Dogs seem to have an uncanny ability to bound and bark through life without picking up any illnesses. But can dogs in actual fact pick up some of the same illnesses as humans can? Take tapeworms for example. They are a parasite that lives in your intestines. Although they are not usually too harmful, they can leave you feeling terribly unwell and seriously impact your day-to-day of life. Dogs are also vulnerable to tapeworms, but could your dog catch tapeworm from other dogs?
Can Dogs Get Tapeworm From Other Dogs?
People may think because dogs do pick up tapeworms after too much contact with an infected dog, that they can directly get tapeworm from other dogs. However, tapeworms need an intermediary host, like a flea! A flea ingests tapeworm eggs from an infected dog. Your dog could then eat that flea and that’s actually how the infection would spread.
Does My Dog Have Tapeworms?
The good news is, the symptoms of tapeworm are easy to spot. Is your dog scratching its anal area or scooting? Can you actually see worms in their stool or their vomit? Has your dog lost its appetite or lost a lot of weight? All of these could be signs that your dog has tapeworms.
But how exactly did the infection take place? The larva of a flea will ingest the tapeworm eggs that are passed on by an infected dog. These larvae will grow into mature fleas. An infected flea will then land on your dog. Naturally, your dog will try and itch, lick and do anything it can to rid itself of the pesky free rider. Your dog may ingest the flea in that process and now they are inside your dog and have infected them with tapeworm.
How will your vet diagnose tapeworm? Your vet will undertake a quick physical examination to look for obvious signs of weight loss and itching of the southern regions. But really, they will be interested in your dog’s stool. They will do a fecal test to allow them to accurately identify the tapeworm.
Learn more about the symptoms, causes and diagnostic procedure at our guide to Worm Infestations in Dogs.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Tapeworms?
Thankfully, treating tapeworm in your dog is a simple procedure. Your vet will prescribe a dewormer, also known as a parasiticide, which will either be given orally or injected. This will cause the tapeworm to dissolve in the intestine of your canine companion, so you will not see the tapeworm in your dog’s stool.
Dewormers are extremely effective, but can sometimes require several treatments. This is because dewormers usually only kill the tapeworms that are alive, but the unhatched eggs will survive and then hatch later on. It is also worth pointing out your dog may well be treated, but will still be able to contract tapeworms again in the future.
Recovery usually takes several weeks, but there are certain steps you should take as an owner to help with the recovery process and prevent re-infection. Controlling fleas and lice is the first measure to take, otherwise, re-infection can happen in a matter of weeks. Also, do not feed your dog contaminated scraps or raw meat unless it has been frozen for at least 10 days.
For first-hand accounts from other owners and answered frequently asked questions from our trained, in-house vets, check out our guide to Tapeworms in Dogs.
How Are Tapeworms Similar in Dogs and Humans?
In lots of ways, the symptoms of a tapeworm infestation in dogs is very similar to the symptoms found in humans and other animals. Some of the most similar symptoms you could expect to see are as follows:
Both dogs and humans can appear to have lost significant weight.
Both may lose their appetite or be unable to keep any food down.
You may be able to see actual worms in the stool and vomit of both dogs and humans.
Both may appear lethargic and uninterested in their usual day-to-day activities.
How Are Tapeworms Different in Dogs and Humans?
While we have just seen that there are indeed certain similarities in the symptoms of tapeworms in dogs and humans, it is also worth noting, however, that there are certain differences too. Some of the most pronounced differences you could expect to find are:
Dogs will frequently scoot across the ground in an attempt to scratch the affected area and may also try to lick their southern region.
Humans will be suffering from visible abdominal pain, it is less clear whether dogs suffer with this too.
Dogs may lose hair from their coat, humans do not display such symptoms.
Sampson was a 6-week-old Pit-bull mix who suddenly appeared fatigued and unwell to his owner. He decreased in size after he stopped eating, seemed uninterested in any of his day-to-day activities, and his owners became understandably concerned. Once deworming tablets were given though, Sampson excreted up to 30 worms in quick succession. With further deworming tablets Sampson was back to himself and his normal weight in just 4 weeks. What was interesting about this case though, was that the owners’ other dog had also recently had tapeworms, so it became apparent the tapeworms were probably contracted indirectly from the other household dog.