Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

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

Whipworms are intestinal parasites that can infect and feed on dogs' blood, causing irritation and other uncomfortable symptoms. Today, our veterinarians in Madison discuss the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of whipworm in dogs.

What causes whipworms in dogs?

Whipworms in dogs are caused by a parasitic infection known as Trichuris vulpis. These parasites live in the large intestine and cecum of dogs, growing up to 1/4 inch long and attaching themselves to the mucosal lining of the intestine. This attachment causes irritation and negatively impacts your pet's overall health and well-being. It's important to take preventative measures to keep your dog safe from these parasites.

How do dogs get whipworms?

Whipworms reside in the cecum and colon, located at the beginning of a dog's large intestine. The eggs of the worm are typically passed into the dog's feces. A dog can get infected with whipworms by coming into contact with infested substances such as feces, animal flesh, water, soil, or food.

In moist and warm environments, whipworm eggs can survive for up to five years. Mild cases of whipworm infection may not present any visible symptoms. However, severe infections can cause symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea, inflammation, and, in rare cases, anemia.

Veterinarians can diagnose whipworm infection by taking a fecal sample, but false negatives are not uncommon as eggs may not be present in every sample. If you notice blood in your dog's stool, it's recommended to repeat fecal exams. Your vet may prescribe monthly treatments for three months to treat whipworm infection.

Whipworm Appearance

This intestinal parasite can be easily identified by its characteristic whip-like shape, with a thicker front end and a long, thin back end.

Lifecycle of Whipworm in Dogs

The lifecycle of a whipworm consists of three stages: egg, larvae, and adult. These parasites lay their eggs in the intestines of dogs, which then get mixed with their feces. Infected dogs may spread whipworms to other animals whenever they defecate. The eggs of these parasites are extremely sturdy and can survive in the environment for up to five years.

Once outside, the eggs develop into the infective stage of larvae within a period of 10-60 days, after which they become capable of infecting the next host animal. Once ingested, they hatch and mature in the intestines of the pet, where they lay more eggs and restart the cycle.

Symptoms of Whipworm in Dogs

If your dog has recently become infected with whipworms, there will likely be very few signs, and some dogs may even remain asymptomatic. However, common symptoms include:

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

Treatment of Whipworm in Dogs

Regular fecal exams at your veterinarian's office are the most effective way to monitor your dog's intestinal health and screen for parasites such as whipworms. Diagnosis can be challenging and may require multiple fecal exams.

Whipworm eggs are highly resilient, making complete elimination difficult and often leading to reinfection. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications to kill the parasites and may recommend additional treatments for uncomfortable symptoms.

Preventing Whipworm in Dogs

Preventing whipworm is easier and more effective than treating it after infection. Most heartworm medications for dogs also protect against whipworms. By administering monthly heartworm medication to your pet, you could shield them from a range of intestinal parasites. Consult your veterinarian for the best prevention methods.

At Best Friends Animal Hospital, we offer a selection of prevention products 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 Madison vets to have your canine companion examined.

New Patients Welcome

Best Friends Animal Hospital is always accepting new patients. Our experienced veterinary team is passionate about the health and comfort of companion animals. Get in touch today to learn about the difference our expertise makes.

Contact Us

(256) 464-5030 Contact