Dog flatworms include two types of parasites, tapeworms and flukes. Tapeworms, which infest your dog’s intestines, cause severe itching around the anus as well as diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss. Flukes, which infest your dog’s intestines, liver and lungs, cause symptoms similar to tapeworms, as well as hepatic fibrosis or hardening of the walls of the liver. Since the presence of flukes is difficult to diagnose outside of a laboratory but easy to treat once detected, be sure to take your dog to a veterinarian if you suspect an infestation.
Types of Dog Flatworms
Flukes are the more dangerous version of dog flatworms and are characterized by the flat plate-like appearance that gives flatworms their name. They are generally transmitted through the ingestion of infected fish and are divided into three categories: intestinal flukes, liver flukes and lung flukes:
- Intestinal flukes range from 0.5 to 1.0 mm in size and infect the intestinal wall where they lead to inflammation and, in severe cases, bloody diarrhea.
- Liver flukes range from 5 to 9 mm in size and infect the liver, gall bladder and bile duct where, over long periods of time, they cause hardening of the tissues and eventually cancer. If left untreated, liver flukes can cause progressively greater weakening of the body followed by coma and death.
- Lung flukes are approximately 14 mm long and 7 mm wide and infect the lungs, where they cause difficulties with breathing. Common symptoms are a deep cough, accompanied by lethargy and weakness.
Tapeworms are the less serious form of dog flatworm and are generally transmitted by your dog eating egg-carrying fleas. They range from 8 inches to 2 feet in length and are characterized by their segmented bodies, which can break off inside your dog’s intestine and end up in its feces looking like small pieces of rice. Though not dangerous, they cause extreme anal itching and irritation and, in some cases, lead to diarrhea and weight loss.
Dog Flatworm Treatment
Your veterinarian will determine the presence of flatworms by examining your dog’s feces for the presence of eggs or, in the case of lung flatworms, taking X-Rays. Depending on the kind of flatworm involved, various medications might be prescribed, including Fenbendazole for liver flukes and Praziquantel for both intestinal flukes and tapeworms. All of these medications are available from National Pet Pharmacy.
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