When it comes to owning a dog, we all know the risks of parasites and illnesses. But we also all hope we never have to deal with them. Some come with particularly scary and off putting names. But in reality most are pretty easy to treat.
One of the main parasites we often hear of, but one that also holds a particularly fearful name, is the whipworm. In fact, anything that includes ‘worm’ sounds very menacing. But try not to worry too much!
In this article I am going to tell you all about whipworms and how to treat them. If you do find your dog with whipworms, hopefully these next few stages will help you to not only identify them, but to tackle them so that you and your furry friend can be worry-free!
What are whipworms in dogs?
Also known as Trichuris vulpis, whipworms are one of the most commonly found parasites in dogs. If your pup has this, you are not alone!
Whipworms are normally only about a quarter of an inch in length and they live in the cecum and colon (the large intestine). They survive by attaching themselves to the lining of the intestine and if they are not treated they will quickly multiple in numbers.
Not only will avoiding treatment cause them to multiply, but if you do allow them to spread, it can cause serious complications for your dog.
Whipworms gain their name from the shape of their body. Whilst having a thick anterior end, they have a long, thin body that resembles a whip. It is the thicker end of the worm that embeds itself in the mucosal lining of the intestine and as the worms grow, this can cause extreme irritation and discomfort.
The whipworm life cycle has three stages:
You can help to prevent intestinal parasites like whipworms by understanding this life cycle. If you treat your dog at the correct point of the whipworm life cycle then the treatment can be a lot more effective.
Whipworms lay their eggs in the large intestine which is then passed through the dog’s body when your dog poops. The eggs then infect the environment and eventually they mature into larvae in that environment and go on to hatch.
Eggs are ready to re-infect the host within 10 to 60 days. Tthey then go on to infect even more of your pet’s body. Attacking the adult whipworms and any larvae and eggs they have laid can help prevent this cycle from continuing.
Symptoms of Whipworms in Dogs
There are many signs that your dog may display which could indicate whipworm. As the whipworms multiple, certain symptoms will become a lot more visible such as:
- Weight loss
- Bloody stool
All of the above are symptoms of whipworm and if your dog is experiencing any of these then it means the disease has probably developed quite a lot. If you do notice any of the above it is important to contact your vet immediately.
What do whipworms look like?
In some cases, you will be able to identify whipworms yourself. They are tiny worms that are usually only a few centimeters in length. They have a thicker end and a thin tail like a whip and are usually a whitish gray color.
In the earlier stages, it is unlikely that you will be able to identify whipworms on your dog. However, as the parasite grows and spreads, you may be able to identify some works or the end of worms around the anus of your dog.
In more common cases, you will be able to spot whipworms in your dog’s stool. It is crucial for you to inspect your dog’s stool if you do have any doubts or concerns regarding whipworms in your dog.
If you are able to spot whipworms in the stool or on the dog itself, it is vital that you take you pet to the vet as soon as you can. Whilst whipworms will be visible in stool from the early stages, spotting whipworms on the anus of your dog will suggest that the parasite has spread excessively.
Whether your dog is in the early stages or not, treatment at the earliest possible time is the best way to effectively tackle whipworms in your dog. If whipworms are not treated, the infection can become seriously uncomfortable for the dog and may lead to other health implications. Whipworms can last up to 5 years in a dog and so removing them when possible is crucial for the comfort and health of your pet. If not, the risk of reinfection is extremely high.
How are whipworms treated?
If it is confirmed that your dog has whipworms, your veterinarian will be able to help sort this problem.
The most likely course of action your vet will take will be to prescribe your dog an anti-worm medication. There are many treatments available. Your vet will be able to recommend the one specifically suited to your dog and the stage of your dog’s infestation.
How do dogs get whipworms?
Whipworms are extremely common in dogs because they are easy for dogs to contract. Most commonly, dogs will develop whipworms by swallowing certain soil, or other dog feces that contains whipworm eggs.
These eggs will then develop into larvae. Eventually they’ll be an adult whipworm which is when your dog will start developing symptoms.
How to Prevent Whipworms in Dogs
Because whipworms are so easy for dogs to catch, avoiding them can be quite tricky. However, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of your dog catching whipworms.
Giving your dog regular parasite preventatives can help avoid the eggs hatching and developing into a parasite infestation.
If you do notice that whipworms are recurring a lot, or are particularly common in the area where you live, you can try changing to heartworm medication. These will also help prevent whipworms from developing.
Your vet will be able to recommend and prescribe you a treatment for heartworm. Below are some ingredients that actively work against the development of heartworm and whipworms:
For a more natural way to prevent whipworms, you can combine raw, organic pumpkin seeds or black cumin seeds and give this to your dog. Not only will this help prevent the pests from growing, but will also help expel them from your dog’s body if they have already grown into adults.
Can humans get whipworms?
Whilst humans have their own species of whipworm, known as Trichuris trichiura, it is extremely rare for humans to contract whipworms from their pets.
Despite this, you should still take precautions when dealing with whipworms in your dog. You should always wear gloves when treating dogs and handling their stool. It is important to always wash your hands with warm water and soap.
Dog poop contains many toxins and potentially parasites. So even if your dog is not suffering from whipworms, gloves and regular hand washing is extremely important when picking up their poop.
Whilst whipworms are not the most ideal parasite for your dog to catch, they are treatable. There are various steps you can take to prevent them.
If you notice any symptoms in your dog, you should not only inspect their stool, but it is best to take them to the vet to be sure.
Your vet will be able to provide treatment. It is important to begin as early as possible to not only kill the current whipworms, but to prevent any eggs or larvae from developing and spreading.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent whipworms. Heartworm treatment can be great to give your dog regularly. You can also use pumpkin seeds and cumin to prevent and kill the parasites.
Remember, wear gloves, wash your hands, and be vigilant of your dog’s behaviour and stool. If your dog does have whipworm, don’t worry too much about it infecting you as well. Get them to the vet, give them the right treatment, and your dog will be back to normal in no time!
Whipworms can live for up to five years if left untreated. If you do use a proper treatment, the whipworms will usually be gone within 1 to 3 days.