The ABCs of Tapeworm treatment and prevention (Sponsored by Virbac Animal Health)


Thanks to the development of certain broad-spectrum parasiticides, practitioners can now treat tapeworms on a monthly basis, sparing clients the nasty surprise of discovering segments on their dogs.


Of all internal parasites, one of the most disgusting for clients to discover on their pets are the white tell-tale signs of tapeworms. "Tapeworm segments, when passed in feces, are more repugnant to pet owners than roundworms," says Byron L. Blagburn, MS, PhD, with Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, AL. And when pet owners find them, they want them gone—fast.

But thanks to the development of certain broad-spectrum parasiticides, practitioners can now treat the worms on a monthly basis, sparing clients the nasty surprise of discovering tapeworm segments on their dogs.

"The regular use of a product that contains praziquantel (along with ivermectin and pyrantel pamoate) can help control tapeworms and multiple other parasite species, and offers monthly heartworm prevention," Blagburn says. These products are an easy and effective solution to what can be a messy client issue.


Identifying tapeworm infections can be complicated because pets may not show any clinical signs. However, if clinical signs are present, they commonly include:

  • segments in hair coat, on bedding, or elsewhere

  • excessive licking of the perineum (perianal pruritus)

  • scooting on rear end.


When pets are receiving heartworm prevention with a gastrointestinal dewormer added, you might wonder why you're seeing tapeworms. The active ingredient to prevent heartworms in heartworm medication is not effective against tapeworms. And praziquantel, a drug specifically designed to treat and prevent tapeworms, won't treat other types of intestinal parasites. However, using a once-monthly preventive that contains praziquantel, ivermectin, and pyrantel pamoate will fight multiple parasites, protecting dogs from tapeworms, heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms.*

All dogs should be tested for heartworm infection before starting a preventative program. Following the use of IVERHART MAX® , digestive and neurological side effects have rarely been reported. Use with caution in sick, debilitated, or underweight dogs weighing less than 10 lbs. See brief summary for additional information.

* Virbac Animal Health's IVERHART MAX® is a broad-spectrum, once-a-month internal parasite preventative. Please consult package insert for complete product information. Indications: For use in dogs to prevent canine heartworm disease by eliminating the tissue stage of heartworm larvae (Dirofilaria immitis) for a month (30 days) after infection and for the treatment and control of roundworms (Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina), hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum, Uncinaria stenocephala, Ancylostoma braziliense), and tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum, Taenia pisiformis).



While most pets show little or no clinical signs with tapeworm infection, it's apparent that clients expect resolution of the problem if they find proglottids on the pet or in the bedding, especially if a recent fecal examination was pronounced negative. Gary Holfinger, DVM, a member of the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) and a small animal practitioner who has encountered this situation frequently, speaks to veterinarians around the country about parasite control and client communication. Dr. Holfinger says that in alleviating the client's worries, it is important to explain the tapeworm life cycle and reinforce the need for prevention of access to the intermediate hosts. He says it is critical that practitioners reassure the upset client and utilize these communication tools:

  • Recognize the concern and repugnance that the client is feeling; don't ignore or ridicule their reactions to the presence of proglottids on the pet or the bedding.

  • Inform the owner that, while of great value for parasite control, fecal testing is not very accurate in diagnosing tapeworms, and that the visual presence of proglottids is often the means of determining that a problem exists.

  • Explain the tapeworm life cycle in simple terms, emphasizing that the presence of an intermediate host is necessary for transmission and infection.

  • Review the history of the pet, focusing on its nocturnal habits, indoor vs. outdoor lifestyle, flea control treatment, and predatory opportunities.

  • Offer suggestions to reduce the exposure of the pet to intermediate hosts, both by changes in pet routines and by the use of preventives.

  • Provide preventive therapy that can reduce the vector source or systematically treat the pet for tapeworm infestation, depending upon the ability or desire of the owner to change the lifestyle of the pet.

  • Use the website as an educational tool for the client to use. Offer the client alternatives to prevent the recurrence of infestation by combining knowledge, environmental and habit changes, and prevention through proper broad-spectrum medication.


Dr. Holfinger says monthly flea control is an excellent means of reducing the likelihood of some tapeworms, and year-round control is advisable. However, he says flea control is often not enough to prevent tapeworm infection. Small rodents also serve as intermediate hosts for other species of tapeworms, and since dogs are predatory by nature, the risk of acquiring tapeworms persists even with excellent flea control. Pets that spend time outdoors are at added risk of flea infestation and tapeworm infection, and will benefit from a monthly preventive most.

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