Last week we discovered that our aged dog Alex had tapeworms! The vet gave her a dose of praziquantel, which cures the infestation in a single dose by dissolving the buggers.

Tapeworms are pretty interesting once you get past the ick factor. You get them by ingesting them or their eggs. They attach to the lining of your gut and absorb nutrients from the food you’ve eaten. Since they reside in a stream of predigested food, they need no mouth or digestive system of their own! Apart from robbing you of some of the nutrients you should be getting, you can have a tapeworm and never know it. But in worse infestations you can become seriously malnourished or suffer intestinal blockages. Tapeworms can grow to dozens of feet in length.

We have no way of knowing how bad Alex’s infestation was or how long she had it. However, days after she took the medicine, she is noticeably sturdier on her old legs. She has been just skin and bones for many months, but we put it down to her advanced age and decreased appetite. Could it have actually been due to tapeworms? It’s too soon to know whether she will recover noticeable amounts of muscle mass, but when I walked her yesterday we went to the fourth house down, then crossed the street and returned on the other side. We haven’t taken that route for months! And it’s about twice as long as the longest of her more recent walks.

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