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Fleas and Tapeworms in Dogs

Updated on February 19, 2010

What You Need to Know

How does a dog become infested with fleas or tapeworms?

A dog may get fleas or tapeworms from contact with other dogs or areas that have fleas. Your dog can become infested with fleas from your own backyard. It is commonly expressed that dogs become infected with tapeworm after swallowing a flea carrying tapeworm. Dogs also can become infected by coming in contact with and ingesting feces of an infected animal. When a dog or other animal gets tapeworm, it becomes an intermediate host, which means it can and will infect other animals. Tapeworm is not transferred through saliva, so if your dog is a kisser, you should be fine.

How will I know if my dog is infested with fleas or tapeworm?

Often when animals become infested with fleas, they will scratch or bite obsessively. You may also notice small inflamed circular bites on your skin. When observing your pet's fur and skin, fleas will run and hide, so you may not notice them. They also can jump large distances, and will do so. If your animal is infected with tapeworm, you may notice what appears to be small gooey off-white discharges from their anus, which later dry up and become orange or brown in color and resemble pieces of rice. You may also find the dried up tapeworms on areas where your pet has been lying. It is more common to find dry tapeworms in your living space than live tapeworms on your animal's rectum.

Why should my pet be treated for fleas or tapeworm?

Flea and/or tapeworm infestation can lead to anemia and even death. Tapeworm infections can cause fluid or pus-filled cysts (not to be confused with cysticercosis), which must be surgically removed. Cysts can grow to incredible sizes and even burst, causing severe and most likely fatal damage. Cysticercosis, which are encapsulated muscular sites of the tapeworm Taenia solium, causes tissue damage and may even calcify, which can also lead to fatalities.

How should my pet be treated for fleas or tapeworm?

If you have more than one pet, it is important to have all pets treated at one time, even if they may not all be showing symptoms of infestation. Your vet and other websites may recommend against treating all of your animals for tapeworm, but they are tragically misinformed. Failing to treat each of your animals at the same time will cost you extra expenses for repeat treatments in the near future, as tapeworm will pass from animal to animal unpredictably. This also causes unnecessary stress and can lead to more health complications for your animal.

You can treat both fleas and tapeworms by seeing your vet. Topical flea medication, which is applied at the animal’s shoulders, is generally used to treat fleas. I do not recommend using flea treatments from your general store. These can cause sores and allergies, leading to “hot spots” or dermatitis. Also, any topical flea treatment has the risk of causing seizures, which may eventually lead to death. Fleas are notorious for lying eggs wherever they go and are great at finding hiding places, so it is important to treat your home as well. Generally, medication for tapeworm is administered orally. It is important to receive medication from your vet because the medicines sold in stores do not treat the most common species of tapeworm.

Is there a safer way to treat my animals for fleas or tapeworm?

A homeopathic remedy for tapeworm and fleas is the use of lavender oil in a bath. **If you, your spouse, or your pet are pregnant, do not use lavender essential oil because it will cause miscarriage.** Mix approximately 10-20 drops (based on your pets' relative size) of lavender essential oil with your pet's shampoo and bathe. Immediately, you will see an absence of fleas. Within a few days, you will see the tapeworms completely expelled from your animals digestive system.

Other essential oils can be used to treat fleas, such as cinnamon oil. Cinnamon leaf oil is considered to be safer than cinnamon bark oil.

How can I treat my home for fleas and tapeworm?

Flea preventatives and treatments are expensive. To treat your home for fleas and fleas eggs and possible tapeworm eggs or larvae, use any regular antibacterial cleaning spray on carpets before vacuuming, and/or on other surfaces. You can also dilute essential oils in a spray bottle with water, remembering to shake the mixture before each use. It is equally important to wash bedclothes and vacuum bedding. Disinfect and vacuum daily until you see results, and continue this action on a normal schedule to prevent future breakouts. You can find pesticides to treat your yard at your local home and garden store. A safe way to disinfect your yard is to spray it with nonchlorine bleach, which should not kill grass when properly diluted. To make it easy, use a sprayer attachment for your garden hose which you can fill with product which is then diluted by the flowing water.

Dried tapeworms on the bedsheet.
Dried tapeworms on the bedsheet.
As you can see in this close up photo, the dried tapeworm is quite small in size, resembling a grain of rice.
As you can see in this close up photo, the dried tapeworm is quite small in size, resembling a grain of rice.


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    • profile image

      Karla Ward 

      5 years ago

      I have a nice mess on my hands. My 5 yr old son still poops in his pants. I noticed what I thought was pinworms. Then, while I was outside, I noticed similar white rice-like pieces in all of my dogs poop. We'd already treated all 3 people with over-the-counter Pin-X, 6 days later, I'm still itching and son still ridding white in his poop. My 3 dogs all got HeartGuard Plus, then 2 days later we gave them Pyrantel Pamoate. Little Pomeranian is acting strange. Head jerking and panting. (oh, today, we used flea/tick prevention on them. We still do not know if it's pinworms and/or tapeworm. My stomach is really really sore. Have not seen any long worms, only tiny ones in my (diarrhea) toilet. Can my pom be haing too much pyrantel?

    • Spunky Puppies profile image

      Spunky Puppies 

      6 years ago from Newcastle, New South Wales

      a dog can still get parvo even after being fully vaccinated against it. It is not common but possible. Parvo is treatable but very expensive. lots of pets survive parvo infections but many still die. Worms are easy to treat these days with a simple tablet every 3 months. There are many good wormers out there available through pet stores and vet.If your pet has not been on heartworm treatment you should have them tested before starting it. this needs to be done by a vet.

      you can get more helpful animal tips at Spunky Puppies.

      we are always happy to give free advice.

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      I actually probably should edit this article to make it more accurate. I have gotten rid of tapeworms using about 5 drops of lavender oil in shampoo on my 20 lb shih tzu. Essential oils can be very dangerous if not used properly, so if you are trying it on a 10 lb animal I would probably use no more than 3 drops in whatever normal amount of shampoo you would use. It's worked for me sometimes, and other times it hasn't.

    • profile image

      ruth jones 

      6 years ago

      what is the mixture of essentail lavender oil and shampoo to treat tape worms dog is ten pounds

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Can a dog still get parvo even after having all of her parvo shots?

    • vegetable-garden profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      Really interesting. My dog had a bad case of fleas in the summer. Not recommended we all got flea bites. In the end had to buy a flea control from the vet. My previous dog never had a problem.


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