Tapeworms are common parasites of the small intestine of dogs and cats. They are flat and can measure from a few millimeters (Echinococcus) up to 2.5 meters (Taenia hydatigena) in length. They attach to the gut wall and live off of the intestinal contents.
How Tapeworms are Transmitted
Adult tapeworms live in the intestine of dogs and cats. They produce eggs, which are shed in the environment through the animal’s feces. These eggs contain a first stage larva and when eaten by an intermediate host, like an arthropod (flea or lice), the development proceeds up to the formation of the second larval stage. These larvae are infective for the dog or cat and attach to the wall of the intestine to become adults in a few weeks.
Adult tapeworms are aesthetically unpleasant. Severe infections may cause intestinal damage due to the physical presence of the worms.
Treating Tapeworm Infection
A few de-worming products are marketed for the treatment and control of tapeworm infections. These medications can be prescribed by your veterinarian. The most important thing to do is to kill the fleas that are on your pet and in the environment to prevent the continued transmission of tapeworm. Topical, monthly products such as Advantage and Frontline Plus are effective flea control products and can be purchased from your veterinarian.