There is a cycle through which pets get tapeworms:
- First, the pet will ingest a host that is harboring tapeworm eggs, most often an adult flea. There are a few ways a pet might ingest a flea, such as self-grooming, or grooming a canine or feline housemate. Other animals that are potential transmitters of eggs include birds, rabbits, or rodents, which even a well-fed dog might scavenge for.
- Once digested, the tapeworm eggs settle into your pet’s small intestine. There it will develop into an adult.
- The adult tapeworm is made up of lots of small segments, each about the size of a grain of rice. Adult tapeworms usually measure anywhere from four to 28 inches in length.
- As the tapeworm matures inside the dog’s gut, these segments break off and end up in the pets’s stool. Since these segments contain tapeworm eggs, the cycle will begin again, with a new host and most likely a new recipient.
Another telltale sign of worm infestation is if your pet scoots his anus across the ground, on a rug, or another rough surface. This is due to the irritation the segments are causing his skin. You may see your pet licking or biting at the area. Occasionally, a portion of the tapeworm will be released when your dog vomits.
The best way to avoid a tapeworm infestation is to keep your dog free of flea infestation. The surrounding environment must also be treated to prevent recurring infestations. The CDC recommends these steps to reduce the likelihood of tapeworm infestation:
- Control fleas on your pet, and in their indoor and outdoor environments.
- Have your veterinarian treat your pets promptly if they have tapeworms.
- Clean up after your pet, especially in playgrounds and public parks. Bury the feces, or place it in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash.
- Do not allow children to play in areas that are soiled with pet- or other animal feces.
- Teach children to always wash their hands after playing with dogs and cats, and after playing outdoors.
- Keep the dog away from dead animals and garbage.