Tapeworms in Dogs: Causes, Prevention, and Treatments

How to get rid of tapeworms in dogs
It’s 6:24 in the morning and you’re freezing.

You made it perfectly clear, “If you want a dog, you have to take responsibility for him, and that includes walking and cleaning up after him.”

The promises echo in your head as you watch Furball – certainly not the name you’d like to use for him right now – sniffs every leaf before finally deciding on a spot to conduct business.

You slip your hand into a baggie while stifling a yawn that reminds you that you haven’t had your coffee yet and reached for your treasure.

As you scoop up the warm offering you make a mental note to remind the kids to not feed the dog their dinner.

You’re sucker-punched by the right hook out of nowhere: you haven’t had rice with dinner since last week.

The kidney punch finishes you off with a wave of nausea…

The dog has worms.

What are Tapeworms?

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky.
They’re all together ooky; The Tapeworm Family

Ah, the tapeworm. It’s easily identifiable by the long, flat, segmented body which tends to break off in pieces and can be seen in stool.

The tapeworm is an equal opportunity infector; it can be found in just about any animal species on the planet including upper class, first-world country humans.

Life cycle of a tapeworm

Life cycle of a tapeworm

The tapeworm has 3 life stages; egg, larvae, and worm.

While the worms live in the host’s intestines, attached by a mouth that looks like something out of an “Alien” movie, the eggs and larvae can be found in any muscle or issue.

If there is a tapeworm present, it’s guaranteed there are eggs and larvae as well.

Like fleas – there’s never just one. And in case you weren’t grossed out enough – in dogs, the tapeworm can be up to 2 feet long.

The tapeworm is one of the four major worms that infect dogs (tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms), yet most pet owners are unaware of the repercussions of leaving worms untreated.

Luckily, the tapeworm makes its presence known by the segments that break off and pass, which usually results in treatment.

When treating for tapeworms, it’s best to choose a treatment that also covers other parasites.

How Do Dogs Get Tapeworms?

You might want to sit down for this one…

Because 100% of dogs have worms.

Almost every canine everywhere actually carries worm eggs, dormant and encysted in muscle, organs, and tissue.

Standard preventative measures can keep the eggs from becoming active, or kill them quickly before they begin to settle in the host.

But they’re still there…


There are actually two ways a dog gets tapeworms; either they swallow them or are born with them.

We will start with the simpler – although oftentimes more confusing – method, the puppy was born with worms.

We’ve already covered that all dogs have dormant worm eggs but in pregnant dogs, as the embryos begin to develop, more and more resources are pulled from mom’s body – including those itty bitty tiny worm eggs.

Most dog owners figure worms wouldn’t be a problem since the pregnant pooch is already worm-free and they do not want to introduce any medication that isn’t necessary.

Then, surprise! The puppies have worms – which in turn give moms worms.

How, you ask?

Well, that’s covered in the next paragraphs. You might want to push your coffee to the side before you start, though.

The second method for dogs getting worms is through direct contact.

How to prevent tapeworms in dog

via https://vcahospitals.com/

The most common form of direct contact infestation is by eating a flea. Yes, a pesky flea.

Most fleas carry the tapeworm eggs and are happy to pass them along as a parting gift for being eaten. Thus begins the cycle of life in your dog.

But it’s not the only way.

You know how your Bruiser likes to stop and sniff other piles along the walk?

Well, if there are tapeworms in the pile then guess what just got sucked into Bruiser’s snout?

It’s a pretty safe bet you’re not gonna be letting him lick your face after his next outing.

A similar direct contact will infect mother dogs from the puppies as the mom cleans up after her litter of fluffy, worm-infested jellybeans.

Yes, as she cleans up after them. If you still don’t get it, google it. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

How to Prevent Tapeworms

Your grandma used to tell you that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Well, in this case it’s worth ten times over.

Tapeworms in dogs

Just one tapeworm…

Prevention is simply the best for your entire family.

Once your dog has worms, it’s open season on your entire household.

That funny butt-scoot you see your in-law’s mutt do? What do you think they’re really doing? And leaving on the carpet?

If your child drops her binky and puts it back in her mouth … Let’s not think about that.

We can’t stress enough that preventing worms starts with preventing fleas.

Keep the fleas under control and you’re 80% there.

Keep your pooch away from rodents and the tootsie rolls that are left by careless owners and you’re on the path to a happy, worm-free dog.

