Canine Intestinal Parasites: Cookie Has Tapeworm Infection

Dogs normally get tapeworm infection by ingesting an intermediate host—a flea.

Cookie never had fleas, though. So how did it happen?

Canine Intestinal Parasites: Cookie Has Tapeworm Infection

Cookie’s story

Hunting and snacking on rodents has backfired. Cookie has tapeworm infection.

In theory, we knew this could happen. In practice, this is really our first experience with intestinal parasites. Jasmine did have roundworms once when she was little. Other than that, our dogs never had this issue. But life up here, in the wilderness, is different. Places to see, critters to hunt and snack on.

We cannot practically prevent Cookie from hunting the little critters and we couldn’t take that fun away from her anyway.

That means we have to become much more vigilant and get on parasite watch and see what we can do in terms of natural prevention.

Tapeworm infection symptoms

Potential symptoms of severe tapeworm infection include:

  • weight loss
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • lethargy
  • swollen abdomen
  • dull coat

We caught it early

Cookie did not have any symptoms.

It was sheer luck we found out when we did. So it happened that after major snowfall we got a warm day when the snow partially melted and then froze with a thick hard crust. Because this is unsafe to let Cookie running through that like a fool, she’s doomed to leashed walks and runs until the snow melts, hardens all the way through or gets thick enough cover of fresh stuff on top of it.

I was taking her for her morning walk when I noticed something below her bum.

It wasn’t snow. It was not moving and kind of looked like a piece of thread and later it was gone. That’s what I concluded it was – a piece of thread from something.

Later that day I noticed another one, at about the same location. That, I thought, was strange. And I couldn’t really figure out where all those pieces of thread would be coming from. As it was at the beginning of the walk, by the time we came back home I forgot all about it.

Crawling out of Cookie’s rectum

The next morning I saw one actually crawl out of her bum.

Ok, this was alive, moving, crawling out of her bum. This was a worm! Kind of looked like roundworm but it was kind of short for that. Also, even though it looked white, it was kind of semitransparent.

Cookie Has Tapeworm Infection
This is exactly what I saw. Photo and video by Artem Castillo

Tapeworm didn’t even cross my mind.

I was under the impression that the segments would look like segments. Kind of like a grain of rice, as it is often described. I didn’t expect it to be this long and squirm around.

This is what I would have expected to see. Image Little Creek Veterinary Clinic

It wasn’t until I discussed it with Dr. Krista who pointed me in the right direction that I confirmed that it indeed is a tapeworm.

Called up the vet and they prepared the meds for Cookie. She got her first dose yesterday.

Not knowing how long Cookie has had this, I got also wondering whether this could have been behind Cookie’s elevated ALT.

Most vets whom I asked said it would not. Jasmine’s vet, though, said that if it is a flea-transmitted tapeworm it wouldn’t but if Cookie has a large tapeworm burden that may have caused the elevation.

How did Cookie get infected?

I always thought that tapeworms come either from fleas or uncooked pork.

Turns out that there is more than one kind of tapeworms and all kinds of ways a dog can contract them.

Dogs most commonly acquire Dipylidium caninum that does come from ingestion of fleas. But dogs who have access to various small mammals can also get other kinds. I always thought tapeworm was a tapeworm. Apparently not.

They can also be found in all kinds of places, such as body cavities, liver, even connective tissue.

That’s life in the wilderness for you.

Cookie is being treated and I’ll be looking into ways of prevention. And well be keeping an even closer eye on the poop. Until now, when it was good and solid, we didn’t examine it further. Now we’re gonna have to.

I’ll be also kind of curious to see whether getting rid of this might get the ALT back to where it belongs.

Categories: ConditionsIntestinal wormsParasitesTapeworm

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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