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What is Whipworm in dogs? Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Whipworms are parasites that live in your dog's intestines and cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. Today, our Fairhaven vets talk about what whipworms are as well as the symptoms to watch for and how to treat your dog if they contract these parasites.

What exactly are whipworms?

Whipworms (scientific name Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can seriously impact your dog's overall health. Measuring about 1/4 of an inch long, these parasites make their home in your dog's large intestine and cecum where they attach to the mucosal lining causing extensive irritation.

What do whipworms look like?

Whipworms can be easily distinguished as their name describes their shape with their front end being thicker and tapering off at the tail.

How do whipworms infect dogs?

There are 3 stages to the lifecycle of a whipworm, egg, larvae and adult. If your dog becomes infected, these adult whipworms will lay their eggs in your dog's intestines which will contaminate the stool. This means that an infected dog spreads whipworm eggs each time they have a bowel movement. These eggs have the ability to survive for as long as 5 years in the environment making them extremely hardy.

It takes an average of 10 to 60 days for these eggs to mature once they have been passed, 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.

What are the most common signs of whipworm?

In the early stages of infection, there are typically little to no signs as well as the possibility that your dog will be asymptomatic through the infection. That said, some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs include:

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

How will my vet diagnose whipworms?

The most common method of diagnosing whipworms is through fecal exams. Your vet will typically ask you to bring a fresh stool sample with you to your appointment in order to perform this examination. Whipworms take up to 12 weeks to mature and at this time they will begin to lay eggs, laying a limited number 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. 

What is the treatment for whipworms in dogs?

Because whipworm eggs are so resilient, reinfection often occurs making whipworms a challenging parasite to get rid of.

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. 

Is there a way to prevent whipworm infections?

Prevention is by far the easiest way of managing whipworms. 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 New England Animal 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.

Are you concerned that your dog may be showing signs of a whipworm infection? Contact our Fairhaven veterinarians to book an examination for your pup today.

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New England Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fairhaven companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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