Dogs are prone to several kinds of intestinal parasites. One common parasite is the tapeworm, which can cause serious illness or even death if untreated. Tapeworms can be easily identified by the ricelike segments that appear in the dog's stool.
A tapeworm infestation should be suspected if the dog scratches or chews itself excessively around the base of the tail. According to the VetInfo website, a dog that develops an increased appetite may be attempting to replace the nutrients it needs that are not being absorbed due to the presence of a tapeworm.
According to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center website, the tapeworm is a toothed parasitical worm that grows in segments. New segments form at the back of the worm's head, forcing older segments toward the tail. The older segments, which contain the worm's eggs, break off and are expelled from the infected animal's body. These segments resemble flattened grains of rice.
Life Cycle of the Tapeworm
The life cycle of the tapeworm is closely tied with that of the flea. When tapeworm segments containing eggs are passed from their hosts they are often ingested by flea larvae, which then jump on the pets that inhabit the area. The dog ingests the fleas, either infecting itself or reinfecting itself in the process. The tapeworm's life cycle takes approximately 3 weeks to complete.
Tapeworm prevention is perhaps the best form of tapeworm treatment. Medical treatment can involve dewormers, such as Droncit, in either pill or injectable form. Severe infestations may require several treatments as the environment is freed from fleas.
Tapeworm Risks for Humans
Human beings can become infested with tapeworms by ingesting fleas or by ingesting meat or feces infested with tapeworm eggs. In adults, the most common risk factors include eating undercooked meat, working with livestock and poor hygiene. According to Mayo Clinic, tapeworms can live for decades inside their human hosts; however, they can be removed through surgery or drug treatment.