How to Get Rid of Tapeworms

They’re here, so now you have to do something about it.

In addition to washing all the surfaces in the house (and your dog’s house, if he has one), including the soft surfaces, you need to treat Fido. Don’t forget his bed either!

By treating we mean killing the worm – not just the segments (which contain egg clusters) but the adult worm.

We recommend you scoop up some of the evidence and take it along with your dog to your local vet for proper diagnosis and a treatment regime.

But let’s be honest – none of us do that. We hit our favorite pet shop and pick up whatever’s cheap.

Intestinal tapeworm in dog

via http://www.akc.org/

But is cheap really the way to go?

Is the most expensive necessarily the best?

What about natural alternatives?

What about something for a variety of pests?

Refill your coffee – and maybe add a shot of Baileys – and let’s delve into the wonderful world of worms.

Medicated Tapeworm Treatments

The most common form of treatment is formal medication.

While we all want to be conscious about pesticides and chemicals, oftentimes we relate medicine as the best and quickest treatment options.

Let’s look at the most popular brands available through your local pet store or internet.

Safe Guard Canine Dewormer (fenbendazole granules)

Safeguard Canine DewormerThis Merck product claims to be the only one on the market to treat the 4 main worms; Hookworms, Roundworms, Tapeworms, and Whipworms.

There are three package sizes available; 1 gram, 2 gram, and 4 gram. Each package contains 3 doses which are sprinkled on your dog’s food.

The dosage is an easy formula of 1 gram per 10 lbs. This is safe for pregnant females as well as puppies over 6 weeks old.

Because it’s used for 3 days in a row – and you may need to mix-or-match packages to get the correct dosage – it might seem pricier than other options.

Conclusion: The simple formula allows you to calculate the dosage easily but you may need to buy multiple packs to get the correct dosage for your worm factory (aka dog).

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Panacur Canine Dewormer (fenbendazole granules)

Panacur c dog dewormerThis is another Merck product, which treats the 4 main worms. The pricing, dosage, instructions, and active ingredients are the same at the Safe Guard Dewormer by Merck.

Conclusion: This is the manufacturer re-labeling of Merck’s Safe Guard Canine Dewormer, and investigation shows that most brick-and-mortar or online stores will carry one or the other.

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Bayer Expert Care Tapeworm Dewormer Dog Tablets (praziquantel tablets)

Bayer Expert Care tapeworm dewormerThis Bayer product has a very pharmaceutical label but we have seen it without the “Expert Care” on the package, which we found confusing.

The package contains five 34mg tablets with a complex dosage chart that needs to be followed precisely to be effective. The dose can be administered as-is, or crushed and sprinkled in food.

There is no indication that this product can be used for prevention.

Conclusion: The package design may have more of a medical look, but the dosage is confusing.

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Quad Dewormer by ExpertCare (Praziquantel, Pyrantel Pamoate, and Febantel tablets)

Quad dewormer bayer expert careAnother Bayer product, and like the Tapeworm dewormer, this product does not always include “Expert Care” on the label. Similar to the Merck products, it will treat the 4 main worms; Hookworms, Roundworms, Tapeworms, and Whipworms.

There are 3 package sizes available; small (2-25lb), medium (26-60lb), and large(45+) but the packages do NOT contain the same dose per pill: a 45 pound dog would take 2 pills from the medium pack, but the same 45 pound dog would only require 1 pill from the large pack.

While this can be taken in pill form or crushed and added to your dog’s wet or dry food, only 1 treatment in necessary.

Conclusion: Although only one treatment is needed, we found the dosages, in relation to the package offerings, unnecessarily confusing.

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Sentry HC WormX Plus Dog Dewormer (Pyrantel Pamoate/Praziquantel tablet)

Sentry HC WormX Plus Dog DewormerThis Sentry product is for the treatment of Hookworms, Roundworms, and Tapeworms in dogs and puppies over 12 weeks; the safety of using in pregnant or breeding dogs has not been determined.

Two sizes are available: Small (6-25 lbs) and medium & large (greater than 25 lbs). The dosage chart is straightforward and easy to understand. The tablets can be given whole or crushed and added to food.

This product is for treatment and prevention, however, the package recommends consulting your veterinarian for assistance in a prevention schedule.

