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 Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets explain more about whipworms in dogs including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
What is whipworm in dogs?
Whipworms (scientific name Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can seriously impact 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. If you're wondering what causes whipworm in dogs, it's swallowing infective whipworm eggs in soil or other substances that may contain 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?
Egg, larvae, and adult are the three stages of a whipworm's life cycle. The eggs hatch in the dog's intestine and end up in its feces. This implies that a dog with whipworms spreads whipworm eggs with every feces. The eggs are very resilient and can last up to 5 years in the environment.
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.
How do I know if my dog has whipworms?
There won't be many symptoms of a whipworm infection if your dog was just infected, and some dogs won't exhibit any symptoms even in later stages of infection (show no symptoms). However, the following are some of the most typical canine whipworm symptoms:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Blood in stool
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.
Prescription drugs are used in the treatment of canine whipworm, along with additional drugs to treat any uncomfortable symptoms your dog may be exhibiting. These drugs work by killing the parasites that are living in your dog's intestine. Dogs need two treatments for whipworms, usually spaced about three to four weeks apart. To help prevent reinfection, you'll need to scrub down your dog's bedding, kennel, and dog run. Additionally, to help prevent reinfections, your vet might suggest that you treat your dog once every three to four months. The following list includes some of the most prevalent canine whipworm symptoms:
Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?
Yes! In most cases, prevention is far easier and more effective than treatment. Many heartworm medications for dogs also provide whipworm protection. Giving your pet monthly heartworm medication may also protect him or her from intestinal parasites such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Inquire with your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your dog.
At 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.