Itching, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss and mild anemia are flatworm symptoms in dogs. The diarrhea may also be bloody. Increased levels of protein and calcium levels in the blood are more red flags.
An infected dog may lick the anus excessively to alleviate itching, or it may scoot the anus across carpeting for relief. Dogs can get these parasites through fleas that eat tapeworm eggs, and dogs that lick itchy areas may ingest fleas that carry the eggs. Tapeworm hatchlings then gravitate to the intestinal lining. The parasites also enter the stomach, and they can cause vomiting. The eggs can enter the bloodstream and internal organs as well, resulting in further complications.
Intestinal eggs are expelled through fecal matter. Once the feces is dry, the eggs are free to travel, and they hatch in water. Flatworms are most commonly found in the waters of Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina. The worms use snails as hosts to enter maturity. Dogs are most at risk during the summer months, a time when the snail population is highest. The parasite is most active during the morning, and it lives for 24 hours when outside of a host.
Minimizing the spread of fleas stops the problem before it begins, and disposal of feces is crucial. Proper sanitation and hygiene are further safety precautions. Dogs and humans should avoid waters that may be infected. Deworming is an effective treatment method for infected dogs.