When I was volunteering as a youth at an animal shelter and veterinary clinic, I remember the vet, a friend of my father, showing me a jar of tapeworms. I was surprised and disgusted by how long each one was, like a jar full of really long spaghetti. It took me a while to start eating spaghetti again. Ever since that day one of my greater fears, driven no doubt by my hypochondria, is to get an intestinal worm infestation like tapeworms. Luckily for me, cat tapeworms and dog tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) infections are far more common than human tapeworms.
Humans don’t usually get tapeworms unless they accidentally swallow a flea, and when this happens you’ll know it because it tends to cause painful contractions in the abdomen and is quite uncomfortable. The tapeworms humans need to watch out for are found in raw fish, raw pork, and raw beef, which the worm larva use as an intermediate host, like dog fleas and cat fleas. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of tapeworms.
Tapeworm Symptoms in Pets
- Diarrhea with excessive mucous
- Rumbling tummy
- Segments of worm found in stool
Human Tapeworm Symptoms
- Stomach Ache
- Severe Abdominal Pain
Tapeworms Life Cycle
Tapeworms are intestinal parasites whose life cycle begins in an infected dog or cat’s anus. A small segment of the worm is released from the stool bearing eggs. Those eggs lay dormant in the ground for several months, until they are accidentally eaten by a flea. When the flea is digested by an animal, the eggs gestate into larva which then bore into the intestinal wall and complete their life cycle as an adult intestinal worm.
Preventing a Tapeworm Infection
The chances of getting pork tapeworms (Taenia solium), beef tapeworms (Taenia saginata), and fish tapeworms (Diphyllobothrium latum) are slight, but if you avoid eating raw fish, raw pork, and raw beef, you’ll certainly cut your risks of getting tapeworm. Some people say they can see the Diphyllobothrium larva in the fish and cut it out before serving it to you, but this is utter nonsense. Cooking the fish or freezing it for no less than 4 days is a sure way to kill the larva/eggs/whatever it is that’s lying in wait. Cooking red meat and pork until its well-done is your best defense against these tapeworms.
Want to get rid of tapeworms before they get in your dog’s belly? Don’t board your pet. A lot of pet boarding establishments have so many pets under their care that it’s impossible to check for fleas or other infestations before a dog or cat mingles with other dogs and cats. Because ingestion of a flea or intermediate host is necessary for your dog to get worms, you should avoid allowing your pet to contact other pets that may have fleas that are carrying tapeworm eggs. Gross.
Get rid of fleas if you want to get rid of tapeworms. Since fleas are the most common intermediate host for tapeworm eggs, it should be obvious that you’ll want to get rid of fleas before doing anything else to treat your dog or cat for tapeworms. You need to interrupt the life cycle of the worm, and doing so will involve a flea treatment regiment using something like Frontline. To effectively get rid of fleas, you’ll want to use both an adulticide (permethrin) and a supplementary growth regulator like methoprene to ensure that more fleas are growing.
After treating your dog or cat for fleas, you should treat the rest of the house too. Vacuum everything, and I mean everything. You may even want to consider doing a boric acid dusting in your carpets and on your floors, leaving the acid to sit for a week or so and then vacuuming it up. There are permethrin and methoprene carpet and floor treatments that can be used to clean not only your floors, but your furniture as well. Remember, if you’re going to get rid of tapeworms, you need to disrupt their life cycle, and that begins with fleas.
If you’re convinced that you’re properly treated for fleas, then you can get rid of tapeworms by treating your cat or dog with Praziquantel, otherwise known as Droncit. The Droncit works by attacking the tapeworm’s own defenses, leaving it helpless in the gut of your pet where it will soon be digested. This is probably the best way to treat tapeworms, since a lot of traditional wormers you available in your local grocery store don’t affect tapeworms.
Like I mentioned in the last segment, Droncit otherwise known as Praziquantel generically, is probably your best bet for getting rid of tapeworms in your pets, but it may also be used to get rid of tapeworms in humans as well; though it is sold under a different name, Biltricide. It’s the exact same medication. Even though tapeworms are rare in humans and are usually contracted by eating raw pork, raw beef, and raw fish, (which are easily avoided) I will point you toward another tapeworm medication: niclosamide, commercially known as Niclocide. It’s an older drug, but its efficacy at getting rid of tapeworms has been proven over the years. Both drugs are usually taken only once, and then stool samples are checked for recurring infection in 1 month intervals. Also note that tapeworm medications aren’t always 100% effective, and that preventing a tapeworm infection is always better than ingesting toxic chemicals.
Natural Tapeworm Remedies
Beneficial Nematodes aren’t a new treatment, as I suggested in a previous article about getting rid of fleas—well, they are as a treatment for fleas. You can purchase what resembles a powder, but is in fact nematode eggs, a small worm that will eat and destroy flea eggs in your yard. Nematodes have been proven to be quite effective in reducing flea populations and flea infestations. Most flea problems are acquired by your pet in your own front yard.
Boric acid, as I mentioned in the main segments, is a great natural pesticide for knocking out insects like cockroaches and fleas. Click here for more information about using boric acid as an insecticide.
Garlic eaten fresh and in sufficient quantities has been regarded throughout history as a beneficial supplement to either treat or prevent intestinal parasites. There are a number of alternative medicine websites out there that claim that Garlic can be used to treat hookworm, tapeworm, and roundworm. I’ve yet to suffer from a worm infestation, so I couldn’t tell you whether this works or not, but it may be worth a try if you shy away from Western medicine.