Whipworms are parasitic worm that lives in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, causing irritation and a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Today, our Fairfield, NJ veterinarians discuss the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of whipworms in dogs.
What is whipworm in dogs?
First, let's discuss what causes whipworm in dogs. In most cases, dogs become infected by swallowing infective whipworm eggs in soil or other substances that may have come into contact with dog feces.
Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can hurt your dog's health. These parasites, which are about 1/4 inch long, live in your dog's large intestine and cecum, where they attach to the mucosal lining and cause severe irritation.
What do whipworms look like?
This intestinal parasite can be easily identified by its shape. They have a thicker front end and long thin back end that look much like a whip.
What is the whipworm lifecycle in dogs?
Whipworms have three stages in their life cycle: egg, larvae, and adult. The eggs are laid in the dog's intestine and eventually become part of his stool. This means that every time a dog has a bowel movement, whipworm eggs are spread. The eggs are extremely hardy, with the ability to survive in the environment for up to five years.
The eggs mature into the infective stage in about 10-60 days after being released into the wild, at which point they are ready to infect the next host animal.
They hatch and mature in the pet's intestine shortly after being consumed, where they lay more eggs and repeat the cycle.
How do I know if my dog has whipworms?
If your dog has recently become infected there will likely be few signs of a whipworm infection, and even in later stages of infection, some dogs will remain asymptomatic (show no symptoms). 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 on an inconsistent basis. For these reasons, diagnosis can be tricky and may require repeated fecal exams to reach an accurate diagnosis.
Is there treatment for whipworm in dogs?
Because whipworm eggs are so resilient, reinfection often occurs making whipworms a challenging parasite to get rid of.
Prescription medications to kill the parasites living in your dog's intestine, as well as additional medications to treat any unpleasant symptoms your dog may be experiencing, makeup whipworm treatment for dogs. The majority of whipworm medications for dogs require two treatments spaced 3-4 weeks apart. It will be necessary to thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel area, and dog run to help prevent reinfection. To help prevent reinfections, your veterinarian may recommend re-treating your dog every 3-4 months.
Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?
Yes! In most cases, prevention is far easier and more effective than treatment. Whipworms are protected by many heartworm medications for dogs. By administering monthly heartworm medication to your pet, you may be assisting in the prevention of a variety of intestinal parasites such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Consult your veterinarian for advice on how to best protect your dog.
At All Creatures Great and Small Animal Hospital we 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.