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What causes whipworm in dogs?

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 Stuart vets explain more about whipworms in dogs including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

What is whipworm in dogs?

Intestinal parasites known as whipworms can seriously affect the overall health of your dog. These parasites live in your dog's large intestine and cecum, causing significant inflammation as they cling to the mucosal lining. They measure about a quarter of an inch in length. Whipworm in dogs is caused by swallowing infective whipworm eggs found in dirt or other items 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?

A whipworm goes through three stages in its lifecycle: egg, larval, and adult. The dog's intestine hatches the eggs, which are then found in the dog's stool. A dog infected with whipworms will pass whipworm eggs with every bowel movement. The eggs have remarkable durability and can survive in the environment for up to 5 years.

After the eggs are released into the wild, they usually reach the infective stage within 10-60 days. At this stage, they become capable of infecting the next host animal.

After the pet consumes them, they hatch and mature in its intestine, where they lay more eggs and repeat the cycle.

Symptoms of Whipworm in Dogs

If your dog recently got infected, there might be few signs of a whipworm infection, and some dogs may not show any symptoms even in later stages of infection. Here are some of the most common symptoms of whipworm in dogs:

  • 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 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?

Whipworm eggs have a remarkable resilience, leading to frequent reinfection, which poses a significant challenge in eliminating these parasites.

Treating whipworms in dogs involves administering prescription pills that eliminate the parasites residing in your dog's intestine. Additionally, additional treatments are provided to alleviate any discomfort your dog may be enduring. Dogs typically require two treatments for whipworms, with a gap of three to four weeks between each treatment. To help prevent reinfection, make sure to thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel area, and dog run. Your veterinarian may suggest re-treating your dog every 3-4 months to help prevent reinfections.

Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?

Yes! Prevention is usually considerably easier and more successful than treatment. Many heartworm treatments for dogs also protect against whipworm. By providing your pet heartworm medication on a regular basis, you may also be protecting him or her from intestinal parasites such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Consult your veterinarian about the best methods to keep your dog safe.

At Animal Care Extraordinaire 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 Animal Care Extraordinaire to book an examination for your canine companion.

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