Whipworms are a common parasite that makes their home in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, causing irritation and leading to a host of uncomfortable symptoms. Today our Beacon vets explain what causes whipworms in dogs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
What is whipworm in dogs?
Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can harm your dog's overall health. These parasites, which are about a quarter of an inch long, live in your dog's large intestine and cecum, where they attach to the mucosal lining and cause extensive 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 looks much like a whip.
What is the whipworm life cycle in dogs?
A whipworm's lifecycle consists of three stages: egg, larvae, and adult. The eggs are laid in the dog's intestine and become part of the dog's stool. This means that a whipworm-infected dog spreads whipworm eggs with each bowel movement. The eggs are extremely hardy and can survive in the environment for up to 5 years.
Once the eggs are released into the wild, they typically mature into the infective stage in 10-60 days, at which point they are ready to infect the next host animal.
Soon after being consumed, they hatch and mature in the pet's intestine, 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 only a few signs, 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 the 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. To make things harder, tend to lay a limited number of eggs 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.
Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?
Yes! In most cases, prevention is far easier and more effective than treatment. Many heartworm medications for dogs also provide whipworm protection. By giving your pet monthly heartworm medication, you may also be protecting him or her from a variety of intestinal parasites such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Inquire with your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your dog.
At The Beacon Veterinary Associates 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.