Tapeworms: What Wormer Is Best?

Control fleas to prevent tapeworm infestation

Veterinarian explaining treatment to dog owner
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Tapeworms are a common parasite of dogs and cats. Most commonly transmitted by fleas, this parasite is also transmissible to humans (usually infants and children) who accidentally eat an infected flea. Treatment for tapeworm infection in pets is easy if the correct drug is used.

illustration of tapeworms and pets
Illustration: Alison Czinkota. © The Spruce, 2019 

Pharmaceutical Tapeworm Medication

Unlike other intestinal worms that are killed with an oral wormer medication and passed out with the stool, tapeworms require a different medication. The medication is called praziquantel, and it is sold without and without a prescription under many brand names. Consult your veterinarian for more information. This drug is available as a one-time single dose pill or as an injection for pets. The tapeworm is broken up inside the intestines, dies, and is digested. It is not usually seen in the stool after the deworming.

Most veterinarians will dispense this medication to current patients (those seen within the last 12 months) without an examination. However, your veterinarian may want to see your pet for an accurate weight, as this medication is dosed according to weight.

Other pharmaceutical tapeworm treatments include

  • Durvet Triple Wormer, a chewable tablet that includes both Pyrantel pamoate and Praziquantel
  • Milbemax, another effective prescription-only chewable that treats several kinds of worms
  • Panacur, a prescription-only dewormer used for large dogs and some zoo animals

Foods That Can Treat Tapeworm

Many foods can help treat tapeworm without the use of pharmaceuticals, though they may not do the job completely. Check with your vet to be sure your providing your dog with the right quantity; in some cases the proper dose is as small as a teaspoonful per day.

  • Fermented vegetables (buy sauerkraut or kimchi or ferment your own veggies)
  • Coconut kefir, a non-dairy treat that should be given in small doses
  • Small amounts of fresh fruits including papaya, pomegranate, or pineapple
  • Small quantities of fresh vegetables such as cucumber, garlic, parsley, carrots, watercress, squash, greens, or fennel
  • Liquids including cider vinegar, coconut oil, or bone broth
  • Seeds and spices including pumpkin seeds, cloves, papaya, turmeric, or wormwood

Symptoms of a Tapeworm Infestation

Most pets don't lose weight from tapeworms and aren't usually sick. However, the tapeworms must be treated to prevent the possible contamination of children in the home. Most pet owners can recognize the telltale sign of a tapeworm infection in their dog or cat—the small white "sesame seed" or "piece of rice" segments near the animal's tail or on its bedding.

Tapeworms are flat like a ribbon and made up of segments called proglottids. The proglottids contain the tapeworm eggs. As the tapeworm grows, the proglottids eventually break off and exit via the anus. These off-white segments can range from approximately 1/4 inch when moist and moving to as small as a sesame seed after they become desiccated a few hours later.

Some proglottids are too small to be seen. When a dog or cat licks its anus and drags its hindquarters on the floor because of itching, the action may be a possible sign of a tapeworm infestation, although these behaviors often occur for other reasons.

Control Fleas to Prevent Tapeworms

Flea control is essential to prevent tapeworms. Protect your pets, your family, and your home environment by learning how to effectively control fleas. Flea treatment for your pets isn't always sufficient to prevent all fleas. If your dog or cat lives inside, more fleas are on your carpet and on your upholstery than on your pet. There are many flea treatment options, including non-toxic diatomaceous earth, foggers and flea bombs, or treatments by a professional exterminator. Follow all instructions very carefully when using foggers and flea bombs. Remove all pets and people from the area, and cover all food in the environment before applying insecticide. This multi-pronged approach is necessary to control fleas. Vacuum frequently and wash bed linens at least weekly.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.