Tapeworms in Dogs: Causes & Treatment - GoodRx (2024)

Key takeaways:

  • Tapeworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites your canine companions can get.

  • A specific deworming medication, called praziquantel, is necessary to treat the most common tapeworms in dogs.

  • The key to effectively preventing tapeworm infections in your dog is maintaining good year-round flea control.

Tapeworms in Dogs: Causes & Treatment - GoodRx (1)

If you see worms in your dog’s poop, there is a good chance they could be tapeworms. Tapeworms are common in dogs, but you’ll need to talk to your vet to get the right treatment. And you may be surprised at how your dog got infected with them in the first place — usually through fleas.

In this article, we will discuss what tapeworms are, how dogs get them, and how to treat and prevent them.

What are tapeworms?

Tapeworms are a type of parasite — also called a cestode — that can live inside your dog’s intestines. These worms use their mouth to latch onto the lining, or wall, of your dog’s small intestine.

As tapeworms grow and become adults, they shed small segments of their bodies, which come out in your dog’s stool. Adult tapeworms can grow to be as long as 11 inches in length or longer.

Types of tapeworms

There are many different types of tapeworms. By far the most common type of tapeworm dogs get is called Dipylidium caninum — sometimes known as the flea tapeworm.

Dogs can also get infected with the Taenia species of tapeworm by eating small rodents or rabbits. These tapeworms are much less common in dogs.

Even though you’re most likely to encounter flea tapeworms, keep in mind different types of tapeworms may require different types of treatment.

How do dogs get tapeworms?

Dogs most often get tapeworms by eating fleas. Fleas are the intermediate host of the flea tapeworm. This means tapeworms must first live inside of a flea before they can be passed to your dog.

When your dog has a flea on their body, they will chew at their skin to relieve the itch. Dogs may end up eating one or more of the fleas when they chew at their skin. This is why your veterinarian may ask about fleas if you see tapeworm segments in your dog’s poop.

What are the signs of tapeworm in dogs?

Dogs don’t usually have any symptoms from tapeworms, like vomiting or diarrhea. Rarely, if your dog has many tapeworms, they may experience weight loss or have difficulty gaining weight.

Seeing little tapeworm segments in your dog’s poop is the most common sign your dog has tapeworms. The segments look like pieces of white rice. You may also notice segments stuck in the fur around your dog’s anus or as dried up white or yellow pieces lying wherever your dog sleeps.

You might also notice your dog scooting their rear end on the floor as a way to relieve any itch associated with tapeworm segments. It is important to note that there are other reasons a dog may scoot their rear, including full or impacted anal glands. Talk to your vet about your dog’s symptoms.

How to treat tapeworms in dogs

The flea tapeworm Dipylidium caninum is only killed by a specific dewormer called praziquantel. Most products containing praziquantel are available by prescription only. Talk to your vet if you suspect tapeworms.

Praziquantel works by damaging the tapeworm’s skin, which causes it to break up. The tapeworms then die and end up in your dog’s poop. You most likely won’t see any of the worms. They tend to get digested along the way and are mixed in with your dog’s poop.

Praziquantel can be given as an injection or in pill form. Some vets will give your dog a one-time injection of dewormer underneath your dog’s skin, just like they would give your dog a vaccine.

Other veterinary clinics carry or prescribe a tablet form of the praziquantel dewormer that you give your dog by mouth. You can give your dog the pill hidden inside a bit of squeeze cheese, peanut butter, or lunch meat.

There are two over-the-counter dewormers for dogs with praziquantel — Bayer quad dewormer and Bayer tapeworm dewormer for dogs. Most over-the-counter deworming medications do treat other types of tapeworms, like the ones dogs can get from eating rodents.

Though some medications are available over the counter, talk to your veterinarian before giving them to your dog. Anti-parasite medications can be dangerous to pets if they are given incorrectly. If you have cats in your household, never give them medication designed for dogs.

How do I prevent my dog from getting tapeworms?

Prevention is the best way to keep dogs from getting tapeworms. Make sure your dog is on a good flea preventative beginning in the spring and continuing through the end of the fall. Some flea prevention treatments need to be given every 30 days. Others can last as long as 8 months.

Flea prevention treatments are available with or without a prescription from your vet. Some over-the-counter flea treatments have been around for a long time and aren’t as effective anymore. It seems that fleas have built up a resistance to these treatments, which usually include the ingredient fipronil.

Talk to your vet for advice on the best flea prevention medication for your dog. Here is a list of several flea preventatives that are effective for dogs:

  • Advantage II topical (over-the-counter)

  • Seresto flea and tick collar (over-the-counter)

  • Nexgard (prescription)

  • Simparica (prescription)

  • Bravecto (prescription)

  • Comfortis (prescription)

If your dog has flea allergies or you live in an area with flea issues year-round, keep your dog on flea prevention even throughout the winter months.

Can I get infected with dog tapeworms?

You cannot get the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm caused by fleas directly from your dog. If you swallow an infected flea, however, there is a chance you could get infected. So avoid eating fleas at all costs no matter how tasty they may appear!

The bottom line

Dogs get the most common tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum, by eating fleas. The best way to prevent tapeworms is to keep your dog on a good flea prevention treatment. If your dog does end up with tapeworms, no need to fret. Tapeworms don’t usually cause your dog to be sick and are really just a nuisance. Tapeworms are easily treatable. Talk to your vet to get a product with the ingredient praziquantel to effectively get rid of the tapeworms.

