Whipworms are a parasite that commonly affects the large intestines of dogs causing discomfort and irritation. Our Tracy vets talk about what whipworms are and how they affect dogs.
What is whipworm in dogs?
Whipworms (scientific name Trichuris Vulpis) are intestinal parasites that are only about 1/4 of an inch in length and prefer to survive in the large intestines of dogs. These parasites can have a negative impact on the health of your dog.
This intestinal parasite has a thicker front end and a long thin back end that looks much like a whip, which explains its common name, whipworm.
What is the whipworm lifecycle in dogs?
The lifecycle of a whipworm has 3 stages, egg, larvae, and adult. The cycle begins with the eggs being laid in the intestines which causes the infected dog to spread whipworm eggs each time they have a bowel movement. The incredibly hardy eggs are able to remain alive in the environment for up to 5 years.
These whipworm eggs hatch in the intestine and at that point, it typically takes the eggs about 10-60 days to mature into the infective stage. Once they have matured they will be ready to infect the next host animal and the cycle begins again as they are ingested, hatch, and mature once again infecting other animals.
How do I know if my dog has whipworms?
Some dogs remain asymptomatic throughout the whipworm infection. 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?
Your vet will be able to perform a fecal exam in order to diagnose whipworms. It takes whipworms up to 12 weeks to reach maturity and begin laying eggs. The eggs are limited and sporadically laid so diagnosis is generally difficult.
How will my vet treat my dog's whipworm infestation?
Because the eggs of the whipworm parasite and so hardy, reinfection is very common which makes treatment of the whipworm parasites difficult.
The treatment for whipworm in dogs is a prescription medication to kill any parasites that may be living in your dog's intestines. Your vet may also suggest other medications that will help treat any other symptoms that your pet may be experiencing. Most medications to treat whipworm in dogs will require two treatments spaced about 3-4 weeks apart.
Ensuring that all items that may have been in contact with your dog such as beds, toys, dishes, and other objects have been thoroughly cleaned as the whipworm eggs could be living on these surfaces and reinfect if not removed. Your vet may also recommend re-treating your dog every 3-4 months to help treat possible reinfections.
Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?
Prevention is much easier to manage rather than treating an infection. Your vet may suggest heartworm medications for your dog as these medications also protect against whipworms and are given on a monthly basis. These medications can help protect against a host of intestinal parasites including whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms.
Booking an appointment to speak with your vet is the best way to know what is best for your dog.
At Affordable Pet Vet Clinic 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.