Whipworms are a common parasite that makes its home in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, causing irritation and leading to a host of uncomfortable symptoms. Today, our Pico Rivera vets explain more about whipworms in dogs, including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

What is whipworm in dogs?

Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can have a negative impact on your dog's overall health. These parasites, which are about a quarter of an inch long, live in your dog's large intestine and cecum, where they attach to the mucosal lining and cause extensive irritation.

What causes whipworm in dogs?

Whipworms infect dogs through soil or other substances containing dog feces. To keep your dog safe, keep your yard free of dog feces. Your dog should be tested for whipworms at least once a year by your veterinarian.

What do whipworms look like?

This intestinal parasite can be easily identified by their shape. They have a thicker front end and long thin back end that look much like a whip. 

What is the whipworm lifecycle in dogs?

A whipworm has three stages in its life cycle: an egg, a larva, and an adult. The eggs are laid in the dog's intestine and become part of the dog's stool after hatching. This implies that every time a contaminated dog has a bowel movement, whipworm eggs are spread. The eggs are very tough and can survive in the environment for up to five years.

The eggs typically reach the infective stage after leaving the egg shell in 10 to 60 days, at which point they are prepared to infect the next host animal.They develop quickly after being consumed in the pet's intestine where they lay new eggs to repeat the cycle.

How do I know if my dog has whipworms?

Even in the later stages of infection, some dogs will continue to be asymptomatic (show no symptoms) if they have recently become infected. If your dog has recently become infected, there will likely be few signs of a whipworm infection. Nevertheless, a few of the most typical canine whipworm signs include:

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

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 and on an inconsistent basis. For these reasons, diagnosis can be tricky and may require repeated fecal exams to reach an accurate diagnosis. 

How will my vet treat my dog's whipworm infestation?

Because whipworm eggs are so resilient, reinfection often occurs making whipworms 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?

Yes! In most cases, prevention is far simpler and more efficient than treatment. Whipworm protection is a common side effect of many dog heartworm medications. In addition to helping to protect your pet against a variety of intestinal parasites, such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms, monthly heartworm medication may also help your pet avoid contracting other intestinal parasites. For advice on how to keep your dog safe, consult your veterinarian.

At Pico Rivera 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.

If your dog is experiencing symptoms related to whipworms contact our Pico Rivera veterinarians to book an examination for your canine companion.