Tapeworms are a common parasite of dogs and cats. Most commonly transmitted by fleas or through hunting prey species, these parasites are also transmissible, albeit rarely, to humans (usually infants and children). Treatment for tapeworm infection in pets is easy if the correct drug is used.
In comparison to other intestinal worms, tapeworms require a different medication to be eradicated. The medication is called praziquantel, and it is sold with and without a prescription under many brand names. Consult your veterinarian for more information. This drug is available in oral, topical, and injectable forms for pets. The tapeworm dies, is broken up inside the intestines, 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.
Praziquantel is often also included in products with several active ingredients designed to treat or prevent multiple types of intestinal parasites.
Symptoms of a Tapeworm Infestation
Most pets don't develop illness associated with a tapeworm infection. However, they should still be treated to prevent discomfort associated with the worms and contamination of the home and possible risk to humans. 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. Some pets may also scoot along the floor due to itchiness.
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 move and be as big as 1/4 inch long when moist or as small as a sesame seed after they become desiccated (dried out) a few hours later.
Control Fleas and Prevent Hunting 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. A one-time flea treatment for your pets isn't sufficient to kill all fleas. If your dog or cat lives inside, more fleas are in your carpet and upholstery than on your pet. Treat all dogs and cats in your home with a veterinary-recommended flea control product. Thoroughly vacuum your floors and furniture and launder pet and human bedding. Environmental treatments like non-toxic diatomaceous earth, foggers and flea bombs, or the services of a professional exterminator may be necessary in severe cases.
Since some types of tapeworms are transmitted when pets eat infected prey, limiting hunting is also an important form of tapeworm prevention.