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What causes whipworm in dogs?

Whipworms are a common parasite that makes their home in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, causing irritation and leading to a host of uncomfortable symptoms. Today our Riverside vets explain more about whipworms in dogs including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

What is whipworm in dogs?

Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can harm your dog's overall health. These parasites are about a quarter-inch long and live in your dog's large intestine and cecum, where they cling to the mucosal lining and cause significant inflammation. Swallowing infective whipworm eggs in dirt or other items containing dog feces is what causes whipworm in dogs.

What do whipworms look like?

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

What is the whipworm lifecycle in dogs?

Whipworms have three life stages: egg, larval, and adult. The eggs hatch in the intestine of the dog and end up in the dog's stool. This means that a whipworm-infected dog transmits whipworm eggs with each bowel movement. The eggs are extremely durable and can survive in the environment for up to 5 years.

Once the eggs are released into the wild, they typically mature into the infective stage in 10-60 days, at which point they are ready to infect the next host animal.

Soon after being consumed, they hatch and mature in the pet's intestine, where they lay more eggs and repeat the cycle.

Symptoms of Whipworm in Dogs

If your dog was recently infected, there will be few signs of whipworm infection, and some dogs will remain asymptomatic (show no symptoms) even in later stages of infection. However, some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs are as follows:

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

How are whipworms in dogs diagnosed?

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 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 pills that kill the parasites that live in your dog's intestine, as well as additional treatments that address any unpleasant symptoms your dog is experiencing. Most whipworm medications for dogs require two treatments spaced three to four weeks apart. To help prevent reinfection, thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel, and dog run. To help prevent reinfections, your veterinarian may also advise you to re-treat your dog every 3-4 months.

Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?

Yes! Prevention is usually much easier and more effective than treatment. Many heartworm treatments for dogs also provide whipworm protection. Regularly giving your pet heartworm medication may also protect him or her from intestinal parasites such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best ways to keep your dog safe.

At Riverside 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.

If your dog is experiencing symptoms related to whipworms, contact Riverside Animal Hospital to book an examination for your canine companion.

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

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