Tapeworms live in the intestines of your pet. An adult tapeworm consists of worm segments connected to each other, so called “proglottids” There are several kind of tapeworms that live as a parasite in several animal species. Humans can also be infected with tapeworms.
The tapeworm can be divided in 2 groups:
The tapeworm we see in dogs and cats is being transmitted by fleas. Keeping your pet free of fleas is an important factor in preventing tapeworm infestastion. Fleas lay eggs in your pet’s fur and are sacttered all around your pet’s environment. When your pet ingests the egg, e.g by licking its fur, the eggs will mature in your pet’s intestines and become adult tapeworms. The head lodges itself in the intestinal wall. Regularly pieces of the back of the tapeworm fall off and are transported outside the body with faeces.
The tapeworm used to be quite common in the Netherlands (United Kingdom) especially in cows and sheep. Intense inspections in slaughterhouses and feeding dogs dry food and (sterilized) canned food have seen to it that this parasite has not been seen in animals in slaughterhouses for many decades.
In Europe foxes have been carriers for the fox tapeworm for many years. Once in a while the infection is seen in humans, cats and dogs. In 1997 the fox tapeworm was identified in the Netherlands. Specifically in the south of Limburg and Groningen. However, there tend to be more infected foxes making the infection rate for humans, cats and dogs also higher.
In humans the tapeworm sometimes only causes slight abdominal pain. The infection with fox tapeworm runs a more malignant course and is mainly determined by the size, location and the speed at which it grows. Especially the liver is mostly affected. Despite all the damage caused, it can take up to 5-15 years before there are noticable complaints. When the liver is severely affected, chances are the patient will die.
Cats and dogs rarely ever get seriously ill when infected with tapeworm. It can cause some diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting. Pets can lose weight and in the long run the coat can become dull. Signals that your dog has tapeworms can be: dragging its bottom along the ground and pieces of tapeworm that are passed with stools. Rodents often die when the infection is not treated, because of the large number of tapeworms that will develop inside their bodies.
It is advisable to worm your adult pets four times a year with a de-worming formula that kills eggs, larvae and hookworms in all stages of development. These are called broad spectrum de-worming medication. Young animals need to be wormed more often. When you pet has a tapeworm infection it is advisable to check it for fleas. When fleas are present they need to be controlled. Make sure the environment of your pet is included. The fox tapeworm cannot be controlled, however people can minimize the risk of ingesting eggs. It is discouraged to eat raw berries (e.g. brambles) or mushrooms from places where foxes live, specifically in the areas where tapeworm in foxes has been established. It is also discouraged to touch dead foxes.