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Tapeworms in Dogs and Puppies

By Colleen Williams and medically reviewed by Sarah Wallace DVM
published: August 30, 2018 - updated: January 19, 2023 • 3 min. read
tapeworms in dogs

You may have heard about tapeworms, but did you know that they are fairly common and easy to treat in dogs and puppies?

Tapeworms, otherwise known as Cestodiasis to your veterinarian, are tiny parasites that can make a home in your dog’s gut. And want to take a guess as to how they got there? Fleas.

Your dog typically contracts the tapeworm by swallowing a flea that is carrying a larva (usually by licking its own fur). Once ingested, the baby larva grows into a flat adult worm with little tiny segments, approximately the size of a grain of rice, that hook into your dog’s intestinal walls and then feeds. The segmented worms can even grow to be up to 8 inches long! These segments will pass through with your dog’s poop regularly. Sounds scary, right?

But in reality, tapeworms are more gross to think about than they are fatal to adult dogs.  And while they aren’t particularly harmful, they are very irritating to your beloved pet, so it’s best to treat tapeworms as soon as they are suspected. Puppies are more at risk to complications from tapeworms. Tapeworms in puppies can lead to anemia, slowed growth, and sometimes even intestinal blockage, which can be dangerous.


How to tell if your dog or puppy has tapeworms:

  • Your dog scoots their rear end on every flat surface available
  • Your dog is licking and biting at its behind way more so than usual
  • You actually see a white segment hanging off your dog’s behind
  • You find yellow crusty segments in your dog’s fur, and/or bed
  • Most commonly, you find little white segments in and all over your dog’s poop
  • And rarely, when the worm gets into your dog’s belly, it will cause your dog to vomit worm segments
Protect your pet

Treatment for Tapeworms in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog or puppy has tapeworms, go to the vet as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will diagnose your dog and give you very easy treatment options.

The medication can come in pill form or in the form of a shot, and it will dissolve the worms inside your dog. Once your dog’s poop is clean, you’ll know it’s working.

Preventing Tapeworms

The key to preventing tapeworms is preventing fleas. Since fleas are the carriers, it’s imperative to keep the animals in your home flea-free by developing a flea-prevention plan with your veterinarian. Other prevention methods include checking your dog’s stool for worms at least once a year with a fecal test at your vet (multiple times a year for puppies), cleaning up after your dog outside, and keeping an eye on your dog at the dog park to make sure they are not ingesting anything with fleas on them.

Can I (Or My Child) Get Tapeworms from My Dog?

And finally (although extremely rare), yes, you too, can get tapeworms – just not from your dog directly. The only way to get a tapeworm is to ingest a carrier flea, which is why dog-to-human tapeworm transmission is more common in children. It’s always a safe bet to wash your hands after playing with animals – and don’t lick them back!

By enrolling your dog early, conditions and illnesses like parasite infection treatments will be covered up to 90% by your Healthy Paws dog insurance. Find out more by getting a free quote.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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Sarah Wallace DVM profile photo
By Sarah Wallace DVM

Dr. Sarah Wallace is the vice president of telehealth at Galaxy Vets, based in Fort Collins, Colo. She is actively working to increase access to veterinary care, to develop more effective communication strategies to bridge the gap between veterinarian knowledge and pet parent understanding and build happy and sustainable veterinary teams. Dr. Wallace studied biology at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and attended veterinary school at Western University of Health Sciences in California. After graduation, Dr. Wallace started working with Just Food for Dogs, an innovative pet food startup out of southern California advocating fresh, whole-food diets for dogs. She also completed a small animal rotating internship at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists - receiving one-on-one training with San Francisco's top veterinarians in internal medicine, neurology, dermatology, oncology and surgery. After working in clinical practice, Dr. Wallace joined the field of telehealth. Dr. Wallace writes and reviews blog content for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Dr. Sarah Wallace on LinkedIn Cardinal Veterinary Works Consulting

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