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Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center

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Tapeworms are a common intestinal parasite that can affect dogs. They are long, flat and segmented parasites. The segments can look like grains of rice, and they are passed through an infected dog's feces, where they may be seen in the stool, the fur around the dog’s anus or in their bedding.  

Unlike many other parasites that dogs can get from exposure to an infected dog’s feces, dogs only become infected with tapeworms by ingesting a flea or rodent carrying a tapeworm.  

Treatment involves deworming medication, as well as managing flea and rodent exposure.  


There are a few species of tapeworms that can infect dogs. The most common (Dipylidium caninum) is spread by ingesting a flea. Dogs can also get a different kind of tapeworm (Taenia spp.) from eating rodents that carry tapeworm larvae (an immature form of the parasite).  

Tapeworms are long parasites made up of multiple segments, each containing many tapeworm eggs. Fleas and rodents ingest tapeworm eggs found in the environment, which then hatch into larvae and live inside of them.  

After a dog ingests a flea or rodent carrying the tapeworm larvae, adult tapeworms develop and live in their small intestines. Tapeworms attach themselves to the lining of the dog’s gut in order to feed off the nutrients inside their intestines. Segments periodically break off in the intestine and pass through the dog’s feces, which is when they become visible to owners. 

Clinical signs 

  • Dog scooting or dragging their hind end to relieve itchiness  

  • Segments seen near a dog’s anus or in their bedding (about the size of a grain of rice) — these segments may be white and moving, or dried out and yellow 


  • Direct observation of the segment in stool or in the fur around a dog’s anus  

  • Fecal testing may find tapeworm eggs, but can often miss an active tapeworm infection since shedding eggs in the stool may only occur periodically 


  • Praziquantel is a deworming medication used to treat tapeworm infections. It is commonly given once as a tablet but is also available as an injection and topical formulation. (Common brand names include Drontal, Drontal Plus, Droncit, etc.)  

  • Flea control: This involves treating all pets in the household with routine flea preventatives (such as collars, topicals or oral chews), in addition to treating the environment within the home and yard.  

  • Monthly dewormer (typically in combination with heartworm preventative) will help prevent reinfection. 


Humans do not directly contract tapeworm from dogs, but they could get it from ingesting a flea from the dog. This is more likely to occur with young children.  


Tapeworm infections are generally simple to treat and resolve easily. Reinfection can occur if the sources of infection (fleas, rodents) are not managed.    


Flea control and prevention is essential to avoid tapeworm infections and prevent reinfections.  

This involves: 

  • Treating all pets in the household with routine flea preventatives (using collars, topicals or oral chews) 

  • Treating the surrounding environment within the pets’ home and yard 

  • Making sure pets do not ingest rodents  

  • Routinely using dewormer that applies to tapeworms