Whipworms are a common parasite that lives in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, which can cause irritation and lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms. Today our Palmdale vets explain more about whipworms in dogs including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Whipworm In Dogs
Whipworms (scientific name Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can seriously affect your dog's overall health. These parasites measure about 1/4 of an inch long and 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 its shape: a thicker front end and long thin back end that looks much like a whip.
Whipworm Cycle In Dogs
There are 3 stages to the lifecycle of a whipworm: egg, larvae, and adult. The eggs are laid inside the dog's intestines, where they pass out the body via the dog's stool. This means that an infected dog spreads whipworm eggs each time they have a bowel movement. Whipworm eggs are extremely hard and can 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.
Signs Of Whipworms In Dogs
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
Diagnosing Whipworm In Dogs
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.
Treating Whipworm In Dogs
Whipworm eggs are quite resilient, making reinfection a frequent occurrence and whipworms a difficult parasite to get rid of.
Whipworm treatment for dogs includes prescribing 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, you must thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel area, and anywhere they frequent in and around the home. Your vet may also recommend re-treating your dog every 3-4 months to help fight reinfections.
Preventing Whipworm In Dogs
Prevention is possible! Taking steps to stop the infection from developing in the first place is far easier and more effective than treatment in most cases. Many heartworm medications for dogs also protect against whipworms. By ensuring your pet is provided 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.
At All Care Pet Clinic, we also offer a selection of preventive products to help protect your dog from 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.