Not only are fleas a menace, but they also play a notorious role in enabling the life cycle of a specific type of tapeworm, known as Dipylidium caninum.
The Flea’s Role in Hosting Tapeworms
The fully matured tapeworm attaches itself to a cat or dog’s intestinal walls using hook-like suckers and teeth. From there, it feeds and develops. An adult tapeworm is segmented into a head, a neck and numerous tail segments. Each segment is approximately the size of a rice grain. Even though the individual segments are small, an adult tapeworm can reach up to approximately 15 centimetres long! One by one, the segments are released and passed through the digestive tract. As the segments dry, they split open and release the eggs inside.
Flea larvae encounter tapeworm eggs via infected bedding or carpets and they subsequently ingest the tapeworm eggs. Adult fleas don’t play a role in this part of the tapeworm life cycle. The contaminated flea larvae then develop into adult fleas. As they mature, so do the tapeworm eggs. At this point, a dog or cat may ingest an adult flea when grooming themselves or gnawing at the skin in response to a flea bite. The tapeworm is then released when the flea is digested in the cat or dog’s intestine. The tapeworm hatches, attaches itself to the intestinal lining of its host and matures into an adult tapeworm.
The good news is that tapeworms cannot be transmitted directly from dog to dog or cat to cat. For the tapeworm to reach full maturity, it must live part of its lifecycle within the flea. The egg must mature before it’s able to contaminate a mammal.
Symptoms of Tapeworm
Segments of the growing tapeworm may break off into the dog’s intestines and what may resemble cream-coloured sesame seeds may be visible in their stool or in the fur of the underside of their tails. On occasion, a dog may rub their buttocks along the ground to relieve the irritation. This is also known as scooting but can also be attributed to compressed anal sacs.
Symptoms in puppies, however, are more serious as tapeworm infestations can cause growth deficiencies, anemia as well as intestinal obstructions.
An infected pet must be treated with medication intended to eradicate tapeworms. Treatment can be administered orally, topically or it can be injected. The adult worms are then killed but do not escape in the stool. Instead, they are absorbed by the pet’s body.
However, the presence of tapeworm indicates a prior or present flea infestation and your pet stands a good chance of facing further tapeworm infections if the flea concern isn’t addressed accordingly.
The tapeworm is unable to exist without its intermediate host, the flea. This notion concludes that if a dog or cat has tapeworm, there is no doubt that they ingested the contaminated flea. If they ingested a flea, this indicates the presence of fleas in their environment, regardless of whether the owner has seen the pests or not. Treating tapeworm is fairly easy but preventing it is easier by keeping fleas at bay and away from your furry loved ones and their immediate environment.
Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson
|Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.|
Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.