Canine tapeworm, also called Dipylidium caninum, is one of the most common types of dog worm infestations. Symptoms include visible eggs passing through the anus in feces or bedding, weight loss, and increased appetite. These worms deprive dogs of essential nutrients, leading to lethargy and a poor-looking coat. Other symptoms of tapeworms in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, and itching around the anus.
One symptom of canine tapeworm is pieces or segments of the tapeworm passing through the dog's anus. The tapeworm grows inside the intestines of the infected dog in segments. As new segments grow on the tapeworm, older ones drop off the body of the worm, becoming eggs. These pieces can be found on carpets or bedding where the dog has been lying, in the feces, or around the dog's anus, and they resemble small, dried grains of rice.
Another common and much more apparent symptom of canine tapeworm is loss of weight despite increased food consumption. This is the product of one or more tapeworms effectively stealing food and nutrients from the dog. The dog is forced to eat more because it is being starved by its intestinal worm.
The deficit of nutrients inherent in canine tapeworm can lead to other symptoms. One of these symptoms is lethargy. The canine is not getting enough fuel for energy and will often spend a lot of time sleeping. Another symptom of nutrient deficiency caused by tapeworm is a poor coat. The coat may be oily, dry, or shedding excessively.
The dog may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain from canine tapeworm infestation. A nervous appearance is another common symptom, often caused by the discomfort brought on by the worm. Severe itching in and around the anus is another symptom caused by the worm eggs passing through. It is common to see worm eggs moving around the anus with the naked eye when tapeworm is present.
The causes of canine tapeworm vary from dog to dog. All tapeworms are transitted by fleas. A canine can get a tapeworm from an infected flea that feeds on the dog. Another common way to get tapeworm is if the dog eats a flea infected with tapeworm or an animal carrying fleas with tapeworm.
Treating canine tapeworm involves killing the tapeworm so it releases its hold on the dog's intestinal lining. Anti-worming medications are available specifically for tapeworms and are available at most pet stores. Alternatively, the veterinarian can administer an injection to get rid of tapeworms. When the tapeworm dies, it is released from the intestines and digested normally. A thorough vacuuming is recommended to ensure all tapeworm egg sacs are removed to prevent reinfestation.