Dog Tapeworms and Children

My son attends a daycare where another child was diagnosed with dog tapeworms. I didn’t know children got dog worms. Should I be concerned? Should I take my child out of this daycare? How serious is this?

Dog Tapeworms and Children

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

The dog tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) is a common infestation in domestic dogs and cats. The adult worm lives in the animal’s intestines and is about 50 to 70 cm in length. The head, or scolex, consists of four cup-shaped suckers and several rows of hooks by which the worm attaches to the inside of the animal’s intestines and feeds. The body of the dog tapeworm is composed of many segments. The closer the segments are to the tail of the worm, the more ripe they become — each one containing up to 30 eggs. When segments reach the tail of the worm, they fall off and are excreted in the animal’s feces. These segments are the shape, color, and look of a cucumber seed (except that they tend to squirm around in the feces and around the anus of the dog or cat). If a dog or cat ingests some of this seed-containing stool it will not become infected — the eggs themselves are not infectious to mammals. However, the fleas that land on the stool will ingest the eggs.

Tapeworm eggs will hatch and begin to mature inside the body of a flea. When a dog or cat nips at, and swallows some of the infected fleas, it becomes infected. The larval stage tapeworm, ingested in the flea, is liberated, and attaches and grows into an adult tapeworm inside the animal.

Dog Tapeworms in Humans

Occasionally, human infants and children become infected with the dog tapeworms. This happens through ingesting larvae-containing fleas. Children will sometimes eat the fleas directly if they are playing in sand or in a spot where the fleas are abundant. Sometimes a dog that has been nipping at the fleas will still have partially digested fleas in its mouth when it licks a child, causing the larval stage tapeworm to be ingested.

The dog tapeworm has been found in infants as young as five weeks old. Children who ingest these fleas or flea parts will have tapeworms attach in their intestines and grow to maturity. Many of these children will have no symptoms at all. Some will have diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and sometimes rectal or anal itching (if the cucumber shape segments squirm about near the anal opening). It was probably by seeing the moving cucumber-seed-shaped egg sacks in the child’s diaper or stool that the tapeworm infestation was diagnosed.

Passing Dog Tapeworms Around

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon in the daycare setting for stool from one child to pass to the mouth of another child, particularly in situations where hand washing is not strictly observed. If your child were to ingest stool that contains the dog tapeworm egg sacks he would not become infected (with the dog tapeworm). The infection is not passed directly from child to child. If there are infected fleas in the daycare setting, however, your child could become infected. Fleas in daycare are usually found either on animals or in a sand box.

A dog tapeworm infestation in a child is diagnosed by examining a child’s stool. It is typically easy to treat with a medicine such as niclosamide, and is not a cause for great concern (although it is, admittedly, a little gross). The associated dog or cat should also be treated, and flea control measures should be undertaken. Considering the large number of domestic dogs and cats, and the relative commonness of worms in pets, the infestation of children with dog tapeworms is, thankfully, relatively uncommon.

Thorough and frequent hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of dog tapeworm as well as so many other infections.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. keishuna

    how long will a tapeworm grow up to 1 week?

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  2. Kayla

    Our dogs have tapeworm, will I know if my toddlers have it? Might they get a bloated belly like the dogs can get? Is there anyway of knowing other then seeing it in their poop?

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  3. Holly

    I don’t have the tapeworm at home ! Do I ?

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  4. Amanda

    My son was diagnosed with dog tapeworm. He recently took a round of praziquantel. 3 doses in one day…. Will I see the proglitids in his poop like I had before??? How do I know if he has finally gotten rid of them?

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  5. Ruby

    My daughter is always afraid when she hears the word doctor. Yesterday, we went to her pediatrician for 5 year wellness check-up. She was very anxious, and her blood pressure was 133/80. The pediatrician ordered her urine test same day. I’m still waiting for the result. She’s very active, and her growth is 29%. Her BMI is 28%, and she is 108 cm. Do I have to worry if she has kidney problem?

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  6. Estela

    Our puppy pitbull recently had tapeworms and he was treated for them but my concern is my two children my 2 year old played with the pitbull the most before treatment and my 7 month old wasnt really around the puppy can they catch the tape worms ? And if they can what should i do?

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    • Hi Estela,

      As Dr. Greene says above “Occasionally, human infants and children become infected with the dog tapeworms. This happens through ingesting larvae-containing fleas.” It’s probably worth getting them checked out. Better safe than sorry.

      @MsGreene

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  7. Payton

    Hi my 13 week old great Dane puppy has worms. She has had all dewormings except the 12 week one which was a little late. We got her from a breeder and were told that she was the runt. She weighed 17 pounds at 10 weeks. Now at 13 weeks she weighs 25. We feed her a home cooked diet since she has a grain allergy, which the breeder did not notice since she would run after she ate then get sick. I’m pretty sure its a tapeworm. We just picked up a dewormer from Walmart. I have 2 other dogs — an almost 10 year old black lab service dog and a shih tzuh who is about 11. We don’t have the money right now to take the puppy to the vet because my service dog just got over ear hematomas. What can I do to help my puppy and keepy other dogs safe and can people get them?

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  8. Jennifer

    I have a similar question that was never answered before.. I do fecal exams for animals at home.. My daughter was showing symptoms so I did a mucous check from her nose and found tapeworm packets.. It is Friday evening and I’m wondering if I should bring my daughter to the er or wait till Monday to go to the doctor..

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  9. William

    My dog has tape worms. I don’t know if I do. I have watery stool sore throat and a little stomach pains.

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    • It would be wise to be checked by a doctor. You really don’t want to “hope” tape worms will go away. And if you don’t have tape worms, you’ll be relieved.

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  10. Patricia

    Mt boyfriend has a pet that was diagnosed wot a typworms, can my 3 years old be around the pet? And can he be in the be in the same room with the pet?

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  11. dodi

    Is it worrisome to find one in a toddlers poop? Like should I call his doctor or take him to the e.r.?

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  12. danny b

    Tape worms can be seen moving in stools right

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    • Heather Marie Buciorelli

      Yes absolutly! If you Utube them its pretty gross but if a very inexpensive way to diagnose and treat your pet right away. Also might I add Amazon has great prices for dewormers in dogs and cats as well as the flea medications you will also need to treat your pet. Hope this helps I did my research and I couldn’t be more satisfied hope you and your peg are happy and healthy!! Good luck!!

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