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

Intestinal parasites called whipworms can infect dogs, feeding on their blood and causing irritation and other unpleasant symptoms. Our veterinarians at Vancouver share information on the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of whipworms in dogs.

Whipworm in Dogs

Whipworms, or Trichuris vulpis, are intestinal parasites that can harm your dog's health and well-being. These small parasites measure about 1/4 inch long and reside in your dog's large intestine and cecum. Once attached to the mucosal lining of your pet's intestines, they cause significant irritation. It's essential to take prompt action and seek veterinary care if you suspect your dog may have whipworms.

Whipworm Appearance

This type of intestinal parasite can be identified by its distinct shape. It has a thicker front end and a long, thin back end that resembles a whip.

Lifecycle of Whipworm in Dogs

Dogs infected with whipworms go through 3 stages of the lifecycle: egg, larvae, and adult. The eggs are laid in the dog's intestine and end up in their stool, putting other dogs at risk of infection every time they defecate. These eggs are highly durable and can survive for up to 5 years in the surrounding environment.

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 contracted whipworms, it may not show any noticeable signs initially. In fact, some dogs may remain asymptomatic even in the later stages of the infection. However, it is important to look out for common symptoms of whipworms, which include:

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

Treating 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 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 your retreat your dog every 4 months to help fight reinfections in the near future.

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 Mountain View Veterinary Hospital, we are proud to be able to offer a selection of prevention products to help to 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.

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