What is a Tapeworm?
A tapeworm is a flat segmented worm that attaches itself to the inside of its host’s intestine. They become a matter of great concern when that host is your beloved pet! Tapeworms consist of a head, with suckers, a neck and a body of multiple segments. The tapeworm’s ability to reproduce as a single organism makes it especially formidable as new segments are continually being developed in the neck.
These segments are cast off when they become mature and each mature segment contains a number of packets of eggs. Mature segments are then passed into the stool and they can often be spotted near the anus or on the fur of infected dogs and cats. Recently passed segments may move around, and when they have dried, they tend to look like dried grains of rice.
Tapeworm is a common intestinal parasite and while the thought of your pet infested with these parasites is a ghastly one, the good news is that in comparison to other intestinal worms, tapeworms cause the least amount of health concerns for your pet.
Many pets will have tapeworms without any symptoms, however, tapeworms do compete with your pet for nutrients and if they are left untreated, they can grow to such lengths that obstruct your pet’s intestines. Other symptoms may include poor condition of skin and coat, digestive upset, changes in appetite and abdominal discomfort. For these reasons, pet owners should guard against tapeworm and seek treatment if they suspect an infestation.
What Causes Tapeworm?
Tapeworms are very common in pets and even more common when fleas are involved. For your pet to get tapeworm they must ingest the egg of the tapeworm. As mentioned, the segments filled with eggs are dispelled along with fecal matter and they often stick to your pet’s fur from where they rub off into pet bedding and on carpets.
When dried, the segments dispel their eggs which are then swallowed by flea larvae, often lurking in the same area. This flea is now infected with tapeworm and all that remains is for your pet to swallow that flea to become infected. The flea is digested, but now that it has a new, more appropriate host, the tapeworm hatches and burrows into your pet’s intestine.
Other types of tapeworms are transmitted through small animals such as rodents. Like the flea, these small animals are merely carriers and the tapeworm cannot continue its life-cycle until the carrier is ingested by a larger animal such as a cat. Once in the intestine, the tapeworm hatches and attaches itself to the intestinal lining where it can start to reproduce and grow.