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Tapeworms in Dogs: Causes & Treatment - GoodRx (2024)


What foods cause tapeworms in dogs? ›

Common causes:
  • Eating fleas.
  • Eating infected animals.
  • Consuming raw or undercooked meat.

What kills all tapeworms in dogs? ›

Tapeworm treatment requires the administration of a deworming product which contains the active ingredient praziquantel, such as ParaGard Allwormer for Dogs®. Dogs at risk of hydatid tapeworm (those with access to raw offal or carcasses) should be treated with ParaGard Allwormer for Dogs every 6 weeks.

What is the most common way dogs get tapeworms? ›

There are a few species of tapeworms that can infect dogs. The most common (Dipylidium caninum) is spread by ingesting a flea. Dogs can also get a different kind of tapeworm (Taenia spp.) from eating rodents that carry tapeworm larvae (an immature form of the parasite).

What do vets give dogs for tapeworms? ›

Tapeworms in dogs can be treated with a parasiticide drug called praziquantel . This drug is available in both oral and injectable form and is dosed by weight.

Can Apple cider vinegar get rid of tapeworms in dogs? ›

Apple cider vinegar is fermented with probiotics and works to raise pH levels and good bacteria in your dog's gut. Any parasites or worms in your pup's intestines can't survive in these conditions.

What is the best home remedy for tapeworms in dogs? ›

Natural Remedies for Dog Deworming:
  • 1. Fruits and Vegetables. Veggies like carrots, beetroot, banana, apple, coconut, and papaya are rich in fiber and act as natural dewormers. ...
  • Turmeric. Turmeric has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. ...
  • Pumpkin Seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain a deworming compound called cucurbitacin.
Apr 16, 2020

What kills tapeworms naturally? ›

In addition to papaya seeds, there are also claims of other natural dewormers. These include garlic, pumpkin, and ginger. These herbs have had antiparasitic effects in some animals, but more research is needed to confirm the benefits in humans.

How much apple cider vinegar do I give my dog for tapeworms? ›

Unlike other vinegar, apple cider vinegar increases the alkaline levels in the intestines of the dog. As a result, it creates an inhospitable environment for worms and other parasites. You can add ¼ to 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar in your dog's water daily.

Can tapeworms live in carpet? ›

The tapeworm eggs can live in the environment in grass and soil, carpets and dust, so it is hard to eliminate the process of infection as we cannot keep this permanently clean.

What kills worms in dogs instantly? ›

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are an extremely effective deworming agent because they contain an amino acid called cucurbitacin. This paralyzes the worms making them easily eliminated from the intestine. They can be fed whole as a treat or you can grind them into a fine powder and add to Fido's food.

How do dogs act when they have tapeworms? ›

Tapeworms do not normally cause serious health problems in adult dogs. Occasionally, dogs will drag their bottoms on the ground, a behavior known as scooting, in order to calm irritation associated with the proglottids. Scooting can also occur for other reasons such as impacted anal sacs.

Where did my dog get tapeworms from? ›

There are different kinds of tapeworms, but the most common one is caused by swallowing a tiny infected flea. Fleascan carry the tapeworm's larvae or babies. If your dog swallows it -- maybe while grooming himself -- an adult tapeworm can grow inside your dog's intestines.

Can humans get tapeworms from dogs? ›

Can I get a tapeworm infection from my pet? Yes; however, the risk of infection with this tapeworm in humans is very low. For a person to become infected with Dipylidium, he or she must accidentally swallow an infected flea. Most reported cases involve children.

How long does it take to cure tapeworms in dogs? ›

Most commonly, your pup will be given two doses of a drug called praziquantel two weeks apart. The goal of this treatment is to interrupt the life cycle of any parasites affecting your pup. Two doses will generally suffice in curing these infections, but they have a tendency to recur.

Can I treat my dog for worms without going to the vet? ›

Vegetables and fruits are great for deworming dogs. They contain high levels of fibre which help to bulk up the stools and expel the worms. Pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, and papaya are all excellent choices. Feeding your dog a couple of these a day will help to clean them out and keep them healthy.

What foods carry tapeworms? ›

What Causes a Tapeworm Infection?
  • eating raw or undercooked beef, pork, or fish infected with tapeworm. or.
  • contact with poop that contains tapeworm eggs. People can pass tapeworm eggs to others when they don't wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Does pumpkin help with worms in dogs? ›

Pumpkin seeds are an extremely effective deworming agent because they contain an amino acid called cucurbitacin. This paralyzes the worms making them easily eliminated from the intestine. They can be fed whole as a treat or you can grind them into a fine powder and add to Fido's food.

How do you prevent tapeworms in dogs? ›

In most cases, you can prevent tapeworms with a few simple steps: Because fleas are the key cause, control them both on your dog and in your home and yard. Talk to your vet about flea spray, powder, collars, oral medication, or topical liquid treatments. Work with your vet to keep your dog on a de-worming plan.

Can chicken give dogs worms? ›

Your dog or cat can contract a worm infestation through raw meat, but this only happens when the food isn't inspected, handled or prepared properly. In fact, pet parents that are deeply invested in their pets' health, safety, and longevity, are more likely to choose companies that prioritize food safety and handling.


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