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 Santa Clarita vets tell you how you can recognize whipworms in dogs, including how they are treated and prevented.
Whipworm in Dogs
Whipworms (also called Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that could severely affect the overall health of your dog. They are about 1/4 of an inch long in size and live in the large intestine and cecum of infected dogs where they attach to the mucosal lining causing extensive irritation.
How to Recognize Whipworms
You can easily spot whipworms because of their shape, they have a thicker front end and long thin back end that has a similar appearance to 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 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 Your Dog Has Whipworm
There are a few signs of whipworm you can look for in your dog if you think they may have become infected, however, even in later stages of infection, some dogs can be asymptomatic (exhibiting no symptoms).
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
It can be hard to get rid of whipworms because the whipworm eggs are resilient, often causing reinfection.
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 3-4 weeks apart. 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 3-4 months to help fight reinfections.
Preventing Whipworm in Dogs
It's always easier and more effective to prevent whipworm than to treat 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 Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic 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.