Whipworms in dogs

Whipworms in dogs
February 3, 2019

Learn the Dangers of Whipworm so Your Dog Doesn’t Have to. 

Every dog owner should be aware of the risks of Whipworm. 

Whipworms are intestinal parasites, and it isn’t all too uncommon for dogs to be found with them. Cats can also carry and be infested with Whipworm, so that may be a consideration when it comes to making sure your dogs are safe from harm. 

Whipworm may also be referred to as the medical term "trichuriasis." Whipworms are just one of numerous Trichuris species which can adversely affect your pet if they are hosting them. 

Generally, dogs become host to this species by ingesting food or faecal matter from another infested animal. 

What do Whipworms Look like? 

 Whipworms look like other intestinal worms, and they will reach a maximum size of 2 to 3 inches. You can distinguish between whipworms and other intestinal worms by the thin and whip-like front end of the worm and thicker back end – that’s how they got their name! Whipworms are shaped to latch onto the walls of the large intestine of the dog, where they can feed on the blood. It is worth noting that most infections are only mild, however, when infestations are more serious, they can cause life-threatening chronic health problems in dogs. 

The Whipworm Life Cycle

The life cycle of the whipworm is relatively simple. They lay their eggs at the same size as they pass their faeces Hoping to become ingested by cats or dogs through grooming or eating food or things they shouldn’t be eating off the ground. Once they have worked their way inside of the dog, they will look to hatch in the small intestine.

The whipworm will move from the small intestine when it is in its larvae state into the large intestine. They take 11 weeks to become fully mature to the point where they can produce their own eggs. Whipworms can live for years inside of a dog’s intestine if left untreated – which is why it is vital that you keep on top of all your worming treatments.

Signs and Symptoms of Whipworms

 Whipworm can be hard to spot at first, especially if your dog only has a mild infestation as there are generally no symptoms to spot. It is only when the infection gets more serious that the large intestine will start to inflame.

The inflammation of the large intestine can then cause weight loss, Diarrhoea, blood or mucus in the stool, or Anaemia. Anaemia can be spotted if your dog looks weaker than usual or has pale gums.   

A secondary disease to whipworm is Addison’s disease which will mean that your dog experiences periodic bouts of weakness along with an electrolyte balance which can cause even more problems further down the line. 

Diagnosis of Whipworms

 Diagnosing Whipworm can be tricky, it's not as easy to catch in comparison to roundworms and hookworms. The worms will need to be located under a microscope after a stool sample has been taken. 

To diagnose Whipworms, your vet will go through the process of faecal flotation, however, the tests may not always be effective. This is because female whipworms do not constantly produce eggs, so, the presence of the worms may be difficult to catch on tests. It is important not to rule out whipworm after just one test. The test will need to be repeated if an infection is suspected. 

Treating Whipworms

 There are multiple medications which your vet may use to treat whipworm, which treatment your vet uses will depend on your dog’s health and age. Your dog may become resistant to de-wormers over time or have a natural tolerance to them. So, it may be a case of trial and error when finding the best treatments. It is important that you also repeat the treatments to ensure that they have been effective. Your vet will be able to recommend how frequently you will need to treat your dog. You must also let your vet know if you have used over the counter medicines to treat whipworm if they are currently receiving any other medication. 

As the eggs can survive for such an extended amounted time, there is always the potential that your dog will suffer from re-infection from the eggs which have survived in the intestinal environment. This is why some vets will recommend a monthly treatment, which will ensure that your dog doesn’t experience repeat whipworm. 

Once you are aware that your dog has whipworm, you will have to be extra careful when it comes to cleaning up after your pet, especially if you live in a multi-pet household as the infection can easily move throughout the home. All waste should be removed sanitarily and all surfaces which may have come into contact with the worms, eggs, or the worm’s faecal matter will need to be disinfected with bleach. 

Now, it isn’t easy for you to make sure outside is sanitised after your dog has gone to the toilet, especially if they like to go and do their business on grass, woodchips or gravel. Paving stone slabs are much easier to clean.