Conclusion: This product comes in a consumer-friendly package with easy dosage instructions.

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Our Thoughts on Medicated Tapeworm Treatments

Like everything from canned vegetables to medication, it’s common to see a manufacturer take an item and re-package it with a different name.

We would strongly encourage you to avoid any of the Bayer products that do not have the “Expert Care” name on the package, not because we are opposed to Bayer but without the proper labeling it is likely an off-shore pirated version and the ingredient integrity may be compromised.

Home/Natural Remedies for Tapeworms

For those who are more environmentally conscience – or just don’t want to add more chemicals than necessary to their prized pooch, we are including some of the more common homeopathic tapeworm remedies.

We will not add a “conclusion” note to each option; due to the highly questionable risks and benefits. We will simply review each option for what it is and let you make up your mind.


garlic for tapewormsIt’s said that the garlic removes a slimy layer in the intestines, causing it to be more difficult for the tapeworm to sink its sucker into your pet’s gut.

The risk of stripping protecting from the intestine may not be worthy of the inconsistent benefits.

Garlic as a prevention and immunity booster is commonly seen when mixed with fennel.

It’s also important that garlic is considered toxic to dogs, so use must be monitored very carefully.


Wormwood for tapeworms in dogsThis herbal remedy has been around for centuries.

The high effectiveness is offset by the caution that must be taken when using this supplement.

Overuse, as well as the oils in Wormwood, are dangerous to your dog’s liver and kidneys.

It’s important to note that the FDA considers Wormwood unsafe for internal use.


This option is safe – albeit silly.

The theory is that the carrot is used as “roughage” through your dog’s digestion system and scrapes the worm away from the intestine where it’s head is burrowed, and out of the body.

It’s more likely that the only deworming benefits from this theory would be to break away pieces of the worm.

But, carrots are good for a dog’s overall health as well a nutritional and immunity booster, and certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Diatomaceous Earth

getting rid of tapeworms naturallyThere are two kinds of Diatomaceous Earth (DE): food grade and pool grade.

If you think you’ve hit the multi-use jackpot by treating your dog and pool out of the same bag, you’re about to make a deadly mistake.

This also must be fed daily – a vague and inconsistent measure – to treat and prevent worms. Oh, and you can’t let your dog inhale the powder or it will irritate their lungs.

Mix it in with moist food only.

Human Probiotics

Just say “no”.

Human supplements – in any form – should never be used on anything other than humans.

That being said, canine probiotics can certainly be helpful, especially as your dog begins to lose the war over the nutrition that is being taken in.

But in reality, the probiotics will merely cause an environment that the worm will flourish in.


cloves to treat tapeworms in dogsCloves can be effective in control of microscopic parasites – but at lengths upwards of 24″, tapeworms aren’t microscopic in any stretch of the imagination.

Like other natural remedies, overuse can be fatal, but the dosage is too vague for our comfort zone.

Also, cloves can cause miscarriages in pregnant females.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds seem to be the safest all-around option, although the actual effectiveness of the amino acid that should act as a dewormer is speculative.

But as long as the seeds are raw and organic, they are a safe treat for your dog all year and contain a multitude of beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Oregon Grape

This powder or oil boasts properties that build the immune system and fights infection.

It also claims to prevent viruses and parasites.

Like other “herbal” remedies, it’s important that the dosage – again, vague at best – is not exceeded.


One of the more questionable treatments, there is no proof that this is beneficial in any way.

The theory behind this “remedy” is that the worms will get hungry being without food for a few hours, and drop out in search of a more suitable host.

Fasting to treat tapeworms

via askideas.com

However, many dogs – including mine – only eat once a day, which blows that theory out of the water.

A penny for our thoughts: Unlike the choice to feed our families, the decision to go with a natural remedy for tapeworms isn’t as simple.

The research is vague, and while the warnings about overdose are loud and clear, the concrete dosages are not.

In addition, the genuine results and benefits are anything but reliable.


When it comes to tapeworm treatment we’ve covered the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Let’s be honest – a couple were downright dangerous options.

It is not our intent to sway you one way or another; it is our goal that you be able to make an informed decision that is best for your entire family.

That choice may include a trip to your vet for the suitable treatment and proper dosing.

One final caveat; fleas and worms go together like beer and wings – so remember to treat and prevent both.

About the author


Architect by day, father, husband, woodworker, and dog lover by night.