Tapeworm are an intestinal parasite like roundworm, hookworm and whipworm. These parasites are flat intestinal worm that are made up of many small segment. Each segment is about 3-5 mm long. Tapeworm vary in length from less an inch to several feet. The scolex (head) of the parasite fasten itself to the wall of the gut by hooks and sucker. The body is composed of segment containing the egg packet. To cure tapeworm infection, the scolex must be killed and purged. Unlike roundworms that live freely in the intestinal track, tapeworm attach to the wall of small intestine.
Tapeworm belong to the cestode family of intestinal worm. The most common in dog is Dipylidium Caninum. The individual segment called proglottids begin to develop starting behind the scolex (head) and move down as they gradually mature. Ultimately they start shedding at opposite end either singly or in a short chain. These segment or proglottids are passed in feces of infected dog. They are about 3 mm long and looks like grain of rice or cucumber seed. Occasionally they can be seen in the area around the anus especially in hair or on the surface of freshly passed feces. As the segment dries, it changes its color to golden and eventually break open.
In this way the fertilized eggs are released in the environment. However, dogs can’t be infected by eating fertilized tapeworm eggs.
There are different kinds of tapeworms, but the most common one is caused by swallowing a tiny infected flea. Fleas can carry the tapeworm’s larvae or babies. If your dog swallows it maybe while grooming himself, an adult tapeworm can grow inside your dog’s intestines.
On routine feces examination, tapeworm segment is not seen often as these are passed intermittently. So if you see or observe the segment in feces or in around the dog’s anus, check or bring the dog to the vet.
Regarding treatment, a prescription drug called Praziquantal is effective against all the common dog tapeworm. It can be given orally. The medication causes tapeworms to dissolve within the intestine so you will not see any tapeworm in feces unlike in roundworms.