Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I was walking a friend's dog the other day. He did his usual sniffing about and then defecated. Being a dog person, I took a look to see if the stool looked "healthy". It looked normal, except for a small white writhing ribbon like object that I recognized as a tapeworm proglottid.

Tapeworms are common this time of year in dogs. The worm is segmented and the segments, called proglottids, are what show up in dog feces. Proglottids are the reproductive segments and are what is commonly seen moving in feces. Each proglottid is actually a reproducing unit and are mobile which is why they often irritate the anal area causing a dog to scoot along the floor. The proglottids contain eggs that are eaten by fleas. Fleas get on the dog and the dog chews or licks its skin as a flea bites; the flea is then swallowed. As the flea is digested, the tapeworm hatches and anchors itself to the intestinal lining. So you can see it's fairly easy for dogs to be infected with tapeworms.

The tapeworm will attach to the wall of the small intestine and begin growing more proglottids. The lifecycle will repeat as the proglottids break free and are passed with the feces. I've included a photo that shows the life cycle.

The tapeworm doesn't have disastrous consequences for your dog. However, most people don't like the idea of having worms in their pets. So it's important to check your dog for fleas and take a look at fresh fecal matter to see if there are any proglottids in it.

Treatment is simple and effective. We use Droncit which is in tablet form. These tablets are reasonable in price and can be gotten from your vet. The drug kills tapeworms causing them to dissolve within the intestines. Since the worm is usually digested before it passes, it is not visible in your dog's stool.

The real issue here is fleas and getting them under control. Flea control involves treatment of your dog, the indoor environment and the outdoor environment if your dog is in a kennel. We use Frontline as a topical treatment. We have also used Interceptor as larval preventor. Frequent vacuuming is necessary for rugs. And aerosol "bomb" insecticides are useful indoors. I don't bathe the Labradors much but when I do, I use a pyrethrin-based flea shampoo. All of these in combination will help keep fleas off your dog and will prevent infestation with tapeworms.

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