Does Your Dog Have Tapeworms?

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How to spot the symptoms of tapeworms in dogs.

A lab mix dog scratching its face while sitting in the grass.

Tapeworms are a common parasite in dogs. Tapeworms can live in the intestine for a long time before you may notice any symptoms, such as:

This simple guide will help you spot the symptoms of tapeworms.

How Do Dogs Get Tapeworms?

Several different types of tapeworms can infest your dog, including the Taenia and Echinococcus species, which your dog can pick up from eating infected animals while hunting or scavenging. However, the most common tapeworm in dogs is Dipylidium caninum, contracted through fleas that carry the worm larvae. A dog can ingest these infected fleas when grooming. The larvae then attach themselves to the dog’s gut before growing into flat, white worms that can grow up to 27 inches long.

Once in the dog’s intestines, these worms feed slowly, stealing critical nutrients meant for your dog. Infected pets shed small, mobile, egg-filled worm segments in their stool. Fleas in the environment may ingest eggs from these segments, and the cycle repeats.

The 4 stages of the life cycle of tapeworms in dogs.
  1. Your dog eats a flea carrying the tapeworm larva.
  2. The tapeworm larva grows into a tapeworm in your dog’s intestine.
  3. The end segments of the tapeworm contain eggs that are excreted with your dog’s feces.
  4. Developing fleas in the environment ingest the eggs before jumping on your dog.

Good to know: Tapeworms and other intestinal parasites can pose a threat to people, too. Learn more about whether you can catch worms from your pet.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs?

Dogs often do not show noticeable symptoms for a long time after infection, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spot them if you know what to look for.

Worm Segments in Your Dog’s Poop

As the tapeworm grows, some of its segments containing heaps of eggs will be released into your dog’s feces. They may also be seen around your dog’s bottom or in their bedding. These segments may look like moving pieces of rice or dried-out, hard yellow specks that can stick to your dog’s coat.

Scooting on Their Bottom

If infected, your dog may scoot around the floor or bite or lick their bottom to try to relieve the itching caused by the tapeworm. However, remember that dogs scoot for many reasons, such as blocked or irritated anal sacs or skin inflammation. Take your dog to the vet to understand what may be causing their discomfort.


As the tapeworms grow inside your dog, they may cause vomiting. Of course, vomiting can indicate a variety of other problems, from indigestion to more serious conditions. If your dog vomits frequently or displays other symptoms, such as lethargy or severe diarrhea, see the vet immediately.

Weight Loss

In extreme cases of tapeworm infection, your dog may lose weight despite eating normally. This is due to the tapeworm feeding on the nutrients in your dog’s intestines.

Like vomiting, weight loss can have a variety of causes. If there are no obvious reasons for the weight loss, such as increased exercise or a change in diet, then your dog might need to visit a vet for assessment.

How to Get Rid of Tapeworms in Dogs

Although tapeworms can cause alarming symptoms in your dog, they are easy to treat and remove. Worming medications can effectively kill worms lurking in your dog’s gut.

Like most infestations, prevention is better than cure, and there are a number of steps you can take to help protect your dog from parasites. One way is to maintain a regular flea treatment schedule, whether you use a spot-on, a collar or an oral medication. Additionally, check your dog’s coat regularly for fleas to help steer clear of the potentially parasite-carrying pests.

Keeping your dog from roaming unsupervised can also help prevent them from contracting Taenia or Echinococcus tapeworms from hunting rodents or rabbits, or from scavenging dead livestock such as sheep or cattle.

Thankfully, tapeworms rarely cause severe complications for dogs — and with a few simple preventive measures, you can help protect your dog from this intestinal nuisance.

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