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What is Whipworm in Dogs? Causes, Treatment & Prevention

What is Whipworm in Dogs? Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Whipworms are a parasite that infects the intestines of pets in order to feed on the blood. Today, our Charlotte vets talk about the symptoms of a dog with a whipworm infection, how to protect your pup and what can be done to treat them if infection occurs.

Whipworm Infections in Dogs

Trichuris vulpis (more commonly known as whipworms) are intestinal parasites that can seriously impact your dog's overall health and well-being. These parasites can measure around 1/4 of an inch long and make their home in the large intestine and cecum of your dog. The whipworms will attach themselves to your pet through the mucosal lining and begin to cause uncomfortable symptoms for your dog.

What do whipworms look like?

This intestinal parasite can be easily identified by their shape. They have a thicker front end and a long thin back end that look much like a whip. 

What is the whipworm lifecycle?

There are 3 stages to the lifecycle of a whipworm: egg, larvae, and adult. Eggs are laid in a dog's intestine, where they are then incorporated into their stool. This means that infected dogs have a chance of spreading whipworm to others every time they have a bowel movement. Did you know that the eggs of whipworms can survive 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 they are ingested they hatch and mature in the pet's intestine where they lay more eggs and begin the cycle once again.

Symptoms of Whipworm Infections in Dogs

There are some common signs that may be noted with whipworm infections. In the later stages of their infection, some dogs may even remain asymptomatic. That being said, some common whipworm symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

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

How are whipworms treated?

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 on an inconsistent basis. For these reasons, diagnosis can be tricky and may require repeated fecal exams to reach an accurate diagnosis. 

What can your vet do to clear up whipworms?

Whipworm eggs are notoriously resilient which makes reinfection likely. While it is difficult, treating whipworms is possible.

Treatments for whipworms in dogs will consist of prescriptions of medications to kill the parasites as they live and feed in your dog's intestine. If necessary, further medications may be needed to treat uncomfortable symptoms your dog may be experiencing.

Most medications prescribed to help treat whipworms will require treatments about a month apart. To help prevent reinfection, you should make sure you thoroughly clean your dog's kennel area, bedding, and yard. Your vet may also advise that you retreat your dog every 4 months to help fight reinfections in the near future.

Protecting Your Dog With Parasite Prevention

Preventing whipworm is far easier and more effective than treatment in most cases. Many heartworm medications for dogs will 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.

Here at Providence Animal Hospital, we are proud to be able to 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.

Is your dog displaying symptoms of whipworms? Contact our Charlotte vets to schedule an examination.

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