Dog Tapeworms and Children

Occasionally, human infants and children become infected with the dog tapeworms. This happens through ingesting larvae-containing fleas.


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?

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.

Last medical review on: September 12, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
Get Dr. Greene's Wellness RecommendationsSignup now to get Dr. Greene's healing philosophy, insight into medical trends, parenting tips, seasonal highlights, and health news delivered to your inbox every month.
Add your comment

Recent Comments

We just found out our beautiful German Shepard Puppy has roundworms. Before we knew, we let her sleep in our bed and lick our faces all night!

The next day she pooped out a lot of worms on the carpet and I cleaned it up with bleach and vacuumed after it was dry. Will this be egg-free? I rented a steam-cleaner today so I’m going to give the carpet a good cleaning all over daily until I know she’s healthy.

IS there anything more I can be doing?

After worming my puppy who had tapeworm, how long till she can come back inside after tapeworm treatment.

I’m 8 months pregnant and my 8 yr old son was complaining of an itchy bum, he and his 18 month old sister were both treated around A month ago for worms. Tonight I noticed what appears to be rice in my dogs stool.. Which was mucusy and a little bloody … What should I do ? Im worried about taking things while pregnant bit im also worried about not taking something and having parasites harming my fetus and my 2 children.

My daughter has blood in her stool, we have a dog we got from the pound, and a cat. Could this be a sign of worms?

I took albendazole 400 mg day before yesterday night and today I found many raw rice like things in stool. I’ve lost 4-5 kg in past 8 months. I’m 28 and its been a long time since I played with animals. When I was a kid though I literally lived with cats and dogs. Should I be worried?

how long will a tapeworm grow up to 1 week?

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?

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

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?

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?