Whipworms are intestinal parasites that can infect and feed on the blood of dogs, causing irritation and other uncomfortable symptoms. Today, our Douglasville vets discuss the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of whipworm in dogs.
What is whipworm in dogs?
Trichuris vulpis (also known as whipworms) are intestinal parasites that can have a negative impact on your dog's overall health and well-being. These parasites, which can grow to be a quarter-inch long, live in your dog's large intestine and cecum. While there, they attach to your pet's mucosal lining and cause severe irritation.
This intestinal parasite can be easily identified by their shape. They have a thicker front end and a long thin back end that looks much like a whip.
Life Cycle of Whipworm in Dogs
A whipworm's life cycle consists of three stages: egg, larvae, and adult. Eggs are laid in a dog's intestine and are then absorbed into their stool. This means that infected dogs have a chance of passing whipworm to others every time they urinate. These eggs are extremely resilient and can survive 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.
Symptoms of Whipworm in Dogs
If your dog has recently become infected with whipworms, you will most likely notice very few symptoms. Some dogs may even be asymptomatic in the later stages of their infection. Having said that, some common whipworm symptoms to look out for are:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Blood in stool
- Weight loss
Treatment 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 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
Because whipworm eggs are so resilient, reinfection often occurs making whipworms a challenging parasite to get rid of.
Treatments for whipworms in dogs will consist of prescriptions of medications to kill the parasites as they live and feed in your dog's intestine. If necessary, further medications may be needed to treat uncomfortable symptoms your dog may be experiencing.
Most whipworm medications require treatments about a month apart. To help prevent reinfection, thoroughly clean your dog's kennel area, bedding, and yard. Your vet may also recommend that you retreat your dog every four months to help fight 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 Kay Animal Hospital, we are proud to be able to 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.