Tapeworms are a very common intestinal parasite of dogs and cats. This parasite is different from other intestinal parasites, in that it requires transmission through an intermediate host-most commonly a flea. Other intermediate hosts can be mice, rats, or rabbits. The dog or cat eats the intermediate host containing the tapeworm egg, and the tapeworm completes its life cycle in the intestine of the dog or cat by developing into an adult. The intermediate host is required-if a pet eats an adult tapeworm or tapeworm segment, it will not cause a tapeworm infection.
Tapeworms are ivory colored and flat in shape. The adult tapeworm is several feet long, but usually you will see only smaller tapeworm segments that look like bits of rice. You might see a tapeworm segment crawling like a flat inchworm in fresh stool or if they’ve dried, the segments will look like either sesame seeds or rice around the rectum.
We treat tapeworms by either administering an oral or injectable deworming medication. Tapeworms can possibly infect people, but again through the ingestion of the intermediate host.