TAPEWORMS 101

The Little City Dogs visit Florida

For 11 years our buyers have asked us about tapeworms.  After 11 years, we have the perfect answer…  TAPEWORMS 101.

Savvy pet parents and caretakers know that simply saying a pet has worms does not tell the whole story.  There are three main types of worms that infest pets and those three types require three entirely different treatments. Today, we’re telling the tale of the tape.

Vets will assure you that a tapeworm infestation is not life threatening to an adult pet.  While this may be true, raising a pet with the best quality of life requires at the very least, not having eighteen inch long worms living in Fluffy’s gut.

While an adult pet may well survive with tapeworms, it’s amazing how consistently pets bloom after treatment.  That bloom of health can particularly be seen in their improved coats.  After tapeworm worming, coats that were coarse, uneven and ratty often become soft, conditioned and lustrous.

Puppies and kittens are the most impacted by tapeworms, especially since tapeworms are seldom seen without their companion infestation… fleas.  It is sad but true, but pets who have not started on a routine of treatment, may also have other worms, fleas and even mites as well.  Combinations of these infestations can even be fatal to a kitten or puppy.  

This is especially true for feral or rescued puppies and kittens.  If you doubt this, then you have never seen a kitten or pup with tapeworms, fleas, flea bite anemia, flea dermatitis and roundworms. Truth be told, that description fits just about every kitten we rescued and treated.

We found a great video to illustrate the “Pet – Flea- Tapeworm Life Cycle”.  While you may think that tapeworms are nothing to laugh at, Else-Vet, a vet with a spectacular sense of humor, has managed to make the life cycle of tapeworms laugh out loud funny… well funny until he gets to the part where he says that you and your kids can get tapeworms from your pets… but that’s what flea prevention, tapeworm wormer and handwashing is for… and also the reason why the runway model purchased and took our praziquantel tapeworm wormer capsules for dogs (don’t ask).*

The big takeaway of the above video and this blog is that fleas and tapeworms are a “2-for-1” infestation that is why they are called the “Flea Tapeworm”.  If your pet has fleas, it is quite likely that they also have tapeworms.  Having fleas is how they got the tapeworms in the first place and why they will keep becoming re-infested as long as they still have fleas.

Your pets with fleas are four legged salt shakers moving around your home.  With every jiggle and bounce, tiny grains are falling off… the grains are flea eggs and flea dirt.  The flea eggs are the next generation of infestation and the flea dirt is their dinner — dry digested blood.

The flea eggs and flea dirt find their way into cracks of your wood floor or depths of your carpets, where in time, they will hatch and emerge as hungry worm-like larvae.

 The hungry flea larvae eat flea dirt and any debris that can fit in their little mouths and quite regularly that debris includes tapeworm eggs.

After a flea larvae eats a tapeworm egg the egg hatches inside them and grows.  The end result is an adult flea with a tapeworm inside it.  If your pet eats that infested flea while grooming, chances are good the worm will grow inside your pet and result in a tapeworm infestation.

The infestation comes full circle when tapeworm segments come out of your pet.  

You can be pretty sure that your pet has a tapeworm infestation if you see segments of tapeworm clinging to your pet’s anus.  They look like rice grains.  

Those segments are not themselves eggs, but the end segment of a tapeworm.  They are capable of just enough wiggly movement to allow them to travel to a crack in your flooring and fall inside it or into the depths of your carpet where the segments then lay eggs.  It’s amazing, but these segments have both male and female sex organs and their own ovaries.  These segments are not a SINGLE egg.  They are a biological organ that cannot eat or drink or eliminate. They have only one purpose and that purpose is to lay eggs.

A single tiny tapeworm segment can lay up to 100,000 eggs.

The eggs they lay don’t have much of a future in hiding. Their survival depends on being eaten by a flea larvae and in turn, as an adult flea being eaten again by a pet.  Nature makes this possible by giving fleas the ability to hide their larvae in the same location that tapeworms hide their eggs.

It is only after becoming a meal TWICE that the tapeworm egg can grow into an adult tapeworm, live in a pet and begin to drop those rice-grain segments allowing the cycle to repeat itself.

Speaking of tapeworm survival.. it’s a good time to mention that they are quite good at it and have been around for at least (ahem) 270 MILLION YEARS!  Tapeworms were around for 25 million years before the dinosaurs showed up and long before humans infested domestic pigs and cattle with tapeworms (don’t ask it’s just too embarrassing). And although dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, tapeworms are still going strong and have managed to spread to every continent except Antartica.

While some pets may acquire tapeworms by eating prey animals such as rabbits and rodents, the “Gold Standard” treatment for tapeworms is generally speaking, always Praziquantel tapeworm wormer and getting rid of the fleas.

* No fashion models were injured in the making of this blog.

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