Tapeworms are a segmented flatworm that consists of a body, a head and a neck. New segments are always being formed within the neck region and as they mature, they dry up and break off of the end of the body.
The cycle starts when flea larvae eat animal feces that contain parasite eggs. The eggs then hatch inside of the flea’s body subsequently carrying them on to the host animal, the dog. Dogs chew and scratch at their fleas and inevitably swallow a few here and there. The fleas travel down into the animal’s intestines where they begin to grow into fully adult sized tapeworms which can measure up to twenty inches in length. While a tapeworm has no digestive system of it’s own, it attaches itself to the lining of the intestines and absorbs the nutrients the dog ingests. Thus beginning the cyclical pattern of the tapeworm begins. Keep in mind, though, that the parts that aren’t breaking off and passing though are still inside of your dog and can live upwards of two years.
Once parts of the tapeworm have passed through the dog’s body by way of his feces, the pattern starts again. Some of the dried matter will remain on the dog’s behind resembling dry rice or even grass seeds. Your dog will lick and chew and ultimately scoot across the floor in an attempt to relieve the irritation. With that said, all dogs scoot across the floor from time to time but a dog with a tapeworm infestation will not stop. It makes them that crazy. Tapeworm in dogs is easily diagnosed at this point.
Loss of weight- the tapeworms are absorbing all viable nutrients so it will seem your dog is more hungry and consuming more food than usual but still losing weight.
Loss of appetite- as the tapeworm grows in length, your dog will not eat as much less often.
Abdominal pain- the dog will glance, lick or bite at his abdomen and have a general feeling of lethargy and not want to get out of bed. They may also stand bent or sort of hunched over with their heads bowed as if in prayer and may whine or howl to alert you to the discomfort.
Vomiting or diarrhea- your dog eat grass to induce vomiting but signs of diarrhea may be a little more subtle. This combination will dehydrate the animal so if you notice these changes, try and get him to drink lots of water.
Nervousness or jumpiness. The dog will act overly paranoid and be rather skittish in the company of others. You may notice him panting, growling or pacing more than usual and any loud noises will set them over the edge.
With that said, some dog breeds have a higher pain threshold than others. You may want to monitor the situation very closely if you notice any one of the symptoms and try to catch any of the other symptoms for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The veterinarian will ask you for a stool sample from your dog and will look for the moving segments of the tapeworm within the sample. The animal may be experiencing abdominal discomfort or have a nervous stomach, he may even vomit. Combined with the constant scooting, these are all signs that your animal is infected. The doctor will give you medicine to treat it and once you know which kind to buy, the purchase can be made online. Most tapeworm medicines have very few side effects if any at all so that shouldn’t be a big concern.
The best thing you can do is find a good flea and lice control. Give a really good scrub down of your dog’s bedding and also your carpets. Fleas and the dried segments of the tapeworm can get down into the fibers of the carpets so just vacuuming them will not do the trick. Also, don’t feed your animal any kind of raw meat because the parasite can host off of wild animals as well. At this point, the only way to kill the parasite is to freeze it or cook it. Although very rare, the tapeworm can also host off of such farm animals as sheep and cows. So if you live in a rural area, that will be something to keep in mind also. The affects of Tapeworm in dogs are subtle and can be easily missed so if this is an ongoing issue just be sure to keep a close eye on him.