While you are grooming your dog, you notice that his coat seems to be shedding abnormally. You also notice that he is scratching and licking himself frantically. Tapeworms are made up of tiny segments that look like grains of rice. Each of these segments may contain eggs. Tapeworms trigger severe itching and discomfort on dogs around the anus and the segments can be seen clearly in the feces. There are two types of tapeworms. One type is named Dipylidium Caninum and can only affects dogs. The other type of tapeworm can affect humans and cause an illness called the Hydatid D isease.
Dipylidium Caninum is transmitted by fleas. This cucumber-shaped organism is the most common type of tapeworm that affects dogs. The flea larva ingest rounded tapeworm segments field with eggs or sometimes the actual egg themselves. Once the flea matures, it hops on your dog. Your dog can catch tapeworms by inadvertently eating the fleas in which the tapeworm larvae have developed.
As the flea passes through your dog's digestive system, the tapeworm egg attaches itself to the intestine, where it eventually hatches and matures. The mature segments that are filled with eggs pass out of the dog's anus. The segments, while moist, can move around for a while. The eggs that are contained in the new segments are then eaten by fleas and begin its new cycle.
Tapeworms can grow to up to two feet in length inside a dog's body. Luckily, humans do not get this form of tapeworm from dogs. This parasite is very hard to fully treat because the head tends to separate form the body and remains stuck to the intestinal wall.
When tapeworms or the segments leave your dog's body, they are likely to attach themselves outside the anus. This causes severe itch and uneasiness which leaves your dog scratching itself for relief. In addition, your dog tends to stop gaining weight and may even lose a few pounds because he is inadvertently sharing his food with the tapeworms. The stool will visibly reveal the presence of tapeworms in the form of tiny white grains which moves about by forming a sort of "point" on one end.
You will need to see your vet to treat this type of tapeworm. Deworming agents that are used for treatment are very potent and has to be given with extreme care. Furthermore, you need to take steps to treat your house and get rid of fleas that carry tapeworm eggs.
A word of warning: Children can easily get tapeworms either by accidentally swallowing fleas while petting and infected dog or by being licked on the mouth by a dog with a flea on its tongue. It is very important to have your children wash their hands after petting a dog and to always remind them never to put their hands in their mouths.
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