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What Is Whipworm in dogs? Causes, Treatment, & Prevention

What Is Whipworm in dogs? Causes, Treatment, & Prevention

Intestinal parasites, known as whipworms, can infect and feed on the blood of dogs, causing irritation and various discomforts. In this article, our Meadow Vista vets discuss the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of dog whipworm.

Whipworm 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. While there, they attach to the mucosal lining of your pet and cause serious irritation.

Whipworm Appearance

Their shape can easily identify this intestinal parasite. They have a thicker front end and a long thin back end that look much like a whip. 

Lifecycle of Whipworm in Dogs

The whipworm goes through three stages: egg, larvae, and adult. When a dog becomes infected, the eggs are laid in its intestine and passed out through their stool. This means infected dogs can spread whipworm to other animals whenever they have a bowel movement.

These eggs are incredibly tough and can remain alive in the environment for up to 5 years. Once outside the dog's body, the eggs develop into an infective stage within 10-60 days. At this point, they are capable of infecting another host animal. After being ingested, the eggs hatch and mature in the pet's intestine, where they lay more eggs, repeating the cycle.

Symptoms of Whipworm in Dogs

If your dog has recently become infected with whipworms, you will likely notice very few signs. Some dogs may remain asymptomatic in the later stages of their infection. That being said, some common whipworm symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

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

Treating Whipworm in Dogs

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. 

How Your Vet Will Help

Whipworm eggs are very resilient, leading to frequent reinfection, which makes whipworms a tough parasite to eliminate. Treatment for whipworms in dogs involves prescribed medications to kill the parasites in their intestine.

Additional medications may be given to relieve any discomfort your dog may experience. Most prescribed medications for whipworms require treatments spaced about a month apart.

To prevent reinfection, make sure to thoroughly clean your dog's kennel area, bedding, and yard. Your vet may also recommend treating your dog every 4 months to prevent future reinfections.

Preventing Whipworm in Dogs

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 Meadow Vista Veterinary Clinic, we are proud to be able to offer a selection of prevention products to help to 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 Meadow Vista vets to have your canine companion examined.

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Meadow Vista Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients including dogs, cats and large animals. Get in touch today to book your first appointment.

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