Tapeworms and Your Pet 

A white cat drinking from a glass

Tapeworms, even the name sounds gross. But, tapeworms are a common type of internal parasite that affects dogs and cats. Some species of tapeworm are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted to humans.

Learn more about these intestinal foes and how you can protect your pet from them.

What Is a Tapeworm?

A tapeworm is a long, flat worm that lives in the intestinal tract of animals. It is typically transmitted via fleas when a cat or dog ingests the flea, or the feces of an infected animal. They attach themselves to the wall of the intestine with a hooked type of mouth.

Tapeworms can grow up to 20 inches and as they mature, they break off into tiny, white pieces resembling rice. This is usually the first sign of tapeworms, as they show up in a pet’s feces or vomit. 

The  most common species of tapeworm affecting cats and dogs is Dipylidium caninum, which is carried by fleas. Other types of tapeworms include Taenia and Echinococcus that use rodents as their carriers. 

The signs of tapeworm are minimal, but are:

  • Rice-like pieces in the feces or vomit
  • “Scooting” the rear quarters, or biting at rectum
  • Weight loss despite a healthy appetite

Tapeworms are not particularly serious, but some species are transferable to humans. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

One of the great aspects of maintaining your pet’s wellness examinations is the fact that they will be screened for parasites. This is beneficial in diagnosing problems early, before they become more serious. Diagnosing tapeworm relies on a fecal sample which is examined under a microscope. 

Treatment entails using one of the few effective dewormers that can be prescribed by your veterinarian. Make sure to follow the instructions to the T on the dewormer to avoid a repeat episode with tapeworm.


Tapeworms, like many other parasites, are a  part of life and being informed and vigilant in their prevention is important to your pet’s health. Some effective preventive measures include:

  • Maintain your pet’s parasite preventatives, including flea, tick, and heartworm
  • Alert your veterinarian to any changes in your pet’s excrement
  • Keep those annual wellness examinations for parasite screening and prevention
  • Prevent your pet from eating other animals’ waste
  • Have your home sprayed for fleas and other pests (without your pet being in the home)
  • Regularly launder your pet’s bedding and vacuum often

Parasites are a part of life, but they don’t have to become a problem for you and your pet. 

If we can answer any questions about tapeworm and your pet, please contact us!