Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

What is Whipworm in Dogs?: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Perhaps you've heard of whipworms, but aren't sure exactly what they are. In this post, our Orlando vets discuss the whipworm life cycle, common symptoms of infection in dogs, treatment options, and how to keep your pup from becoming infected. 

What Causes Whipworm Infection in Dogs?

Whipworms (also referred to as Trichuris vulpis) are intestinal parasites that are about one-quarter of an inch long. They infect and live in a dog's large intestine and cecum. They latch on to the mucosal lining and cause extensive irritation. This infection can severely impact your dog's health. 

What Do Whipworms Look Like?

Whipworms are easily identifiable intestinal parasites due to their odd shape. True to their name, they have a thicker front end and a long, think back end that looks similar to a whip. 

Signs & Symptoms of Whipworm

You'll likely see your dog display a few symptoms if they've recently become infected with whipworms. However, some dogs won't show any symptoms, even in the later stages of infection. That said, some of the most common whipworm symptoms in dogs include:

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

Life Cycle of the Whipworm 

There are three stages to the whipworm's life cycle: egg, larvae, and adult. The female adult whipworm lays her eggs in the dog's intestine. They then make their way into the dog's stool, causing an infected dog to spread whipworm eggs each time they defecate. The eggs can remain alive in the environment for up to five years. 

Once out in the world, the eggs typically develop into the infective stage in about 10–60 days, at which point they can infect the next host animal. 

Whipworm eggs hatch soon after a dog ingests them. Hatched whipworms then mature in the pet's intestine, where they lay more eggs, and start the cycle once again. If a whipworm infected dog poops in a park or other public place, and the poop is not picked up, this may lead to an outbreak among local wildlife. 

Diagnosing Whipworm in Dogs 

Fecal exams (which are completed during or around the time of your pet’s yearly wellness exam) 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.

Treatment Options

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

Whipworm treatment for dogs consists of prescription medications to kill the parasites living within your dog's intestine, and if necessary, further medications to treat any uncomfortable symptoms your dog may be experiencing. Most medications to treat whipworm in dogs will require two treatments spaced about three to four weeks apart to ensure all eggs have hatched and are able to be killed.

To help prevent reinfection it will be necessary to thoroughly clean your dog's bedding, kennel area, and dog run. Your vet may also recommend re-treating your dog every three to four months to help fight reinfections.

Preventing Whipworms in Dogs

Preventing whipworms is far easier and more effective than treating them in most cases. Many heartworm medications for dogs also protect against whipworms. By providing your pet with monthly heartworm medication, you could also be helping to protect your pet against a host of intestinal parasites, including whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Ask your vet for information on how best to protect your dog.

At MetroWest Veterinary Clinic, we 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.

Do you suspect your dog may have whipworm? Contact our vets in Orlando to book your appointment.

New Patients Welcome

MetroWest Veterinary Clinic is welcoming new patients! Our Orlando vets can't wait to get to know you and your companion. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (407) 295-2744