Can Dogs Get Tapeworms from Cats?

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If you’re a multiple species pet kind of household, you know that keeping everyone happy and healthy can resemble a bit from a comedy sitcom. The cat won’t leave the dog alone. The dog ate the cat’s food. The cat keeps attacking the dog. The dog keeps chasing the cat. The dog got into the cat’s litter box again…


On top of the general nuisances cats and dogs like to cause to each other, pet owners may also be concerned about pets spreading diseases or parasites across species. One of the most common and annoying of these parasites are tapeworms. Tapeworms infect your cat and take up residence in their intestines, robbing the host of vital nutrients. We know that cats can contract tapeworms, but can these pesky vermin be passed along to your dog?

Can Dogs Get Tapeworms from Cats?

YES!

Fido can indeed catch tapeworms from Mr. Whiskers, albeit indirectly. Most commonly, tapeworm is spread among household pets by an intermediate host such as a flea. Your dog may become infected after a host flea is ingested, typically when your dog is grooming itself--or the cat.

Does My Dog Have Tapeworms?

A tapeworm infection in your dog won’t generally cause severe sickness that would make the average owner take pause. In some severe cases, tapeworms may cause your dog to lose weight, but that might be the only sign until the infestation is well under way. Signs to watch for that your dog may be suffering from tapeworms is scooting, or scratching of the butt region across the carpet, or licking or biting at the rear end. In extreme cases, small white dots known as segments may appear in the fur directly around your dog’s anus.

Tapeworm infections are usually diagnosed by your vet. Your veterinarian will obtain a small stool sample that you’ve brought in or, ideally, that your dog has “donated” while at the vet’s office. Looking at the sample under a microscope, with or without the addition of liquid to help parasites “float”, will confirm a tapeworm diagnosis. Sometimes your dog may also vomit up pieces of the worm if the infection is serious enough.

For more information on tapeworms in your dog, check out this handy article .

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Tapeworms?

Eliminating tapeworms from your dog and other household pets takes two forms: prevention and treatment. To treat an immediate outbreak of tapeworm,s your dog will need special medication from their local vet. The most common medication is praziquantel, also known as Droncit. The medicine can be administered orally or by injection in dogs and can typically cure up infection in one dose. The medication kills tapeworms and their eggs or segments and allows your dog to defecate them out harmlessly as waste.

The best form of treatment of tapeworms in your dog is prevention. This can be mostly accomplished by keeping all of the animals in your household free of fleas. There are many safe topical flea prevention medications on the market today. Following a regular flea and tick prevention schedule, as well as maintaining good pet hygiene and advising children to wash their hands after playing with pets outside of the household, can keep tapeworms under control.

How Are Tapeworms Similar in Dogs and Cats?

Tapeworm infections in cats and dogs are very similar. The pests can pass back and forth between species fairly easily, with the help of an intermediate host. Fleas also infest cats and dogs at a similar rate. Both cats and dogs will also show few, if any, symptoms of a tapeworm infection unless the infestation has become severe.

How Is Tapeworms Different in Dogs and Cats?

There are some differences in tapeworm infection and prevention between cats and dogs. In cats, medication to treat a tapeworm infection can also be administered topically, which means on the skin. This hasn’t quite been developed yet for your pooch. Tapeworms may also have a greater impact on cats given their generally lower body weight when compared to dogs.

Case Study

The typical case of tapeworms in your dog will start our fairly stealthily. You may notice that your dog is worrying, or chewing and licking, at their back or hind end area a little more. This may happen after your dog has picked up fleas from a cat outdoors or after your household cat has been diagnosed with tapeworms.

 

Next, your dog will start showing other signs as the infection progresses. They may scoot their butt across your rug, much to the consternation of you and your rug cleaning budget. A quick trip to the vet will confirm a diagnosis of tapeworms. With a quick injection or administration of oral medicine, your dog’s tapeworm infection will begin to clear up almost immediately, letting you, Fido, and Frisky the cat get back to your normal, not so harmonious, multi-species lives.