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Golden Retriever scratching at fleas

Fleas present another problem: tapeworms in dogs

Q: Tiny, pale beige wormy things the size of rice grains are crawling around my dog’s rear end. What are these icky creatures? What should I do for Gus?

A: Most likely, they are tapeworm segments filled with eggs. He was infected when he ate a flea, rodent, rabbit, bird or reptile that carried tapeworm eggs. After the tapeworms matured in Gus’ intestines, worm segments filled with egg packets broke off and then migrated out his anus and were excreted in his feces.

As they wriggle through the anus, tapeworm segments can cause anal itchiness, scooting and licking. The segments eventually drop to the ground and rupture, releasing the eggs to be eaten by flea larvae, thus continuing the tapeworm’s life cycle.

Fortunately, tapeworms rarely create more serious problems.

To determine whether Gus has tapeworms, make an appointment with his veterinarian. Take along a fresh sample of his feces and a few of the worm segments for microscopic evaluation. If Gus does have tapeworms, your veterinarian can prescribe medication to kill them. Good flea control is essential, too, as most tapeworm infections result from flea ingestion.

Scoop Gus’ poop to minimize contamination of his toilet area. Remember to wash your hands, because tapeworms also can infect people who ingest the egg-containing segments or infected fleas.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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