Tapeworms are flat segmented worms that attach themselves to a pets upper intestines. Each segment contains their own reproductive organs. Tapeworm infections are easy to miss our routine fecal floatations will miss the presence of a tapeworm roughly 75-80 percent of the time.
Why can’t we find them? Fecal Floats look for free floating eggs in the feces of the dog or cat, but unlike other worms, tapeworms do not lay eggs directly into the pets intestines. There eggs are contained in each protective segment.
How are tapeworms diagnosed? Often owners or veterinarians will find the segments that have broken off from the main worm and are now caught in hair around the anus. They look like rice in the feces. Sometimes these segments will dry up and resemble grass seeds. They will exit the anus at will and may be in areas your pet frequents. Though often times we may strategically deworm pets based on signs or suspicions of tapeworm infection.
How do pets become infected? The tapeworm uses an intermediate host before reaching the pet. The most common intermediate host are fleas. The segments that dry out , burst open releasing the eggs, flea larvae then eat the eggs. The dog or cat then chews at the flea and ingests it causing them to in turn ingest the tapeworm eggs.
That is why flea infestations are usually followed by the diagnoses of tapeworms.
Signs of tapeworms? Signs may not be as dramatic as you think, pets do not lose a lot of weight or seem weak. Often times, the only signs may be occasional or increased vomiting, scooting, or nothing at all.
How to prevent tapeworms?
Develop more effective flea control plans with in your home, on all of your pets, and in your yard. Be consistent, use medications as prescribed and do not skip doses. Discuss any issues you have with your veterinarian.