The second you tell your veterinarian there's rice in Fido's poop, a diagnosis of tapeworm is likely. Tapeworm is a common canine parasite carried by fleas. Tapeworm infestation is easy to recognize, treat and prevent. If you suspect your dog has acquired tapeworms, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
A dog infected with tapeworms will shed tapeworm segments in his feces. You may find segments on his buttocks and bed. The segments are initially white with a rice-like appearance. As the tapeworm segment dries, the color changes to gold. Your dog may frequently lick his anus or scoot his butt across the carpet to relieve irritation caused by tapeworms. Most dogs do not have other symptoms, but acting sick or irritable with mild diarrhea is possible. If the tapeworm enters your dog's stomach, then your dog will vomit. Five to 8-inch tapeworms have been found in dog vomit, according to the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Fleas are the intermediate host of the most common canine tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum. A process of several steps must take place before your dog is infected. The droppings of an infected dog contains tapeworm segments. These segments dry out, releasing a cargo of tapeworm eggs. Flea larvae in the environment eat the eggs. Later they become adult fleas that hitch a ride home on your dog, biting and feeding on his blood. As your dog licks and chews to relieve discomfort from fleas, he swallows a flea. The young tapeworm is released from the flea's body by digestion of the flea, and attaches itself to the lining of the dog's intestines to feed and produce eggs. The tapeworm continues to grow in length and release egg-filled segments until treatment begins.
The diagnosis of tapeworm is obvious if segments are found in the stool. Treatment begins immediately.
Treatment and Prevention
Treatments can be injected or given orally. Medications, such as dichlorophene, ensiprantel, praziquantel or nitroscanate, will destroy the tapeworms, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
Flea prevention is essential to prevent future tapeworm infections. Powders, collars and topical treatments are available from your veterinarian and local pet stores. It's essential to also treat your home for fleas in order to break the flea life cycle.
Humans can be infected by Dipylidium caninum, but it's uncommon. To reduce your risk of tapeworm infection, wash your hands frequently. Do not allow children to play in potentially contaminated areas.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.