One of our clients noticed something that looked like small white worms in her dog’s stool today. She brought us the sample and the “worms” were short, white and flat. This is what they looked like:
We suspected tapeworm so we put it on a glass slide to take a look with the microscope:
This is what we saw:
It was indeed tapeworm. This type of tapeworm is called Dipylidium Caninum which is sometimes called the flea tapeworm because pets typically become infected by ingesting fleas while scratching or grooming themselves. Once ingested they live in the intestinal tract of the pet. The “worms” the client saw were actually segments or egg packets which are shed by the tapeworm and make their way outside of the pet’s body. Your pet can also get tapeworm from hunting as mice and other small rodents have fleas. The flea is a part of the tapeworm life cycle. Most of the time tapeworm infection does not cause serious illness in a healthy animal. It can cause soft stool or diarrhea. People will see these segments (which when dried out look like pieces of rice) on their pet’s back end. We usually do not see this type of tapeworm egg on a normal fecal test. We treat an animal if we see the segments outside of the body or if they have a history of having fleas or hunting. The medication that is used will clear up the tapeworm but if the pet gets fleas again the cycle will start over. Having your pet on a good quality flea product will help protect against tapeworm. We offer 10% off of flea control here at The Hardwick Veterinary Clinic through April, May and June.