dog safe from tapeworms. Take steps for year-round parasite control, and bring your dog to our Apex NC animal hospital for regular wellness examinations.