Whipworms in Dogs: How to Spot And Treat Them

Whipworms in Dogs

Whipworms in Dogs: Whipworms are intestinal parasites that infect dogs and can cause diarrhea, weight loss, and other issues. These long, whip-like worms attach to the lining of the large intestine, feeding on blood and other tissues.

The most common whipworm affecting dogs is Trichuris vulpis. Adult worms can be up to 5 inches long and lay thousands of microscopic eggs that are passed in the feces. These eggs can survive in the environment for years, waiting to infect another host.

Dogs become infected when they ingest whipworm eggs, usually by consuming contaminated soil, food, or water. The eggs hatch into larvae that burrow into the intestinal wall, maturing into adults in about 3 months. An infected dog can pass millions of whipworm eggs in their stool every day, contaminating the area.

The good news is whipworms are treatable. After diagnosis, a vet will prescribe a deworming medication, usually a once-a-month tablet that kills the worms and any eggs. Be sure to clean up feces and re-treat in 3-4 weeks to kill any newly hatched worms. With treatment and environmental control, whipworms can be eliminated from your dog and yard.

Signs and Symptoms of Whipworms in Dogs

Whipworms in Dogs

If your dog is acting off, it could be a sign of whipworms. Watch for these common symptoms:

  • Diarrhea or loose stools, often with mucus or blood. Whipworms latch onto the intestines, causing inflammation and damage. This leads to digestive issues and abnormal stools.
  • Weight loss. As whipworms feed on blood and tissues, they rob your dog of nutrients. You may notice your dog looking skinny or ribby.
  • Anemia. Blood loss from whipworm infection can cause anemia, seen as pale gums, lethargy, or weakness.
  • Pot belly appearance. Whipworms can cause the stomach to bloat or distend, giving a swollen belly.
  • Vomiting. Some dogs may throw up, especially if there are a large number of worms.
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If your dog shows these signs, see the vet. They can check a stool sample to confirm whipworms. Treatment is usually a dewormer, like fenbendazole, given for several days. You’ll also want to thoroughly clean up your yard to remove eggs since they can survive for years in the environment.

Whipworms are preventable. Talk to your vet about starting your dog on a monthly heartworm medication that also protects against whipworms and other parasites. Keeping your dog on year-round prevention is the best way to avoid infection and the damage these nasty worms can cause. By catching whipworms early and following your vet’s recommendations, your dog can recover and stay happy and healthy, whipworm-free!

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How Dogs Get Infected With Whipworms

Dogs can pick up whipworms in a few ways:

1. Ingesting Infected Feces

The most common way dogs get whipworms is by eating infected feces, either their own or another animal’s. Whipworm eggs are passed in the feces and need to incubate in the environment for 2-3 weeks before becoming infective. Your dog may accidentally eat whipworm eggs by grooming themselves, eating grass or other plants that have come into contact with infected feces, or ingesting feces directly. Make sure to clean up after your dog and check their fur regularly for any feces residue.

2. Larvae in the Environment

Once whipworm eggs have incubated, larvae hatch and can survive in the environment for years. Your dog may pick up whipworm larvae in the yard, at the park, beach or any area where other dogs frequent. Unfortunately, whipworm larvae can be found almost anywhere, so avoiding areas where dogs commonly go is difficult. Be very diligent in deworming your dog, especially puppies, to prevent infection and re-infection.

To reduce the chances of your dog getting whipworms, be sure to:

  • Clean up feces in your yard daily and encourage other pet owners to do the same when out in public places.
  • Have your vet test a fecal sample from your dog at least once a year to check for parasites like whipworms. Early detection and treatment is key.
  • Administer a broad-spectrum dewormer that contains fenbendazole or febantel, according to your vet’s recommendations. Typically, deworming puppies every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age, then monthly to 6 months and at least 2-4 times a year for adult dogs.
  • Bathe and groom your dog regularly to remove any infected feces from their fur before they can ingest it.
  • Avoid areas where there are lots of stray or wild animals like parks, campsites and cabins where feces may not be cleaned up properly.
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By staying vigilant and taking preventative action, you can help reduce the chances of your dog getting infected with whipworms and other internal parasites. Be sure to consult your vet if you have any concerns about deworming or notice symptoms of whipworms in your dog.

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Treating And Preventing Whipworm Infections in Dogs

Once a whipworm infection has been diagnosed in your dog, it’s important to start treatment right away. The most common way to eliminate whipworms is with deworming medication, known as an anthelmintic. Several broad-spectrum dewormers are available as pills, topicals, or injections that will kill the whipworms in your dog’s system.

1. Oral or Topical Deworming Medication

The most popular deworming treatments are oral medications such as fenbendazole, milbemycin oxime, or moxidectin. These are usually given once a week for 3-6 weeks to fully clear an infection. You can also get some dewormers as topical liquids or gels that are applied to the skin on the back of the neck. These provide the same effects as oral medication.

2. Repeat Treatments

Due to whipworms’ long lifecycle, a single treatment may not eliminate the infection completely. Eggs can remain dormant in the environment for months before hatching. To prevent re-infection from newly hatched larvae, most vets will recommend re-treating your dog with dewormer 2-4 weeks after the initial treatment. This helps catch any newly developed whipworms before they become adults.

3. Prevention

The best way to prevent whipworm infection is through routine deworming and good hygiene. Have your vet test a stool sample 2-4 times a year to check for parasites. Most vets recommend deworming dogs with a broad-spectrum anthelmintic, like those mentioned above, every 3-6 months. You should also pick up your dog’s feces daily and keep your yard clean to remove any eggs before they become infective.

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Keeping your dog on a regular deworming schedule, especially during the warmer summer months when whipworm infections tend to spike, is the best way to avoid infection and keep your dog happy and healthy. By catching these sneaky parasites early and sticking to a prevention plan, you can eliminate whipworms from your dog’s life.

FAQs

What are the symptoms of whipworms?

Dogs with whipworms may show symptoms like diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue or anemia. You may notice your dog has frequent, watery stools. In severe infestations, the diarrhea can contain blood and mucus. Whipworms latch onto the lining of the large intestine, so they can cause irritation and inflammation.

How did my dog get whipworms?

Whipworm eggs are passed in the feces of infected dogs. The eggs are very hardy and can survive in the environment for years. Your dog likely ingested whipworm eggs from the soil in your yard or on walks, or from contaminated areas where other dogs have defecated. The eggs hatch into larvae that migrate into the large intestine, where they mature into adults.

How are whipworms diagnosed?

To diagnose whipworms, your vet will examine a fecal sample from your dog under a microscope. They will look for whipworm eggs, which have an oval shape and contain a distinctive plug at each end. Blood tests may also be done to check for anemia, which can indicate a heavy whipworm infestation.

How are whipworms treated?

Whipworms are treated with deworming medication, known as an anthelmintic. Fenbendazole and milbemycin oxime are common treatments. Treatment may need to be repeated to fully eliminate the infestation. It’s also important to thoroughly clean up your yard to remove any whipworm eggs and prevent reinfection.

How can I prevent whipworms?

You can help prevent whipworms by removing feces from your yard daily, keeping your dog out of high-risk areas like dog parks, and deworming your dog regularly as recommended by your vet. Deworming, especially in puppies and young dogs, is key to controlling whipworm infections and keeping your dog healthy and happy.