Tapeworms are commonly diagnosed in dogs and cats. They are one of the more common intestinal parasites seen in the canine and feline species. People also can get tapeworms but they do not typically get them from infected dogs and cats.
Tapeworms in Dogs and Cats
There are two types of tapeworms that may be seen in dogs and cats. By far, the most commonly seen is what is referred to as the common tapeworm or Dipylidium caninum. Dogs and cats become infected with this parasite when they swallow a flea, which frequently happens when flea-infested pets groom themselves.
The other type of tapeworm seen in dogs and cats is called Taenia. There are several species of Taenia which normally infect very specific species. For instance, there are species that infect rats and mice. Dogs and cats can get them by eating rats and mice that are infected. There are other species that infect rabbits and dogs can become infected from ingesting an infected rabbit.
Tapeworms in People
Though technically people can become infected with Dipylidium caninum, it requires ingestion of a flea. That is not a common scenario and infection with Dipylidium caninum in people is not typically a huge problem.
Taenia on the other hand is a different story. There are several species of Taenia that can infect people. They can in fact produce disease ranging from mild to serious. People can become infected with Taenia by eating pork, beef, venison or other meats infected with Taenia. Infection can also occur by drinking water contaminated with Taenia. These infections are most common in areas where sanitation is substandard.
Prevent Tapeworms in Pets and People
You can protect yourself and your family from tapeworm infection by always cooking meat thoroughly before serving. Practice good personal hygiene such as washing your hands frequently. Be cautious of drinking from potentially contaminated water supplies. When in doubt, drink bottled water.
Pets can be protected from tapeworms infection by discouraging them from hunting, using effective flea control and not feeding uncooked meat.