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Dog Health

Those pesky tapeworms! …fight them now

With the number of cases of tapeworm infection in dogs on the rise, some know-how of the disease by pet owners is crucially called for. This is crucial not only for the safety and good health of one’s dog, but also to prevent communicability of the disease from the pet to his human counterparts.

Dog HealthThe foremost thing to know about tapeworms is that they are not dangerous to your pet and are easily treatable. However, they can cause a whole lot of discomfort to your four-legged friend, so, it is advised to take proper precautions, conscious observation and care.What are tapeworms? Tapeworms are long, flat worms made up of multiple segments, each with their own digestive and reproductive systems. They get their name because their body and segments look fl at like a piece of tape. Tapeworms infect by attaching themselves to the dog’s small intestines by hook- like mouthparts and absorb nutrients through its walls.While an adult tapeworm may grow up to 8 inches (20 cms) long, the many small segments that it is made up of, are about 1/8 inch (3 mm) in length. As the tail end of the worm matures, the segments at the end breaks off and passes into the stool.

What are the main causes?

According to Dr. Pradeep Rana, in a majority of cases, fl ea infestation is responsible for tapeworms in pets as fl eas are the intermediate host. “When the eggs from the dried tapeworm segments get released into the environment, they get unknowingly consumed by fl ea larvae. As the fl ea develops, the tapeworm inside it also develops, until it reaches a stage where it is ready to infect a dog. This tapeworm is known as the Dipylidium Caninum and is the most common type to infect dogs,” he added.

The tapeworm then, as he further elucidated, gets transmitted to a dog when a dog accidentally swallows a fl ea that contains tapeworms or tapeworm eggs. This normally happens when the dog licks or itches himself with his mouth or being bitten and irritated by the fl eas apart from swallowing some of them. Thereafter, the fl ea gets digested in the dog’s stomach, hence releasing the tapeworms, which then attach themselves to the intestinal walls of the dog and begin a new life cycle.

The second type of tapeworm found in dogs, is known as Echinococcus which is rare to find. It is found in and transmitted usually by small animals such as rodents. So, if a dog eats, bites or sniffs an infected rodent or any other small animal, it is likely to get infected. Hunting dogs, therefore, are the most susceptible to get infected by the Echinococcus tapeworm.

What are the symptoms and effects?

Tapeworms are not very harmful to dogs. One reason being that the intestinal linings offer them plenty of nutrients, yet leaving enough quantity for the host. High performance dogs however, such as race dogs, may show a decline in performance because of the infection. “In other dogs, tapeworms may cause weakness and weight loss if they grow to large numbers in the body. Sometimes, the dog will also scoot or drag his rear side on across the ground due to the passed out segments, irritating the skin around that area,” Dr Rana told. Other symptoms that may be noticed in an infected dog include depression, digestive problems, mild diarrhea (may be streaked with mucous), abdominal pain and nervousness. In some rare cases, a tapeworm may move into the stomach, causing the dog to vomit the worm due to irritation in the stomach. It is then possible to view the several inches long worm which gets thrown out from the body. Dr. Rana further informed that, in some uncommon cases, the worm infestation may cause serious damage by forming cysts in the body, with the possibility of it being formed in the brain too.

How is it diagnosed?

Tapeworm infestations often go totally unnoticed. This is because tapeworms are usually not visible in the routine fecal examinations conducted by veterinarians, since their eggs are passed in packet like segments and are diffi cult to be seen during the inspection. One way to spot the eggs is by placing the dog’s feces in water and seeing the eggs and the segments fl oating on the surface.

The most common and effective way to diagnose tapeworm infection in a dog is by fi nding tapeworm segments, which look like fl at grains of rice, in the dog’s stool, around the dog’s rear side, or where the dog sits and sleeps. Veterinarians thus depend on the owners to identify and report tapeworm infection in their pets. “If in case your pet has a problem of fl eas, or if he has a history of having been treated for a fl ea problem, there are all the reason to check for symptoms of tapeworms as well,” advised Dr. Rana. He went on to explain that it usually takes up to three weeks after the carrier fl ea is swallowed, for segments to appear in a dog’s rear end or stool. At times, the segments can be passed out in small groups which are attached to each other, giving the appearance of a single long worm.

How it can be treated?

Treatment of tapeworm infection is fortunately simple and very effective. As Dr. Rana explained it, “A drug is administered either orally or by injection, which causes the tapeworm to dissolve within the intestines. The medication makes the tapeworms loose their protective layer and get digested within the system. As a result of the digestion, they are not seen in the dog’s stool.”

