Tapeworms are a common worm found in pets. While there are several types of tapeworms and the method of transmission can vary, the common tapeworm starts life as an egg passed in the dog or cat’s feces.
The egg is eaten by a flea or louse and develops into an intermediate stage, called a cysticercoid. This is the infective stage. The dog or cat then eats the flea and becomes infected. The cysticercoid develops into the adult tapeworm and the cycle starts again.
Tapeworms affect your pet’s health and are harmful to humans too. When a human accidentally ingests the eggs (handling a pet without hand washing, digging in infected soils, eating uncooked meat) the eggs circulate in the human’s body. The ingested cysts can do harm to many organs, and in some cases this can be fatal.
Common ways for your pet to get tapeworms are by having fleas (and ingesting the flea host during self-grooming) and hunting small prey. While flea prevention serves many purposes cats and dogs that hunt and ingest prey are at high risk.
Standard stool testing will not show tapeworm segments. Sometimes you may notice rice like segments on bedding, pet’s stool or near the rectum. If you think your pet may have tapeworms, or if your pet hunts regularly, have your veterinarian check for segments and dispense an appropriate treatment.