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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 Clackamas 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 be harmful to your dog's overall health. These parasites, which are about a quarter of an inch long, live in your dog's large intestine and cecum, clinging to the mucosal lining and causing severe inflammation. Whipworm in dogs is caused by infective whipworm eggs being swallowed in dirt or other items contaminated with dog feces.

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?

A whipworm's life cycle consists of three stages: egg, larva, and adult. The eggs hatch in the dog's intestine and eventually end up in its stool. This means that a whipworm-infected dog spreads whipworm eggs with every bowel movement. The eggs are extremely durable, lasting up to five years in the environment.

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

Soon after consumption, 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 most likely be few signs of a whipworm infection, and some dogs will remain asymptomatic (without symptoms) even in the later stages of infection. However, here are some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs:

  • 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?

Whipworm eggs are so resilient that reinfection is common, making them a difficult parasite to eradicate.

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. Your veterinarian may also suggest that you re-treat your dog every 3-4 months to help prevent reinfections.

Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?

Yes! Prevention is usually considerably easier and more successful than treatment. Many heartworm treatments for dogs also protect against whipworm. By providing your pet heartworm medication on a regular basis, you may also be protecting him or her from intestinal parasites such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Consult your veterinarian about the best methods to keep your dog safe.

At Clackamas Pet 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.

If your dog is experiencing symptoms related to whipworms, contact Clackamas Pet Clinic to book an examination for your canine companion.

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