Whipworms are a common parasite that makes its home in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, causing irritation and leading to a host of uncomfortable symptoms. Today our Lisle vets explain more about whipworms in dogs including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
What do whipworms look like?
Whipworms (scientific name Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can seriously impact your dog's overall health. Measuring about 1/4 of an inch long, these parasites make their home in your dog's large intestine and cecum where they attach to the mucosal lining causing extensive irritation.
This intestinal parasite can be easily identified by their shape. They have a thicker front end and long thin back end that look much like a whip.
What causes whipworms in dogs?
Your dog can become infected with whipworm if they ingest the microscopic eggs of this parasite. Infective whipworm eggs could be found in the soil or anywhere that has come in contact with the feces of a dog infected with whipworms.
What is the whipworm lifecycle in dogs?
The whipworm lifecycle is broken into 3 stages, egg, larvae and adult. The eggs are laid in the dog's intestine where they are incorporated into the dog's stool. This means that an infected dog spreads whipworm eggs each time they have a bowel movement. The eggs are extremely resilient and able to remain alive in the environment for up to 5 years.
Once out in the world, the eggs typically mature into the infective stage in about 10-60 days, at which point they are ready to infect the next host animal. Soon after they are ingested they hatch and mature in the pet's intestine where they lay more eggs and begin the cycle once again.
How do I know if my dog has whipworms?
Dogs recently infected will likely show few signs of a whipworm infection, and even in later stages of infection, some dogs show no symptoms at all. That said, some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Blood in stool
How are whipworms in dogs diagnosed?
Fecal exams at your vet's office are the best way to monitor your dog for intestinal parasites including whipworms. Whipworms take up to 12 weeks to mature and begin laying eggs, and tend to lay limited numbers of eggs and on an inconsistent basis. For these reasons, diagnosis can be tricky and may require repeated fecal exams to reach an accurate diagnosis.
How will my vet treat my dog's whipworm infestation?
Because whipworm eggs are so resilient, reinfection often occurs making whipworms a challenging parasite to get rid of.
Whipworm treatment for dogs consists of prescription medications to kill the parasites living within your dog's intestine, and if necessary, further medications to treat any uncomfortable symptoms your dog may be experiencing. Most medications to treat whipworm in dogs will require two treatments spaced about 3-4 weeks apart. To help prevent reinfection it will be necessary to thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel area, and dog run. Your vet may also recommend re-treating your dog every 3-4 months to help fight reinfections.
How can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?
Many heartworm medications for dogs also protect against whipworms and other parasites. By providing your pet with monthly heartworm medication you could also be helping to protect your pet against a host of intestinal parasites including whipworms, hookworms and roundworms. Ask your vet for information on how best to protect your dog.
Our vets at Green Trails Animal Clinic also offer a selection of prevention products to help protect your dog against intestinal parasites.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.