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Tapeworms in Dogs: Tips on protecting your dog & your family

What are tapeworms?

There are several different types of tapeworms that can infect dogs in Australia but the main one seen in your average pooch is the Flea tapeworm. The Hydatid tapeworm is another tapeworm that is also found in dogs in Australia – while it is more common for this tapeworm to be found in rural and semi-rural areas, it is of particular importance because it can cause serious and potentially fatal disease in humans.

What is the difference between these two tapeworms?

As the name suggests, the flea tapeworm is spread by fleas. Dogs get infected when they eat a flea that contains a baby flea tapeworm (e.g. while grooming/ biting at themselves). Adult flea tapeworms live in a dog’s intestines and can grow up to 30cm long and shed infective segments into the environment. Sometimes a dog can even pass out an entire flea tapeworm in its droppings! Gross! While some dogs can develop diarrhoea or an itchy bottom, most dogs infected with tapeworm don’t show any clinical signs so it can be very difficult to detect. While flea tapeworm can also pass to humans (especially children as they are still developing proper hygiene habits such as washing their hands after patting a dog etc.), it generally only causes mild disease such as diarrhoea and an itchy bottom.

Hydatid tapeworm also lives in a dog’s intestinal tract and very rarely causes any sort of disease in dogs which often means owners have no idea that their dog is infected. The hydatid tapeworms living in a dog’s intestinal tract breed and lay eggs which are then shed into the environment via the dog’s droppings – these eggs can be a deadly source of infection for humans if they are accidentally ingested (children are most at risk). It is estimated that 80 – 100 Australians are diagnosed annually1 with ‘Hydatid disease’ (also known as human Hydatidosis). This is a particularly nasty, life threatening disease where large fluid-filled cysts can form in various organs, mainly the liver and lungs but other organs such as the kidneys and brain can also be affected. Major surgery is often required to treat Hydatidosis in people.

  • Flea Tapeworm in Intestinal Tract

    Flea Tapeworm in Intestinal Tract

  • Hypatid Tapeworm Cyst

    Hypatid Tapeworm Cyst

  • Flea Tapeworm in Faeces

    Flea Tapeworm in Faeces

Protecting your family (including the furry, four-legged ones!)

There are several things you can do to minimise the risk of both flea and hydatid tapeworm for your entire family:

  • Regularly de-worming your dog with a product that contains the active ingredient "praziquantel" to kill any adult flea and/or hypadid tapeworm living in your dog's intestinal tract. It's important to note many products that claim to treat intestinal worms don't actually cover tapeworm. A product must contain praziquantel to be effective against tapeworm.
  • Regularly treating your dog with an effective flea control product can help reduce the risk of flea tapeworm but it is important to remember that despite our best efforts it is easy to sometimes forget to treat our dogs for fleas. This means they can still become infected with flea tapeworm which is why regularly de-worming your dog with a product that contains praziquantel is so important.
  • Regularly picking up and properly disposing of your dog’s droppings. Sounds like a no-brainer right? Sometimes we forget to do these simple things but they are important as this physically removes flea and hydatid tapeworm segments/ eggs from the environment which then reduces the risk of your family becoming infected.
  • Regularly picking up and properly disposing of your dog’s droppings. Sounds like a no-brainer right? Sometimes we forget to do these simple things but they are important as this physically removes flea and hydatid tapeworm segments/ eggs from the environment which then reduces the risk of your family becoming infected.
There are several tapeworm treatment products you can grab to provide protection for your dog & your family such as the Big 5 Protection Pack below which Protects against tapeworm, heartworm, intestinal worm, flea and paralysis ticks.
Join the family!