In dogs, whipworms are a common parasite that resides in the cecum and large intestines. This parasite can cause irritation and a range of uncomfortable symptoms. In this blog, our Goleta vets talk about whipworms in dogs, including how you can recognize them and how they are treated.
Whipworm In Dogs
The scientific name for whipworms is "Trichuris Vulpis" and they are a type of intestinal parasite that could have a serious impact on your dog's overall health. Measuring about 1/4 of an inch long, these parasites can live in your dog's large intestine and cecum, where they attach to the mucosal lining and cause extensive irritation.
What Whipworms Look Like
You can easily recognize whipworms by their shape. They have a thicker front end and a long thin back end, that looks like a whip.
The Whipworm Lifecycle
There are 3 stages to the whipworm 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 every time they have a bowel movement. The eggs are extremely resilient and can live in the environment for up to 5 years.
Once these parasites are out in the world, the eggs can mature into their infective stage in approximately 10-60 days. This is when they are able to infect the next host animal. Soon after they are ingested, the eggs hatch and mature in the dog's intestine where they lay more eggs and start the lifecycle over again.
Signs & Symptoms of Whipworm In Dogs
If your dog has recently become infected, there are several ways you may be able to recognize a whipworm infection. However, even in later stages of infection, some dogs can stay asymptomatic (show no symptoms at all).
Here are some of the most common symptoms of whipworm in dogs:
- Blood in stool
- Weight loss
- Chronic diarrhea
Diagnosing Whipworm In Dogs
The best way to monitor your dog for intestinal parasites such as whipworms is to bring them to your veterinarian's office on a routine basis for fecal exams. It takes up to 12 weeks for whipworms to mature and start laying eggs, and they tend to lay a limited number of eggs on an inconsistent basis. Therefore, it can be difficult to diagnose dogs for whipworms and multiple fecal exams might be needed to make an accurate diagnosis.
Treating Dogs For Whipworms
Because whipworm eggs are so resilient, dogs often become reinfected, making it hard to get rid of this parasite.
Whipworm treatment for dogs consists of prescription medications that kill the parasites living in your pet's intestine. Additional medications might also be required to alleviate any uncomfortable symptoms your dog may be experiencing. Most whipworm medications for dogs typically 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
In most cases, prevention is a lot easier and more effective than treatment. 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 about the best ways to protect your dog.
At Goleta Airport Pet 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.