Tapeworms are a common parasite that you can eliminate without harsh medications and treatments. Let’s look at the specifics of tapeworms in dogs so you’ll know how to recognize them and deal with them quickly, effectively … and naturally.
What Are Tapeworms?
The tapeworm is an intestinal parasite. A parasite survives by living on something else … in this case, your dog. Tapeworms are flat and segmented and, when they’re whole, look like a length of tape. The segments easily break apart to continue the life cycle. The most common tapeworm in dogs is Dipylidium caninum. It’s also known as the flea tapeworm.
The head of the tapeworm has hook-like parts that attach to the wall of your dog’s small intestine. A mature tapeworm can grow to 11 inches in length. As it matures, individual segments, called proglottids, are eliminated in the feces of an infected dog. They are easy to recognize because they look like white grains of rice in the stool. They’re about a half-inch long and an eighth-inch wide.
The proglottids are often seen on the fur around a dog’s anus or in freshly passed feces. There is also another type of tapeworm that dogs can get by eating small rodents or rabbits. But this is less common in dogs.
Once in the environment, the proglottid dries to a yellow or gold color so you might also see yellow specks. It breaks open to release as many as 20 fertilized tapeworm eggs. Flea larvae consume these eggs, which develop into a protected cysticercoid. While the flea matures, the cysticercoid is safely maintained within it.
How Do Dogs Get Tapeworms?
Adult fleas are an intermediate host of the tapeworm cysticercoid. When a dog has fleas he chews at them and can swallow an infected flea. The cysticercoid from the flea plants itself in your dog’s intestines and releases tapeworm larva that matures into adult tapeworms … and that’s how the tapeworm life cycle continues…
The rice-like segments are a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a tapeworm infection. Here are other things you might see.
Tapeworm Symptoms In Dogs
The worm segments are not passed continuouslym so symptoms of a tapeworm might not be obvious in your dog. And it might be a while from when your dog is infected until symptoms appear. Here’s what you might see.
- Rice-like pieces in the feces or around the anus are tapeworm segments.
- Sometimes the head of the mature tapeworm will detach from the wall of the intestines and will come out in the feces. Or it will move back into the stomach and the entire worm can be vomited. This is when you will see a longer length up to 11 inches, rather than the rice-like segments. You will see tiny horizontal striations which are the segments. That’s how you will identify tapeworms from different types of worms that are more spaghetti-like.
- If your dog has been heavily infected with tapeworms, he may lose weight even though he still has a healthy appetite. And an infestation can affect the central nervous system by emitting toxic by-products.
- Tapeworms can cause itching and you may see your dog “scoot” or drag his butt along the ground or floor. But this can also be because of irritated anal glands. Look for the rice-like sections to be sure.
- A very severe case can result in an intestinal blockage. This can cause diarrhea or your dog may pass minimal feces. This often happens in old dogs or dogs with compromised immune symptoms.
- Young dogs may also fail to grow because the tapeworms prevent absorption of nutrients in the intestines. Dogs can also be irritable, have decreased appetite or an unhealthy coat.
- A severe infestation in the intestines can prevent the absorption of vitamins and minerals, which might be reflected in a dull coat, dandruff or skin issues.
But if your dog has a healthy immune system, the risk of tapeworm infestation or intestinal worms of any sort is lower. But if he does get tapeworms, he will usually expel them naturally … or with a little help from these natural aids.
How to Get Rid Of Tapeworms
Here are 9 common foods and supplements to fight tapeworms naturally.
1. Pumpkin Seeds
Ground raw pumpkin seeds are an effective tapeworm dewormer because they contain cucurbitacin, an amino acid. A 2018 study (1) at Beni-Suef University in Egypt showed extracts of pumpkin seed and papaya skin had an effect on worms very similar to Fenbendazole, the commonly prescribed medication.
Cucurbitacin has a paralyzing effect on worms so they are easily eliminated from the intestine. You should grind the seeds and add them directly to your dog’s food. You’ll need to add 1 tsp of raw pumpkin seeds per 10 lbs of body weight. Try to feed it twice a day for a week or 2 to be certain.
2. Papaya Seeds
Papaya seeds are anthelmintic. That means they will kill and expel parasites living in your dog’s digestive system. Papaya has the enzyme papain that aids in digestion. It also helps get rid of tapeworms. You can crush papaya seeds and add them directly to your dog’s food. You should do this for a week. You can also feed your dog pieces of fresh papaya as a treat. You’ll find papaya at your health food store in chewable pills or in the produce section at the grocery store. Be sure the pills don’t have unwanted fillers.
3. Fibrous Vegetables and Fruits
Fibrous vegetables like carrot, beetroot, cucumber, watercress, greens, squash and fennel act as natural dewormers. Veggies like these should be shredded or finely chopped to make them digestible for your dog. When fed this way, carrots or beets will scrape the walls of the stomach and gut during digestion to remove mucus and any parasites within it.
Pineapple is rich in bromelain, a digestive enzyme that can also help your dog fight off worms.
Pomegranate is a good choice to fight tapeworms. It contains compounds that can expel worms from the digestive tract.
Add about a teaspoon of any of these fruits or vegetables per 10 lbs of your dog’s weight, to his meals 2x per day. Feeding these foods regularly adds nutrients to your dog’s diet and will help keep him worm-free.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar increases the alkaline levels of your dog’s intestines (other vinegars don’t). That makes it unwelcoming for parasites and worms.