The next level in the treatment involves a thorough process of fl ea control. This includes measures which ensure that the dog, along with its indoor and outdoor environment, is made flea-free.

How it can be prevented?

The following measures, as described by Dr. Rana, if looked into and dealt diligently, will be highly advantageous in controlling and preventing fleas.

  • Flea control: This includes treating your dog for fl eas, apart from ensuring that its indoor and outdoor surroundings are kept free of fleas.
  • The use of contaminated bedding or carpeting can also prove fatal for your dog as it is where fl ea larvae tend to feast and come in contact with tapeworm eggs.
  • De-worm your pet regularly.
  • Keep away your pooch from smelling, eating or biting into animal carcasses and sniffi ng other animals’ feces.
  • Most important is to have your pet build a strong immunity system, which goes a long way in fi ghting infection and disease.

Communicability from pet to owner

Most of the cases are likely to involve children, who may accidentally consume fleas or flea larvae while playing on the fl oor or playing with a dog; in turn playing host to immature tapeworms. The infection generally causes cramping, discomfort, diarrhea and itching around the anus and, is not associated with any serious disease or disorder.

Yet another important factor to be noted is that there are certain species of tapeworms that use fi sh as hosts. Ensuring that food is properly cooked before intake is a wise thing to do to avoid any health problems, instead of blaming your innocent pets for causing you all the inconvenience. (With inputs from Dr. Rana, New Delhi.)

Monsoon blues Help your dog fight skin diseases.

Lustrous fur and skin free from any problem is the dream of every dog owner. But, this dream is invariably shattered during monsoon months. Most of the times, the owners do not know the reason why it happens. Inspite of the best of care, dog owners are often worried by numerous skin and coat problems that crop up during monsoon. It would thus be important to understand the root cause of these problems and find out the ways and means to keep such problems at bay.

Why majority of skin and coat problems crop up during monsoon?

High humidity and moderate to high temperature during monsoon is a very good environment for the growth of ectoparasites and other infectious agents that are responsible for skin diseases. The ectoparasites include ticks, fleas, lice and mites while infectious agents consist of bacteria and fungi. Moreover, the environmental conditions are excellent for fungal infections. Mange is another skin problem that can happen in rainy season. This is because Mange is associated with poor skin condition and the stress to the animal. Both these conditions are present during this season. All of these skin problems are responsible for itching, excess fall of hair, rough hair coat, lesions over the skin, etc. Further, small lesions can turn into serious infectious wounds because of scratching and licking by the dog.

Common skin infections encountered in monsoon :

Ectoparasite infestation- Ticks, fleas and lice have high incidence during monsoon. These ectoparasites can cause itching, loss of hair, bite spots and lesions that can further catch infection. Ticks are blood-sucking and can transmit a disease called Babesisosis. Flea bite cause irritation and inflammation and can transmit tapeworm infestation. Lice are a cause of irritation; leading to scratching, itching and biting. Fungal infection- Ring worm and other fungal infections are very common due to high humidity and moderate temperature conditions. The problem can be in a small area (localised) or the infection may cover whole body (generalised). The infection may be dry or moist. Irrespective of the type of fungus involved, the skin bears lesions, fall of hair, redness, itching. Dry form can be associated with dandruff and excess fall of hair.

Bacterial infection- Commonly this happens as a secondary infection due to contamination of any skin lesion or wound. A variety of bacteria may be involved. Bacterial wounds can further be contaminated by other infectious agents. Mange- It comes as an opportunistic infection if the skin health is compromised and the dog is under stress. Mange can be of various types. The mange lesions are often contaminated with the other infectious agents. Certain type of Mange is very difficult to treat. Mange often shows relapse after treatment.

Maggot wounds- This happens when any open wound is contaminated with fly eggs. The maggots formed eat the animal tissue and as a result can cause deep wounds.

How to prevent the skin problems during monsoon?

Dog owners are often unaware about how to prevent these problems. The DO’S & DONT’S would be helpful in the prevention of skin infections during monsoon.

( is Marketing Manager with Ayurvet Limited. Post Graduate in Veterinary Medicine from GB Pant University, he is an ardent dog lover. He believes proper management could avoid majority of the diseases. He can be seen giving tips on proper management and dog breed behavior in the late evenings or weekends at Doggy World- the pet’s paradise run by his wife Dr. Aradhana at Rohini. He can be contacted at 9811299055, 011- 27942285.)