Brief Summary

The Double-pored Dog Tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) mainly infects dogs and cats, but is occasionally found in humans. The distribution of this tapeworm is worldwide and human infections have been reported from Europe, the Philippines, China, Japan, Argentina, and the United States.

Gravid proglottids (bisexual reproductive segments) are passed intact in the feces from the definitive host (i.e., the host in which adult parasites occur) or emerge from the perianal region of the host. Subsequently, these proglottids release typical egg packets. On rare occasions, proglottids rupture and egg packets are seen in stool samples. Following ingestion of an egg by an intermediate host (larval stages of the Dog or Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides spp.), an oncosphere is released into the intermediate host's intestine. The oncosphere penetrates the intestinal wall, invades the insect's hemocoel (body cavity), and develops into a cysticercoid larva. The larva develops into an adult and the adult flea harbors the infective cysticercoid. The vertebrate host becomes infected by ingesting an adult flea containing a cysticercoid. The domestic dog is the principal definitive host of D. caninum. Other potential hosts include cats, foxes, and humans (mainly children). Humans acquire infection by ingesting a cysticercoid-contaminated flea. This can result from close contact between children and their infected pets. In the small intestine of the vertebrate host, the cysticercoid develops into an adult tapeworm, reaching maturity around 1 month post-infection. The adult tapeworms (which reach up to around 60 cm in length and 3 mm in width) reside in the small intestine of the host, where each attaches by its scolex (the anterior part of the tapeworm that is specialized for attachment to the gut wall of the host). Each worm produces proglottids with two genital pores. The proglottids mature, become gravid, detach from the tapeworm, and migrate to the anus or are passed in the stool, bringing the life cycle full circle.

(Centers for Disease Control Parasites and Health Website)

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Animal / parasite / endoparasite
usually solitary tapeworm of Dipylidium caninum endoparasitises ilium of Felis domesticus

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
usually solitary tapeworm of Dipylidium caninum endoparasitises ilium of Canis familiaris
Other: major host/prey

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
larva of Dipylidium caninum endoparasitises larva of Ctenocephalides canis

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
larva of Dipylidium caninum endoparasitises Trichodectes canis

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
usually solitary tapeworm of Dipylidium caninum endoparasitises ilium of children of Homo sapiens
Other: unusual host/prey


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Dipylidium caninum

Dipylidium life cycle

Dipylidium caninum, also called the flea tapeworm, double-pore tapeworm, or cucumber tapeworm (in reference to the shape of its cucumber-seed-like proglottids), though these also resemble grains of rice or sesame seeds), is a cyclophyllid cestode that infects organisms afflicted with fleas and canine chewing lice, including dogs, cats, and sometimes human pet-owners, especially children. The adult worm is about 18 inches (46 cm) long. Gravid proglottids containing the worm's microscopic eggs are either passed in the definitive host's feces or may leave their host spontaneously and are then ingested by microscopic flea larvae (the intermediate hosts) in the surrounding environment. These larvae eventually pupate and transform into adult fleas still carrying the tape worm, which are then ingested by a dog or cat during grooming activity. From there, the worm enters the animal's digestive tract and anchors itself to the intestinal wall where it will soon begin generating proglottids, completing the life cycle. Examples of fleas that can spread D. caninum include Ctenocephalides canis and Ctenocephalides felis.

As in all members of family Dipylidiidae, proglottids of the adult worm have genital pores on both sides (hence the name double-pore tapeworm). Each side has a set of male and female reproductive organs. The uterus is paired with 16 to 20 radial branches each. The scolex has a retractable rostellum with four rows of hooks, along with the four suckers that all cyclophyllid cestodes have.

In children, infection causes diarrhea and restlessness. As with most tapeworm infections, the drugs of choice are niclosamide or praziquantel. The best way to prevent human infection is to treat infected animals to kill fleas. Tapeworm infection usually does not cause pathology in the dog or cat, and most pets show no adverse reaction to infection other than increased appetite.

The other tapeworm infecting cats is Taenia taeniaeformis, though this form is much less commonly encountered that the one currently under discussion here.


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