Tapeworms of UK cats and dogs: an update

26 November 2013
10 mins read
Volume 4 · Issue 9


Tapeworms (class Cestoda) remain common parasites of UK cats and dogs despite widespread use of anthelmintics by pet owners. Although this group of helminths rarely causes disease in the definitive host their presence often causes distress in pet owners and some species have zoonotic potential. Echinococcus granulosus remains a serious endemic zoonosis despite repeated campaigns to eliminate it. This article reviews the epidemiology of tapeworm infections in the UK, zoonotic risk and the role of veterinary nurses in advising the public, diagnosis, treatments and control of these parasites.

Tapeworms are helminths belonging to the class Cestoda and are common parasites of cats and dogs. Cestodes consist of a head bearing hooks or suckers to attach to the intestinal wall, a short unsegmented neck and a chain of segments called proglottids. Taenia spp. and Dipylidium caninum are large tapeworms of cats and dogs and remain ubiquitous throughout the UK despite the use of cestocidal anthelmintics being a widespread practice. Visible motile proglottids are passed in the faeces but will also actively crawl out of the anus. The visible nature of these proglottids often leads to revulsion and concern in pet owners leading to the seeking of veterinary advice and nurses will often be called on to dispense advice on treatment and control, as well as allaying fears among members of the public regarding zoonotic risk. Echinococcus granulosus is a closely related tapeworm of canids but is only a few millimetres long in the definitive host. It is a serious zoonosis and despite extensive attempts to control it, endemic foci in the UK remain. This article provides an update on the distribution, diagnosis, treatment and control of these parasites.

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