|What do you mean I have worms!? |
Photo via Andrea Schaffer
What do tapeworms look like?
|A tapeworm egg as seen under a microscope. |
Photo via Joelmills
How does my pet get tapeworms?
So now that you know how to identify whether or not your pet has tapeworms, I'm sure you're wondering where they come from. The answer is pretty simple, or I'll at least try to keep it that way. Pets get tapeworms from ingesting an infected flea. This is likely to happen when your pet grooms themselves. Any pet that has a flea infestation should also be dewormed for tapeworms.
Here's how the life-cycle works in a nutshell. Your dog or cat swallows an infected flea. The tapeworm then forms and grows into an adult in your pet's gastrointestinal tract. The tapeworm segments or "egg baskets" I mentioned earlier are shed when the pet has a bowel movement. Sometimes these segments get stuck around your pet's butt or attached to long pieces of fur. Flea larva then consume the tapeworm eggs contained in the egg baskets. A cyst forms in the developing flea. Wild animals can also carry infected fleas. Your pet grooms itself and consumes that flea. 21 days later, a tapeworm forms in the GI tract and you can start the cycle all over again.
Should I make a trip to the emergency hospital?
My recommendation is no. Tapeworms are not life-threatening and are more gross for you to look at than anything. Sure, they can have detrimental effects on your pet's health if left untreated for a long period of time, but they are no reason to rush out to the emergency veterinarian as soon as possible.
The tapeworms thrive by getting nutrients from the food that their host eats. Your pet could be missing out on some nutrients from their meals, but chances are that it's not really affecting their overall health.
To get rid of tapeworms, a simple one time dose of medication can be given in either oral or injectable form. The injectable form is known to sting, so the pill may be a better option unless your pet refuses to be medicated by mouth.
In order to prevent tapeworms in the future, a veterinary recommended flea prevention should be given to your pet. Some flea preventions today even include a tapeworm dewormer in them.
If your pet is vomiting, has diarrhea, won't eat, is lethargic, losing weight, etc. chances are that the problem isn't worms. Getting an over-the-counter dewormer probably won't fix their problem and you should take them to a veterinarian to be seen.
|Photo via Vagabond Shutterbug|
I know they are gross to look at or think about, but at least you can take comfort in knowing that tapeworms probably aren't going to kill your pet.