What are Tapeworms?

tapewormTapeworms are flat intestinal worms that are made up of many small segments, each about ¼ – ½” (3-5 mm) long. Unlike roundworms that live freely in the intestinal tract, tapeworms attach to the wall of the small intestine using hook-like mouthparts.

Tapeworms belong to the cestode family of intestinal worms. The most common tapeworm of dogs and cats is Dipylidium caninum.
The adult worms may reach up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length. The
individual segments begin to develop starting behind the head and move down the tapeworm as they gradually mature, finally being shed at the opposite end, either singly or in short chains. These segments, called proglottids, are passed in the feces when an infected dog defecates. They are about 1/8″ (3 mm) long and look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds.
Occasionally they can be seen moving on the hairs around the anus or on the surface of freshly passed feces. As the tapeworm segment dries, it becomes a golden color and eventually breaks open, releasing the fertilized eggs into the environment.

Unlike roundworms, dogs cannot become infected by eating fertilized tapeworm eggs.

Tapeworms must first pass through an intermediate host (a flea) before they can infect a dog.

tapeworm infection 2 TapewormsHow do dogs get tapeworms?

When the infected eggs are released into the environment, they have
to be swallowed by immature flea larvae in the environment. Once inside
the larval flea, the tapeworm egg continues to develop as the flea
matures into an adult flea. During grooming or in response to a flea
bite, a dog can ingest the tapeworm infected flea and complete the life
cycle.

Are tapeworms dangerous for my dog?

Tapeworms do not normally cause serious health problems in dogs. Occasionally dogs will drag their bottoms on the ground, a behavior known as scooting, in order to allay this irritation. Note that scooting can also occur for other reasons such as impacted anal sacs.

 

In puppies, heavy tapeworm infestation can be more serious. Lack of growth, anemia and intestinal blockages can occur. Occasionally, the head of the tapeworm or scolex detaches from the intestinal wall; the entire adult tapeworm will then be passed in the feces or vomited up.

How is a diagnosis made?

Clinical diagnosis is usually made by observing the white mobile tapeworm segments in the feces or crawling around the anus. They often look like grains of rice.

Tapeworm segments are only passed intermittently and therefore are often not diagnosed on routine fecal examination. If you find any segments, white or golden color, bring them to your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

With today’s drugs, treatment is simple and effective. The parasiticide may be given either in the form of tablets or by injection. It causes the parasite to dissolve in the intestines so you normally will not see tapeworms passed in the stool. These drugs are very safe and should not cause any side effects.

 

Is there anything else I should do?tapeworm infection Tapeworms

“Flea control is critical in the management and prevention of tapeworm infection.”

Flea control is critical in the management and prevention of tapeworm
infection. Flea control involves treating the dog and the environment
.Your veterinarian can recommend a safe and effective flea control for
your pet. If your dog lives in a flea-infested environment,
re-infection with tapeworms may occur in as little as two weeks. Since
tapeworm medication is so effective, recurrent tapeworm infections are
almost always due to re-infection from fleas and not failure of the
product.

Can I get tapeworms from my dog?

You cannot get tapeworms directly from your dog. Dipylidium caninum,
the most common canine tapeworm, depends on the flea as the
intermediate host. A person must swallow an infected flea to become
infected. A few cases of tapeworm infection have been reported in
children. Vigorous flea control will also eliminate any risk of children
becoming infected.

Although Dipylidium species are the most common tapeworms in dogs, other cestodes are also important in certain areas.

Taenia species – These are tapeworms that are acquired by eating prey or waste containing the infective larval
stage. These are much larger tapeworms, often up to one yard (one meter) in length. Intermediate hosts include rodents, rabbits, hares and sheep. The intermediate stages develop hydatid cysts in various organs in the intermediate host. There are effective medications that will eliminate Taenia infections in dogs. If your dog eats prey such as rodents or rabbits, re-infection can occur with passage of tapeworm segments in 6-8 weeks.

Echinococcus species – These are very small tapeworms, consisting of only three or four segments, and are usually
less than 3/8″ (1 cm) in length. Intermediate hosts can be sheep, horses and occasionally man. In humans the disease is called
hydatidosis, hydatid disease, or hydatid cyst disease, and results in cysts being formed in the liver. The disease is very rare in the United States, but has been reported in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Humans are infected by eating contaminated meat or by accidentally ingesting eggs that have originated from the feces of dogs, coyotes or foxes harboring the adult tapeworm. Fortunately, de-worming preparations, particularly those containing praziquantel, are effective for eliminating this cestode from infected dogs.

Prevention of cestode tapeworm infection involves avoidance of uncooked or partially cooked meat or meat by-products.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Ringworm in Pets

Not Really a Worm At All
Ringworm, technically called dermatophytosis or dermatomycosis, is a skin condition that can be transmitted between people and pets. It is caused by one of several kinds of microscopic fungal organisms. The disease gets its confusing name from the fact that a common symptom in people is the appearance of a reddish ring on the skin which was once thought to be cause by a worm.

Ringworm in Pets
Ringworm fungi can infect dogs, cats, rabbits, farm animals, and other mammals. Pets with ringworm often have areas of hair loss. The skin in these areas may become crusty or scaly, and the hair breaks off easily. The lesions increase in size quickly and can spread over the entire body. However, some infected animals, especially cats, do not show any symptoms at all.

