Think tagliatelle! Urgh, there’s no doubt Tapeworms are disgusting and close up look like something from a horror movie. Tapeworms in dogs are a common intestinal parasite. Thankfully they’re easy to treat with medication, but they can lead to severe problems in young, old or immunocompromised dogs. It’s important then to be aware of the signs. Finding tapeworm in puppy poop is probably not on your list of lovely things to discover about your puppy, is it? 

In this guide to tapeworm in puppies, we’ll take you through what tapeworms are, how to find out if your puppy has tapeworms, how to treat tapeworm in puppies and how to prevent your puppy from getting tapeworms in the future. 

Labrador Puppy
Photo by Shane Guymon on Unsplash

What are tapeworms?

If you’re squeamish, we better issue a content warning for you – Tapeworms in puppies are white and flat and can measure over a foot long. It’s honestly enough to put you off your carbonara! 

Tapeworms also have 6 rows of teeth and use these to hook on and live in your puppy’s small intestine, eating the nutrients that are being passed down the digestive system. 

The most common species of tapeworm is Dipylidium Caninum and as intestinal parasites go, they are pretty common and relatively harmless, unless there is a severe infestation. 

How do I know if my puppy has tapeworms?

It can be challenging to tell if your puppy has tapeworms because there are often no apparent symptoms. Keeping to a worming schedule, and knowing when to worm your puppy will help take the guesswork out and limit the amount of searching for signs of worms you need to do! 

Here are some common signs that your puppy may be suffering from tapeworms. 

Your puppy might lick their bottom if they have tapeworms

Tapeworms in puppies can cause itching in their back end. If you see your puppy suddenly start licking their behind, then it might be that tapeworms are causing them to itch back there. 

Tapeworms can make puppies scoot

If your puppy is doing that hilarious scoot along the carpet, we know you know the one, then chances are they might have tapeworms. Tapeworms can cause your puppy to have an irritated bottom and make them want to scratch it.  Poor pups, and your poor carpets!

Tapeworm can show up in puppy poop 

Due to the tapeworm life cycle, small pieces of them will come out in your puppy’s poop, ready to lay eggs and get into their next unsuspecting host. If you see what looks like grains of white rice in their poop it could be tapeworm.

Sometimes you will see the tapeworms wriggling around

<Insert dry heave here> Yes, sometimes you will see the tapeworms in your puppies anus. They will move around and will be pretty small like grains of rice, or cucumber seeds in appearance.

Tapeworm infestation can cause weight loss in puppies

If your puppy is really full of tapeworms then they can steal a lot of vital nutrients, which means they’re not going to your puppy, and so they’ll lose weight.

Tapeworms can cause diarrhoea in puppies

Yes, if your puppy has very loose stools, or diarrhoea, then chances are there could be some worms or other nasties in their gut.

Some puppies will vomit up Tapeworms

Well, pieces of them anyway. Yes, a tapeworm infestation can make some puppies vomit, and worming tablets themselves can be quite heavy on a puppy’s tummy, causing them to be sick. Probably best to give them a gentle diet if they’ve been unwell. We’d recommend holding the worm looking noodles…no one needs a reminder do they?

beagle puppy looking up
Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash

How are tapeworms in puppies treated?

If you suspect your puppy has tapeworms, or any other kind of worm such as roundworm, a visit to the Vets is always a good idea. They’ll be able to prescribe a broad spectrum dewormer that will get rid of other parasites too. 

Dewormers will kill the tapeworms and other nasties. You may find evidence of some of these other parasites when your puppy has a post worming poo. Usually tapeworms aren’t seen as by this stage the dewormer will have broken them up into small pieces.

Tapeworms in puppies can be treated by various types of wormers, that come in the following forms

  • Granular wormers – sprinkled on food this is probably the easiest way to worm your puppy
  • Tablet wormers – often quite tasty so will be gobbled down, especially if you use the cheese toss then pill toss method, your puppy will ‘catch’ the wormer and will just swallow it. Sneaky
  • Worming paste – this is a large syringe and you just squeeze it onto the back of your puppy’s mouth.
  • Liquid wormer – this can be squirted into your puppy’s mouth.

How to prevent future tapeworm infection?

While tapeworms in puppies are often just a fact of puppy life, and are easily treatable, there are other things you can do to limit the chances that your puppy picks up tapeworms repeatedly.

Be sure to flea treat your puppy, and regularly check them over for fleas. 

Yes, in a bizarre twist tapeworm larvae actually infect fleas! The puppy then licks themselves, ingests the infected flea, and becomes a host for the tapeworm. You can help keep tapeworm at bay by keeping up with your puppy’s flea prevention, and making sure you regularly groom your puppy so that there’s nothing lurking in their coat. Giving your puppy a bath is a nice way to stay on top of things too. 

Fleas are the number one way your puppy will get tapeworms, so if you see your puppy start itching, you know what you need to do! Get them de-flead and don’t forget that fleas can live in soft furnishings and carpets too so make sure to spray and treat your house.

Keep to a regular deworming protocol

When your puppy first comes home you’ll likely have instructions to worm them once a week, then once a month and then once every 6 months. Keeping on top of this worming protocol will mean if your puppy does get Tapeworm they will be treated before things get too errmm..wormy! 

To know how often to worm your puppy check out our article on puppy vs dog worming schedules.

Pick up your poop!

This should go without saying, but making sure you clean up after your puppy is important to help reduce the life cycle of the tapeworm. If only everyone was as clean as you we’d have far fewer wormy pups in the world.

Teach your puppy to leave others poo alone

We know it can be quite a delicacy, but another way puppies contract tapeworm is by eating other dogs’ infected poop. Teach your puppy a reliable leave it cue, so that when they go to sniff and show interest in the poo they can be called away. That way they won’t reinfect themselves with tapeworm.

All of the above sounds like common sense doesn’t it, but often new puppy owners need some tips in those first few weeks.

dog on laying on bed
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Tapeworms are a common occurrence in puppies and dogs, and are generally relatively harmless as long as they don’t get carried away! Easily treated with a dewormer, tapeworm in puppies can be prevented by keeping their worm and flea treatment up to date, and taking good hygiene measures. 

Want to learn more about worms? Check out our article all about roundworm in puppies. If the thought’s making you feel a bit queasy, then why not do a bit of retail therapy and take a look at our favourite harnesses and leads for puppies. 

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