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 Las Vegas 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 impair 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, attaching to the mucosal lining and causing severe irritation.

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's life cycle consists of three stages: egg, larvae, and adult. The eggs are laid in the dog's intestine and eventually become part of its stool. This means that a whipworm-infected dog spreads whipworm eggs with every bowel movement. The eggs are extremely hardy, surviving in the environment for up to five years.

Once released into the world, the eggs typically mature into the infective stage in 10-60 days, at which point they are ready to infect the next host animal.  Soon after ingestion, they hatch and mature in the pet's intestine, where they lay more eggs and repeat the cycle.

What are the symptoms of whipworm in dogs?

If your dog was recently infected, there will most likely be few signs of whipworm infection, and some dogs will remain asymptomatic even in the late stages of infection. However, some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs are listed below:

  • 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 are so resilient that reinfection is common, making them a difficult parasite to eradicate.

Whipworm treatment for dogs consists of prescription medications to kill the parasites that live in your dog's intestine, as well as additional medications to alleviate any discomfort your dog is experiencing. Most whipworm medications for dogs require two treatments spaced 3-4 weeks apart. To avoid reinfection, thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel, and dog run. Your veterinarian may also recommend that you re-treat your dog every 3-4 months to help prevent reinfections.

Can I prevent my dog from getting whipworm?

Yes! In most cases, prevention is far easier and more effective than treatment. Many heartworm medications for dogs also provide whipworm protection. By giving your pet monthly heartworm medication, you may also be protecting them from a variety of intestinal parasites such as whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Inquire with your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your dog.

At Island Pet 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 Las Vegas veterinarians to book an examination for your canine companion.