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What is Whipworm in Dogs? Causes, Treatment & Prevention

What is Whipworm in Dogs? Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Whipworm can be very uncomfortable and cause irritation and internal pain in your dog. Here, our Mamaroneck vets discuss the causes, treatment, and prevention of whipworm in dogs.

About Whipworm

Whipworms (scientific name: Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can seriously impact your dog's overall health. At about a-quarter-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.

What Do Whipworms Look Like?

Whipworms are an easily identifiable intestinal parasite due to their strange shape. They have a thicker front end and a long thin back end that looks much like a whip. 

Life Cycle of Whipworms

There are three stages to the lifecycle of a whipworm in dogs: 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 defecate. The eggs are able to remain alive in the environment for up to five 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 the eggs are ingested, they hatch and mature in the pet's intestine where they lay more eggs, and begin the cycle once again. If a whipworm infected dog defecates in a public place like a park, and the poop is not picked up, this could also cause an outbreak among local wildlife.

Signs & Symptoms Of Whipworm

If your dog has recently become infected there will likely be few signs, and even in the later stages of infection, some dogs will remain asymptomatic. That said, some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs include:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in stool
  • Anemia

Diagnosing Whipworms In Dogs

Fecal exams (which are completed during or around the time of your pet’s yearly wellness exam) 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. 

Treatment Options

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 three or four weeks apart to ensure all eggs have hatched and are able to be killed.

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 three to four months to help fight reinfections. 

Prevention of Whipworms In Dogs

Prevention is far easier and more effective than treatment in most cases. Many heartworm medications for dogs also protect against whipworms. 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 in Mamaroneck 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.

Do you think your dog may have whipworm? Contact our Mamaroneck vets today to book an examination.

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