Dog and Cat Flea Tapeworm (Dipylidium Infection)

Dipylidium caninum is the most prevalent tapeworm found in cats and dogs in America. Dipylidium Infection can be found all over the globe. People can become infected when they ingest a flea infected with the larvae of the tapeworm. Dipylidium Infection is more common in children than adults, but the risk of disease in humans is relatively low overall. 

If you are wondering how your dog or cat got the Dipylidium caninum, infection probably occurred when your pet swallowed a flea carrying the larvae of the tapeworm during grooming. Inside your pet’s body, the larvae develop into adult tapeworms.

The adult form of the Dipylidium caninum can grow up to twenty eight inches long and are comprised of small sections the size of a grain of rice. These segments are called proglottids. As the tapeworm develops in the intestines of your pet, proglottids break away and can be expelled through the stool of your pet.

 If you spot proglottids in your pet’s stool or near its anus, you will know that they have the tapeworm. Each proglottid holds eggs which can contaminate the surrounding environment as the proglottid desiccates. Dried proglottids are approximately two millimeters big and are yellowy and hard.

While the Dipylidium caninum is often not hazardous to your cat or dog, your pet may experience drastic weight loss with severe infections. Proglottids may irritate the skin around your pet’s anus, causing them to scoot their rears along the carpet. In rare instances, your pet may vomit visible segments of the tapeworm.

Dipylidium Infection is diagnosed when proglottids are seen. The tapeworm eggs are not regularly passed through your pet’s excrement so your vet may not be able to detect them straight away. Your veterinarian will rely on you to keep an eye out for any signs.

Infected children will also have proglottids in their stool or around their anus area. Humans can prevent infection by being diligent about flea control in pets. Keep your pets clean and their accessories clean, especially if you have children in the home. Especially in public areas such as parks and playgrounds, dispose of your pet’s excrement properly. Burial is a sound option as is a sealed plastic bag. Make sure children thoroughly wash their hands if they have played with animals or outdoors.

Consult your doctor or vet as soon as possible if you suspect Dipylidium Infection. Treatment for Dipylidium Infection is a prescription medication known as praziquantel. For pets it is usually an injection while humans take it orally. Praziquantel dissolves the tapeworm inside the host. There are no severe side effects associated with the medicine.

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