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

What is whipworm in dogs?

Whipworms (scientific name Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that can seriously impact your dog's overall health. Measuring about 1/4 of an inch long, these parasites make their home in your dog's large intestine and cecum where they attach to the mucosal lining causing extensive irritation. If you're wondering what causes whipworm in dogs, it's swallowing infective whipworm eggs in soil or other substances 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's lifecycle consists of three stages: egg, larvae, and adult. The eggs are laid in the dog's intestine and become part of the dog's stool. This means that a whipworm-infected dog spreads whipworm eggs with each bowel movement. The eggs are extremely hardy and can survive in the environment for up to 5 years.

Once the eggs are released into the wild, they typically mature into the infective stage in 10-60 days, at which point they are ready to infect the next host animal.

Soon after being consumed, they hatch and mature in the pet's intestine, where they lay more eggs and repeat the cycle.

How do I know if my dog has whipworms?

If your dog was recently infected, there will likely be few signs of a whipworm infection, and some dogs will remain asymptomatic even in later stages of infection (show no symptoms). However, some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs are as follows:

  • 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?

Because whipworm eggs are so resilient, reinfection often occurs making whipworms a challenging parasite to get rid of.

Whipworm treatment for dogs includes prescription medications to kill the parasites living in your dog's intestine, as well as additional medications to treat any uncomfortable symptoms your dog may be experiencing. Most whipworm medications in dogs require two treatments spaced about 3-4 weeks apart. It will be necessary to thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel area, and dog run to help prevent reinfection. Your veterinarian may also advise you to re-treat your dog every 3-4 months to help fight 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 him or her 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 Rancho Park Veterinary Clinic 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 Rancho Park Veterinary Clinic to book an examination for your canine companion.