Whipworms are a common parasite that makes its home in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, causing irritation and leading to a host of uncomfortable symptoms. Today, our Lincoln vets explain more about whipworms in dogs including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
What is whipworm in dogs?
Whipworms, scientifically known as Trichuris vulpis, are tiny parasites that can have a significant impact on your dog's well-being. These intestinal parasites, measuring approximately 1/4 of an inch in length, reside in the large intestine and cecum of your dog, where they attach themselves to the lining and cause considerable irritation.
What do whipworms look like?
This intestinal parasite can be easily identified by their 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?
The lifecycle of a whipworm consists of three stages: egg, larvae, and adult. Inside the dog's intestine, the eggs are deposited and passed through the dog's feces, resulting in the spread of whipworm eggs each time an infected dog defecates. These eggs possess remarkable resilience and can survive in the environment for up to 5 years.
Once released into the environment, the eggs undergo maturation and reach the infective stage within approximately 10-60 days. At this point, they become capable of infecting another host animal. Once ingested by a new host, the eggs hatch and develop into adults within the pet's intestine, where they lay more eggs and initiate the cycle anew.
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 not 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 and 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?
Whipworms pose a challenge when it comes to eradication due to the resilience of their eggs, which often leads to reinfection.
Treating whipworms in dogs involves the administration of prescription medications that effectively eliminate the parasites residing in the dog's intestine. Additionally, if your dog experiences any discomfort, further medications may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms.
Typically, treating whipworms in dogs requires two rounds of medication, spaced approximately 3-4 weeks apart.
To prevent reinfection, it is crucial to thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel area, and dog run. Your veterinarian may also recommend periodic retreatment every 3-4 months to combat potential reinfections and maintain your dog's health. By following these measures, you can effectively manage whipworms and promote your dog's well-being.
Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?
Yes! 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.
At Critter Creek Veterinary 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.