When my dogs and I first moved up to the Northwoods, I rented a house with a huge fenced in yard where they could run. At that time, my morning routine was to let them out to romp while I was getting ready for work, checking on them once in a while. One morning I looked out and one of the younger dogs was chewing on something I thought was a rawhide. When I came out a while later, he was still chewing on it, and since I don’t like them to chew on them too long, I went to take it away from him. I reached down and noticed that it was reddish brown and didn’t look quite right, so I quickly grabbed it from him and threw it over the fence. As it went flying through the air, I noticed that it had four legs and a tail – it was a chipmunk. I felt horrible, but realized that my dog had done what a lot of dogs do when a small creature invades their yard.
Fast forward eight weeks. I noticed that one of the dogs, Dulse, had some white flecks on the black fur under his tail. It looked like rice, and I knew immediately that it was tapeworm segments, which can look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds.
Tapeworms are flat worms that consist of a head, neck, and a number of segments. A tapeworm attaches its head to the intestine of the animal with suckers or muscular grooves and grows new segments from the neck area. As the tapeworm grows and the segments mature, it casts off the segments at the end of the tail and they travel through the animal’s intestines, to come out by the anus.
A tapeworm lives by absorbing nutrients from food the animal consumes as it flows past the part of the intestine where it’s attached. Most pets may show no symptoms of this parasite. If there was a severe tapeworm infection, some pets may be constipated or have diarrhea, may show abdominal discomfort, or vomit. Most of the time a tapeworm is only diagnosed because the owner sees the rice-like segments around where the pet lays or where the pet is scooting his rear end.
Two species of tapeworms are fairly common in dogs and cats, and are transmitted to your pet through different vectors. For instance, your pet can acquire the Taenia species (Taenia pisiformis– dogs, and Taenia taeniaformis – cats) by eating a rodent; while they can get the more common tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum (both dogs and cats) by ingesting a flea. The only way to differentiate the type of tapeworm is under a microscope.
I knew that it was likely that Dulse had ingested the tapeworm when he chewed on the chipmunk, so when I took him to my veterinarian, I let him know the history. He prescribed a wormer, but I asked if I could give the same ingredients without a prescription, Safeguard Granules. He told me to give it a try, and it worked fine.
At that time praziquantel, an ingredient that eliminates both kinds of tapeworm was not available without a prescription, but now it is, and I could use Tradewinds Tapeworm Tabs if Dulse is infected again.
Side note: I know that the flea preventive I use on my dogs, K9 Advantix, helps protect against the most common type of tapeworm, which is transmitted by the flea.