In a 2019 paper (2) from the American Journal of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, a study conducted at the University of Jordan on 270 sheep concluded that apple cider vinegar and ginger powder had an “anthelmintic effect almost equal to that of the strongest anthelmintic used.” Researchers found it to be a promising natural therapeutic agent against gastrointestinal parasites in sheep.
For parasites like tapeworms in your dog, add 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of raw organic ACV to his water every day.
This is one more of the many benefits of turmeric. It boosts the immune system and has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. It has 4 compounds that help get rid of worms. It can also repair any damage done to the intestine, and improve gut health. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, becomes more bioavailable when fed along with a healthy fat like MCT oil or ghee and fresh ground black pepper.
If you feed garlic (3) with your dog’s meals it can fight tapeworms. You want to use chopped raw organic garlic. When you let it sit for about 10 minutes, it will release the beneficial compounds to fight worms. Feed as follows:
– Small dogs: up to ¼ clove 2x a day
– Medium dogs: up to ½ clove 2x a day
– Large dogs: up to ¾ clove 2x a day
– Giant dogs: up to 1 clove 2x a day
Warning: Garlic should not be given to pregnant or lactating dogs or dogs on blood thinners.
7. Olive Leaf
This is a great natural antibiotic and also an excellent dewormer. Olive leaf extract has oleuropein, which will expel parasites. You’ll want to find an extract with a concentration of 12% oleuropein or higher. It needs to be used for 8 weeks as follows:
Small dogs: 300mg 2x a day
Medium dogs: 500Mg 2x a day
Large and giant dogs: 1000mg 2x a day
8. Oregon Grape
This is another remedy with multiple qualities as an anti-parasitic, antibiotic and liver tonic. You need to give your dog 12 drops of Oregon grape tincture per 20 lbs of weight. Give milk thistle alongside Oregon grape to ease its effect on the liver. Give ¼ tsp in tincture form per 20 lbs of weight.
Caution: Oregon grape should never be used for pregnant or lactating dogs. It should not be given to dogs with liver disease.
There are some stronger options like black walnut and wormwood, but you should only use these with guidance from your holistic vet.
Using some of these natural remedies should help you avoid pretty harsh medications.
Your conventional vet may want to prescribe deworming medication. But these are insecticides that are harsh and can be dangerous to your dog’s long-term health. Fenbendazole, epsiprantel and nitroscanate are common treatments for tapeworms. Side effects include diarrhea, loose stools, loss of appetite and lethargy.
Your vet may also suggest flea control or heartworm meds. These drugs kill fleas and worms (usually by paralyzing the pests), so, whether topical or internal, they can be neurotoxic and harmful to your dog.
The best approach to prevent worms is to maintain your dog’s health consistently. Healthy dogs aren’t susceptible to parasites.
How To Prevent Tapeworms In Dogs
Here are several natural things you can do to keep worms away.
1. As always, a whole food, raw diet is the best foundation for your dog’s health and his microbiome. Up to 90% of your dog’s immune system is found in his gut. A fresh food diet will help maintain his balanced internal ecosystem.
Feed your dog nutrient-rich foods that will help him build immunity, balance digestion and create an uninviting environment for worms.
2. Include prebiotics and probiotics, adding digestive enzymes as needed to support a healthy microbiome and encourage beneficial gut bacteria. They create an anti-parasitic environment that also discourages bad bacteria that can lead to disease.
3. Include bone broth in your dog’s diet to promote digestive health and provide an extra immune boost to help him repel worms and other parasites.
4. Add some of the natural deworming foods and herbs listed above regularly. This way you’ll be supporting the kidneys, liver and lymphatic system. Worms create toxic waste so the liver has to process it. That also pulls in the kidneys and lymphatic system to supply fluids to support the blood and aid elimination. And because they’re natural foods and herbs they have other benefits beyond repelling parasites.
5. If you follow the above steps, your dog will be less attractive to fleas as well, soi he’ll avoid the source of many tapeworm infestations
Can Humans Get Tapeworms From Dogs?
Humans have a low risk of contracting tapeworms overall … but it can happen if they eat contaminated meat. The risk is higher among children because of their play habits. It’s best to just keep the kids away from areas where infected animals may have been, and where dogs play and poop. And the risk of getting tapeworms from your dog is even lower … because you’d have to swallow a contaminated flea.
Food is always the first stop on the road to health for your dog. The foods mentioned here are gentle, natural ways to get rid of tapeworms. Including some of them in your dog’s regular diet can help keep him worm free.
1. Amer R. et al. In vitro and in vivo anthelmintic activity of pumpkin seeds and pomegranate peels extracts against Ascaridia galli. Beni-Suef University Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences. Vol 7, Issue 2, 2018, pages 231-234.
2. Hayajneh, FM, et al. Evaluation of Anthelmintics Resistance Against Gastrointestinal Parasites Infection in Awassi Sheep in Jordan and The use of Alternative Herbal Anthelmintics. Department of Animal Production, The University of Jordan. Oct. 2019.
3. Ayaz E, Türel I, Gül A, Yilmaz O. Evaluation of the anthelmintic activity of garlic (Allium sativum) in mice naturally infected with Aspiculuris tetraptera. Recent Patents on Anti-infective Drug Discovery. 2008 Jun;3(2):149-52.