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Local parasites: The fox tapeworm in dogs is an often-underestimated danger for four-legged friends. Learn more about the worm species.

The fox tapeworm in dogs

Fox Tapeworm Infection in Dogs 7

The fox tapeworm (medical: Echinococcus multilocularis) is an endoparasite because, unlike fleas and ticks, it lives inside its host. It reaches a length of about 2 to 5 mm and is, therefore, the smallest representative among the tapeworms.

The target tissue of the endoparasite in the small intestine. In order to adhere to the intestinal wall, the head of the fox tapeworm is equipped with suction cups. The body is made up of several limbs called proglottids. The last and largest section of the body is the detachable uterus with self-fertilized eggs. The limb gets into the environment with the faeces and is a source of infection there.

Fox tapeworm in dogs: transmission

Fox Tapeworm Infection in Dogs 8

The fox tapeworm needs two hosts for its development – the definitive host and the intermediate host. Native red foxes or arctic foxes that have settled further north serve as the parasite’s ultimate host. This means that sexually mature fox tapeworms live in them. Small rodents such as field voles are affected as intermediate hosts (for a part of the life cycle). The mice eat plants contaminated with worm eggs. The eggs develop into fins and weaken the rodent until death occurs.

Occasionally it also happens that the dog serves as the ultimate host for the small parasite. The beloved four-legged friends are mainly infected by ingesting infected rodents.

Transmission from dog to human

The risk of people being infected by their infected dog is extremely low. Regardless of this, hygiene measures – for example, regular hand washing after petting – must be observed to protect all family members. Humans represent a false intermediate host for the parasite, i.e. the fox tapeworm cannot develop larvae in them. When a person is ill, there is talk of the highly dangerous alveolar echinococcosis, which, if left untreated, is usually fatal.

Fox tapeworm in dogs: Occurrence

The fox tapeworm is resistant to cold and can withstand temperatures above -80 ° C for several days. But it is prone to heat and drought. For this reason, its range extends over large parts of the northern hemisphere. The Hokkaido Island in Japan, northern China, and Siberia are among the most widespread areas in the world. In relation to Germany, the main distribution area is in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. In these two federal states, a percentage of most foxes is infected with the endoparasites.

Fox tapeworm in the dog: symptoms

A weak to mild fox tapeworm infestation usually has no symptoms. In the case of a severe infestation, the following signs show in the infected four-legged friend:

  • bloated stomach
  • diarrhea
  • vomit
  • weight loss
  • dull fur
  • Itching of the anus

Fox tapeworm in dogs: diagnosis

An antibody detection test (ELISA) or a PCR test can be used to find out whether a dog is harboring fox tapeworms.

Fox tapeworm in dogs: treatment

After the diagnosis, the veterinarian will often give the drug praziquantel. This is a drug that kills tapeworms.

How can I prevent fox tapeworm in dogs?

Fox Tapeworm Infection in Dogs 9

However, the following tips will minimize the risk of infection or serious illness for the dog.

Hunters and Scavengers:

If a dog hunts and kills an infectious mouse, the fox tapeworm will find a suitable ultimate host in the dog. A reliable recall, anti-hunting training, or even a muzzle can help here. Important to know: Just like passionate hunters, scavengers can also ingest fox tapeworm eggs orally. Former strays or greedy dog breeds, in particular, tend to associate the walk with the search for food.


In order to declare war on the fox tapeworm, it is advisable to administer wormer cures at regular intervals. The interval at which deworming takes place depends on the risk of infection. Let your veterinarian advise you and ask specifically about a worming treatment for fox tapeworms in dogs.