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My dog has tapeworms!


            Tapeworm is a canine and feline parasitic nematode known as Dipylidium caninum and Taenia(meaning “flat band”) Pisiformis, most commonly.  In order for the dog or cat to become infected, he must himself ingest an intermediate host, such as a rabbit, vole, mouse or flea.

            The body of this nematode is segmented in parts known as proglottids.  Tapeworms are small and flat, and the proglottids are commonly expelled from an infected animal’s anus.  Pet owners might find small particles resembling rice

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grains near where their pet sleeps.  Although they may experience some benign symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea, or itching around the anus, symptoms of tapeworm infestation are not clinically observable.

            Once a tapeworm reaches the intestine, it continues its life cycle by using its hook-like head segment to attach to the intestinal lining.  This is called the scolex.  The tapeworm continues to mature and grow in length and segment number, sometimes reaching as long as 5 to 10 meters.

            Eggs are expelled from individual proglottids, and they are difficult to find under a microscopic view of feces.  It is the proglottids which are expelled that are the most telling way to discover an infestation.  Without a consistent worming regimen from the vet, pet owners must rely on their own discovery of this troubling occurrence.

            Pet owners should not rely on the efficacy of over-the-counter tapeworm treatments.  The most important treatment objective is to kill the proglottid producing scolex.  If the scolex is not killed, then it will continue to produce egg producing proglottids.  Over-the-counter tapeworm remedies do not kill the parasite properly.  The proglottids are stopped from reproducing, but once a whole new army of proglottids arrives, it will be nematode life as usual.  A powerful prescription must be obtained from a veterinarian.

            The prevention and control of intermediate hosts such as mice and fleas is critical to tapeworm treatment and prevention.  Often, it is not the result of the reliable and effective medicines which are available, but the result of simply ingesting a small animal with tapeworm.  This can occur in as little as two weeks.  Outdoor cats in particular need to be wormed on a regular basis due to their prey catching habits.

            Because it requires getting tapeworm directly from an intermediate host, humans are not likely to contract tapeworm from their infected pets.  There have been some cases found in children, however, who may accidentally ingest fleas from pets or mice.





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