Advice: Be on the lookout for tapeworms

2010-09-23T19:09:00Z Advice: Be on the lookout for tapewormsBy Jeff Kahler, D.V.M. | McClatchy Newspapers

Candice says her 3-year-old terrier mix has "rice grains" - which appear to be moving - coming out of her rear.

She is suspicious that they might be tapeworms, but questions the possibility because Lulu is on monthly prevention for heartworm and intestinal parasites.

I agree that Lulu has tapeworms. They are parasitic worms that live inside the intestinal tract of dogs, cats and many other animals.

What Candice is describing are the egg cases that break off adult tapeworms. These segments pass out in the stool, dry out, rupture and release the eggs inside. These eggs can then be ingested by the next victim and grow inside the digestive tract into new tapeworms.

Interestingly, the tapeworm eggs will stick to fleas and then be ingested when a dog or cat bites the flea. This "flea ride" greatly enhances the chances of the tapeworm egg being ingested.

The monthly preventative treatment that Lulu receives is effective on heartworm infection and intestinal parasites such as roundworm, hookworm and whipworm. Unfortunately, these products do not prevent or treat tapeworms. Tapeworms must be treated when they are found.

Treatment is simple and effective. An injection can kill the adult worms in an hour or two. There's also an oral product that works quickly as well.

It is important when treating tapeworms to also treat for fleas. Remember, the fleas are the main transport mechanism the tapeworm uses to get its eggs into the host.

To detect these parasites, a stool sample is examined microscopically. It is important to have a stool sample examined on a regular basis, but keep in mind that the eggs cannot always be found in the stool. It is more common to find egg cases undulating around on your pet or on the stool itself.

Aren't you lucky?


(Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.)



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