What do whipworms look like?
Whipworm, (real name Trichuris vulpis) is an intestinal parasite that can have a negative impact on 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.
Easily identified by its shape, a whipworm has a thicker front end and a long thin back end that looks much like a whip.
What causes whipworm in dogs?
The whipworm life cycle in dogs occurs in 3 stages—the 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 each time they have a bowel movement. The eggs are extremely resilient and able to remain alive in the environment for up to 5 years.
Once out in the world, the eggs typically mature into the infective stage in about 10-60 days, 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.
How do I know if my dog has whipworm?
There will likely be very few signs of a whipworm if your dog has recently become infected, and even in the later stages of infection, some dogs will remain asymptomatic (show no symptoms). That said, some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Blood in stool
Are there any tests for 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 and on an inconsistent basis. For these reasons, diagnosis can be tricky and may require repeated fecal exams to reach an accurate diagnosis.
What treatment is available for dogs with whipworm?
Whipworm eggs are incredibly resilient, making reinfection a real issue. The truth is that whipworm can be 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.
Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?
The fact is that prevention is typically far easier and more effective than treatment when it comes to your pet's health. Thankfully, preventing your dog from contracting whipworm is easy. 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. Speak to your vet for information on how best to protect your beloved pup.
At Stoney Creek Veterinary 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.