whipworms in dogs

What are Whipworms in Dogs?

Reviewed by Lauren Cannon, DVM

Most dog owners don’t want to worry about parasites, especially ones with scary names like whipworms in dogs.

Along with roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms, whipworms are the one of the most common intestinal parasites in dogs.  

Whipworms, fortunately, are curable parasites that owners can avoid. Here’s everything you need to know about whipworms in dogs to keep your canine friends safe.

What Are Whipworms?

whipworms in dogs

Whipworms, also known as Trichuris Vulpis, are intestinal parasites that are around 1/4 inch (6 mm) in length. 

They grow in the cecum, which is a pouch that forms the first part of the large intestine and large intestine.

They attach to the mucosal lining, causing serious irritation to the lining of both organs.

Whipworms are named after their shape. They have a thick front end and a long, thin, whip-like posterior end.

As the worms grow, the thicker ends embed themselves in the intestinal wall, causing irritation and pain. Whipworm infection causes watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and overall weakness.

Whipworm Life Cycle

whipworms in dogs

There are three stages of the whipworm life cycle, egg, larvae, and adult worms.

Adult whipworms lay environmentally resistant eggs that are really difficult to eliminate; since they are very resistant to drying and heat and they can stay alive in the environment for up to 5 years. 

In about a month, these eggs contain a single cell that develops into an infective larvae inside the egg. 

After a dog consumes eggs carrying infective larvae, the larvae will progress into mature adults in around 3 months.

Adult whipworms deposit their eggs in the large intestine, where they are transferred into the dog’s feces.

The eggs mature to an infective condition, or embryonate, in the environment and are ready to re-infect the host or infect a new host in 10-to-60 days.

Once swallowed, they hatch and develop in the lower digestive system, where they attach to feed and lay new eggs, to complete their life cycle.

Symptoms of Whipworms in Dogs

whipworms in dogs

Infected dogs may show no symptoms, especially in the early stages. 

Regular testing for internal parasites can help your veterinarian prevent your dog against parasites like whipworms.

Whipworms cause discomfort when they attach to the cecum and colon. The more whipworms there are, the more irritated the dog will be, which can result in weight loss, diarrhea, bloody stools, and anemia

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately, because it could be a sign of a potentially deadly infection.

Diagnosis of Whipworms in Dogs

whipworms in dogs

Whipworms are diagnosed by the presence of eggs in the feces under a microscope, by doing a test called fecal flotation.

These eggs are usually hard to find. Whipworms produce a tiny number of eggs on an irregular basis, thus some samples may be wrongly negative.

Whipworms are usually diagnosed using multiple stool samples. Furthermore, it takes around 11-12 weeks after hatching for a female adult to begin laying eggs. 

This is why tests that are performed shortly after infection are frequently wrongly negative.

Even if the stool sample is negative, any dog with persistent large bowel diarrhea should be suspected of having whipworms. 

As a result, the vet usually recommends treating persistent diarrhea with a whipworm dewormer. Treatment response indicates that whipworms were present but were not identified on fecal examination.

Treatment of Whipworms in Dogs

whipworms in dogs

Treating whipworms would include several common anti-worm medications.

Your vet may prescribe drugs like febantel, fenbendazole, milbemycin, moxidectin, and oxantel.

To eliminate the infection, all medications require two treatments spaced three to four weeks apart.

Because whipworm eggs are highly resilient in the environment, there can be a high chance of re-infection.

As a result, if a dog has a whipworm infection, it is recommended that it be treated every three to four months.

The alternative, and much easier, approach is to take a heartworm preventive that also includes a whipworm medicine.

Because of the wide use of heartworm preventive medications, whipworms are considerably less common today than in past years.

In addition, a complete cleaning of kennel areas and runs, as well as the elimination of damp spots, can help kill whipworm eggs in the environment.

How to Prevent Whipworms in Dogs?

whipworms in dogs

Whipworm infections are prevented by many popular heartworm preventatives. If whipworms are widespread in your area, or if your dog has just been diagnosed with whipworms.

You should consider switching to a heartworm preventive that also protects against whipworms.

Consult your veterinarian about the appropriate preventive for your dog, as well as any other parasites that may be present in your area.

When to See a Veterinarian

whipworms in dogs

If you suspect your dog has a whipworm infection, or notice signs like weight loss, diarrhea, bloody stools, and anemia. 

Call your veterinarian to help diagnose your dog, and recommend the suitable treatment.

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