The signs that your dog is suffering from intestinal parasites can be quite obvious since they can cause serious gastric upset. One of the most common parasites seen in dogs is whipworms. Today, our Nashville vets share some information about whipworms in dogs including the causes, signs and treatment options.
Parasitic Infections: Whipworms in Dogs
Whipworms (scientific name Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that begin by affecting the gastric system of your dog but can eventually lead to having a negative effect on their overall health. Whipworms are only 1/4 of an inch in length and make their home in your dog's large intestine and cecum where they attach to the mucosal lining causing extensive irritation.
What do whipworms look like?
Whipworms take on the appearance of a worm with a thicker front end leading to a tapered-off tail which gives them the hook-like appearance which they get their name from.
How are whipworms transmitted between dogs?
There are 3 stages to the lifecycle of a whipworm. These are the egg, larvae and adult forms.
A whipworm infection begins with the worm infecting your dog and laying their eggs in your dog's intestine. This allows the whipworms to continue the cycle with a new dog once your pup passes the infected stool. These eggs have the ability to survive for as long as 5 years in the environment making them extremely hardy.
It takes an average of 10 to 60 days for these eggs to mature once they have been passed, at which point they are ready to infect the next host animal. Soon after they are ingested they hatch and develop in the pet's intestine where they lay more eggs and begin the cycle once again.
What are the typical signs of a parasitic infection?
When the infection first begins you may not see any signs or symptoms whatsoever. Even so, if your dog does experience symptoms they may include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Blood in stool
How can whipworms in dogs be diagnosed?
The most common method of diagnosing whipworms is through fecal exams. Your vet will typically ask you to bring a fresh stool sample with you to your appointment in order to perform this examination. Whipworms take up to 12 weeks to mature and at this time they will begin to lay eggs, laying a limited number 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 are the available treatment options for whipworms?
Whipworms are one of the most difficult to remove parasites and you will need to be diligent in treatment in order to be successful.
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, thoroughly cleaning your dog's bedding, kennel area, and dog run will be necessary. Your vet may also recommend re-treating your dog every 3-4 months to help fight reinfections.
How can I prevent my dog from contracting whipworms?
Prevention is by far the easiest way of managing whipworms. 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. Ask your vet for information on how best to protect your dog.
There are 3 simple things you can do ahead of time to prevent whipworms (as well as roundworms and hookworms) in your dog:
- Pick up dog feces promptly. If whipworm eggs are not in the environment, other animals cannot become infected.
- Cover sandboxes. Covered sandboxes cannot become contaminated by other dogs or cats.
- Fecal examinations, and regular deworming of your dog by yourNashville vets.
At Belle Forest Animal 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.