Tapeworms and Your Pets

Tapeworms are an internal parasite most people are familiar with. Everyone knows about the long white segmented worms that live and feed in the intestines of livestock, cats and dogs and even occasionally humans. They grow for months in the intestinal tracts before they start breaking off segments that are released in the stool of animals. They are often seen in pet’s as small white worms that resemble grains of rice. The most common type is called Taenia.

Recently there has been new tapeworm called Echinococcus multilocularis, found in wild canines such as foxes and coyotes most recently seen in a coyote in Cape Breton. This tapeworm is rare but is getting a lot of attention in Ontario and now in the Maritimes. It is usually intestinal but occasionally can migrate and form cysts in the lungs or other organs. If these cysts rupture, they can result in severe illness or even death. This tapeworm is spread though dogs eating feces of wild animals or rodents. This worm is very small, so it is not seen in stools like the other species.

The good news is that the risk is extremely low. However, anyone travelling with their pet to a country other than the US will be aware of the need to treat against Echinococcus; it is a requirement for most countries. It is very easy to do and is often just a dewormer that needs to be given. As our climate changes, there will be changes to the parasites we see in our environment, and we always recommend deworming monthly! Here is an excellent resource to check out for further information on tapeworms and many other parasites.

If you have any questions, please give us a call at 902.463.7610.

Written by: Dr. Jessica O’Keefe, DVM