Ringworm is diagnosed by the appearance of the lesions, plus the results of one or more tests. Some types of ringworm will glow under ultraviolet light. Hairs or a skin scraping from the affected area can be examined under the microscope to look for the fungal organisms. The most sensitive test is culturing; hairs are applied to a growth media and observed for development of the ringworm fungus.

Mild cases of ringworm can be treated with topical antifungal creams. Sometimes it is beneficial to shave the affected area prior to application of the medication. Antifungal shampoos and dips are also available. In more severe cases, hair is shaved from the entire body of the pet and repeated shampoos or dips are performed. Oral medication may also be prescribed in these more serious cases. A ringworm vaccine is available for cats but is not helpful in all cases your veterinarian can advise you whether it would be of benefit.

A telltale ring-like marking on the skin is the most common sign of ringworm in people. Lesions can be seen on the skin or on the scalp. In people, the disease is also called tinea. Most people recover quickly from this condition, especially with treatment.

Ringworm in people is mainly diagnosed by the appearance of the lesions, but a skin scraping may be performed to confirm the disease.

Most human cases of ringworm are treated with a simple antifungal cream applied to the lesion. Keeping the skin clean and dry is also helpful. Because people are not as hairy as pets, the condition is more easily treated in humans, and most people recover within a few weeks. People who are properly applying antifungal medication are generally not considered contagious during treatment. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, it is usually OK to go to school or work.

Preventing the Spread of Ringworm
Ringworm is highly contagious. The fungus produces spores on the skin or hair these tiny spores can fall off and survive in the environment for long periods of time. People and pets may be exposed to the spores by contact with other people, pets, or soil. Ringworm can be spread by objects such as brushes, combs, unwashed clothing, and in showers and pools.

People most commonly get ringworm from other people. Avoid sharing brushes, combs, or clothing. Wear sandals when using public showers. Keep your skin and hair clean and dry.

Animals can also be an important source of infection. Avoid handling stray animals showing signs of ringworm. Pets with signs of ringworm should be seen by the veterinarian, tested, and treated. During treatment, minimize handling of the animal and keep it separate from other pets. Infected pets can be contagious even after the obvious symptoms have resolved, so it is important to use medications for the full duration prescribed and see your veterinarian for follow-up testing. Some animals, most commonly cats, can be carriers of ringworm without showing symptoms. If you become infected with ringworm and the source of infection is unknown, your doctor may recommend having your pets tested.

Ringworm in Cats

Ringworm is not a worm but a form of a microscopic  fungus that affects animals and humans. Technically called dermatophytosis or dermatomycosis, the name ringworm was given because the ringworm lesion on people sometimes appears as a reddish circular area surrounding a crusty spot and it was once thought to be caused by a worm.

Ringworm is caused by many different species of fungus that can be picked in the environment or from other infected animals.  The most common species of  ringworm is caused by Microsporum Canis. The lesions can vary in appearance from patchy hair loss, to crusty spots to no signs at all.

Ringworm in your cat can sometimes be diagnosed with a woodslight (ultra violet light or blacklight). The fungus growing on the hair shafts will glow a lime green color when exposed to the light. Sometimes, the fungus cannot be detected by the light and special fungal cultures will have to be done. If there are lesions on the cat, a few hairs and crusts are placed on a special culture media to promote the growth of the fungus. If no lesions can be found and the owner suspects a cat for giving ringworm to the family, a sterile toothbrush is used to catch any loose hair and then the hair is placed on the culture media.

 

Anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks, if there was a fungus present it will grow on the media much like bread mold on old bread. The fungus also will turn the media a reddish color if it is M. Canis. The spores on the media are then microscopically examined with a special stain to verify the species of the fungus and to be certain it was not just an environmental contaminant.

If ringworm is verified on the cat or kitten, medicated shampoos can be used to help control the ringworm. Treatment is done for 6 to 8 weeks . Oral anti-fungal medications can also be used if the ringworm is generalized.  To avoid contaminating the environment with further spores, sometimes the cat will be shaved.

Most people do not get ringworm from their pet, but from the environment. The fungal spores are present at swimming pools, parks and anywhere where people congregate. If a pet is diagnosed with ringworm, treatment by medications will hasten recovery and further exposure to people and pets can be limited by environmental clean-up. If you have multiple cats in a household with the ringworm, clean-up will prove to be challenging.

  • All contaminated toys, food bowls, blankets, cages, scratching posts, bedding should be removed.
  • Any item that cannot be disinfected should be discarded or destroyed.
  • All items that can be washed should be washed with an anti-fungal soap, rinsed and then soaked in diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 30 parts water) for 10 minutes, and then repeated 3 more times.
  • Rooms should be cleaned including walls, ceilings, furnace vents, filters, under furniture, beds and refrigerators.
  • All surfaces should be vacuumed, scrubbed and bleached.
  • Change furnace and AC filters weekly.
  • Clean the ducts and vents with a commercial duct cleaner.
  • Rugs should be washed with an anti-fungal soap. Steam cleaning alone is not reliable, add a disinfectant to the solution to kill the fungal spores in your carpets.
  • Quarantine affected cats until the ringworm is gone.