What are Tapeworms?

Tapeworms are long, flat parasites that attach themselves to the lining of a dog’s small intestine. They have segmented bodies, and each 1/4- to 1/2-inch-long segment contains eggs. Tapeworms are common and are often detected when these segments, which look similar to grains of rice, are seen in a dog’s feces, around its tail or in the area where it sleeps.

Tapeworms require an intermediate host before they can infect a dog, most often a flea that has ingested tapeworm eggs. The larvae then grow inside of the flea. When a dog swallows an infected flea, it gets tapeworms.

Tapeworms typically are not serious health issue and do not cause a dog to appear sick, though they do deprive the dog of some of its nutrition. They are easily detected from a stool sample by your vet, who will treat your dog with oral medication or an injection to get rid of them. Tapeworms are a bigger problem in puppies, because a young dog’s growth rate can be affected by them.

The most common way to prevent tapeworms is to control fleas in your dog’s environment and keep it away from dead animals and garbage.