Whipworms are a common parasite that make their home in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, causing irritation and leading to a host of uncomfortable symptoms. Today, our Boulder County 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 cause serious health problems in dogs. These parasites, which are approximately a quarter of an inch long, reside in your dog's large intestine and cecum, where they attach to the mucosal lining and cause significant 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?
Whipworms have a three-stage lifecycle: egg, larvae, and adult. The eggs are laid in the intestine of the dog and eventually become a part of the dog's stool. This means that with each bowel movement, a whipworm-infected dog spreads whipworm eggs. The eggs are extremely hardy and can survive for up to five years in the environment.
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 examinations performed at your veterinarian's office are the most effective method of monitoring your dog for intestinal parasites, including whipworms. Whipworms mature and begin laying eggs after 12 weeks. To complicate matters, they tend to lay a limited number of eggs on an irregular basis. As a result of these factors, diagnosis can be challenging and may require repeated fecal examinations to obtain 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 the majority of cases, prevention is far more straightforward and effective than treatment. Numerous heartworm medications for dogs also protect against whipworms. By administering heartworm medication to your pet on a monthly basis, you may also be protecting him or her from a variety of intestinal parasites, including whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Consult your veterinarian for the best methods of protection for your dog.
At Lafayette Companion 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.