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What Is Whipworm in dogs? Causes, Treatment, & Prevention

Whipworms are parasitic worms that infect a dog's intestine and feed on its blood, leading to various symptoms. Our San Jose veterinarians have outlined the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of whipworms in dogs.

Whipworm in Dogs

Whipworms, scientifically called Trichuris vulpis, are parasitic worms that can cause significant harm to your dog's health and quality of life. These worms are about 1/4 inch long and reside in your pet's large intestine and cecum. Once they attach to the mucosal lining of your dog's gut, they can cause severe irritation and other complications.

Whipworm Appearance

Their shape can easily identify this intestinal parasite. They have a thicker front end and a long, thin back end that looks much like a whip. 

Lifecycle of Whipworm in Dogs

Whipworms have three stages in their lifecycle: egg, larvae, and adult. Eggs are laid within a dog's intestine and then get passed out with the feces.

This means that infected dogs can spread whipworms to other animals every time they defecate. These eggs are extremely robust and can stay alive in the environment for up to 5 years. 

Once outside, the eggs typically mature into infective in about 10-60 days. At this point, they are ready to infect the next host animal. After being ingested, the eggs hatch and mature in the pet's intestine, laying more eggs and continuing the cycle.

Symptoms of Whipworm in Dogs

If your dog has recently become infected with whipworms, you will likely notice very few signs. Some dogs may remain asymptomatic in the later stages of their infection. That being said, some common whipworm symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

  • Anemia
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Weight loss

Treating Whipworm in Dogs

Regular fecal exams at your veterinarian's office are crucial to monitor your dog for intestinal parasites, including whipworms. These parasites take up to 12 weeks to mature and start laying eggs, and they tend to lay only a limited number of eggs on an inconsistent basis. Consequently, diagnosing whipworms can be challenging and often requires repeated fecal exams to achieve 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 medications prescribed to help treat whipworms will require treatments about a month apart. To help prevent reinfection, you should make sure you thoroughly clean your dog's kennel area, bedding, and yard. Your vet may also advise that you retreat your dog every 4 months to help fight reinfections in the near future.

Preventing Whipworm in Dogs

Preventing whipworms in dogs is easier and more effective than treating them. Fortunately, many heartworm medications for dogs can also protect against whipworms.

Giving your pet monthly heartworm medication can help protect them against several intestinal parasites such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms.

Remember to talk to your vet for more information on the best way to protect your dog. At Bloom Plaza Animal Clinic, we offer a range of prevention products to help keep your dog safe from 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.

Is your dog displaying symptoms of whipworms? Contact our San Jose vets to have your canine companion examined.

Now Welcoming New Patients

Bloom Plaza Animal Hospital is now welcoming new cat and dog patients! Our professional and talented vets are dedicated to the health of San Jose's companion animals. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your furry friend. 

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