Whipworms are a fairly common intestinal parasite in dogs. They can live in your pup's large intestine and cecum, causing irritation and a range of other symptoms. Here, our Hohenwald vets tell you how you can recognize whipworms in dogs, including how they are treated and prevented.
Whipworm in Dogs
Whipworms, also known as Trichuris vulpis, are tiny intestinal parasites that can greatly impact your dog's health. These worms, measuring about 1/4 of an inch, reside in infected dogs' large intestine and cecum, causing significant irritation by attaching to the mucosal lining.
How to Recognize Whipworms
Whipworms are easily identifiable due to their distinct shape – a thicker front end and a long, thin back end resembling a whip.
The Whipworm Lifecycle in Dogs
Whipworms have 3 stages to their lifecycle, 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 have a bowel movement. The eggs are extremely resilient and able to 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 this 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 Your Dog Has Whipworm
Spotting whipworm in your dog can be tricky, as some infected dogs may not show any symptoms even in later stages. However, there are some signs to watch out for.
Here are the most common symptoms of whipworm in dogs:
- Weight loss
- Chronic diarrhea
- Blood in stool
Diagnosing Whipworms in Dogs
The best way to detect whipworms and other intestinal parasites in dogs is to take them to the vet for fecal exams. 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 Dog Whipworm Infestations are Treated
Getting rid of whipworms can be tough because the eggs are very resilient, leading to frequent reinfection.
To treat whipworm in dogs, your veterinarian will prescribe medications to kill the parasites in their intestines and address any uncomfortable symptoms.
Typically, two treatment sessions will be needed, spaced about 3-4 weeks apart. Additionally, it's essential to clean your dog's bedding, kennel, and dog run thoroughly to prevent reinfection.
Your vet may also suggest re-treating your dog every 3-4 months to combat future reinfections.
Preventing Whipworm in Dogs
Preventing whipworm is always easier and more effective than treating it. A handful of heartworm medications for dogs can also prevent whipworms. By giving your pooch monthly heartworm medications, you may also be keeping them safe from other intestinal parasites, such as hookworms and roundworms. Ask your vet about the best ways to protect your beloved pup.
At Hohenwald Animal Hospital, we offer a variety of prevention products that can 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.