What Are the Causes of Whipworm?by Amanda Williams
Canine whipworms are a type of parasite that develop in the small and large intestines. Found in soil and feces, whipworm eggs are able to withstand extreme conditions as they wait to be consumed by a new host. Treatment for whipworms is essential, as the parasite can cause serious health issues if left untreated.
Whipworms are found all over the world. Although they prefer warm and humid climates, they are able to survive in freezing conditions. Their ability to survive in harsh conditions enables them to survive for five years in climates where they would otherwise dry up. The eggs remain in soil or feces until a new host ingests them. Once ingested the eggs hatch into larvae and travel to the small and large intestines, where they develop into adults. Since whipworm infections cause bleeding, intestinal inflammation and a decrease in vital nutrients, seek veterinary care immediately.
Host to Host
Proper hygiene and environmental cleanliness is especially important for pregnant dogs or dogs that are new mothers. Transmission of the parasite from pregnant mother to developing puppy is not possible. However, newborn puppies can become infected by the parasite by coming in contact with the contaminated feces of their mother. Although humans are typically not affected by canine whipworms, practice proper hygiene when handing contaminated feces or soil to lower the spread of infection.
To help prevent the spread of whipworms, it is essential to remove your dog's droppings and any surrounding soil that may be contaminated. This is especially important in more confined areas frequented by dogs. Proper cleanup of the yard, garden and dog run helps decrease the number of whipworm eggs that could potentially be ingested.
Symptoms of whipworms include coat roughness or thinness, weight loss, bloody diarrhea, fatigue and anemia. If you suspect your dog has whipworms, bring a stool sample to your veterinarian. Multiple fecal samples may need to be taken to the vet to confirm a positive test, since eggs are not expelled in every bowel movement. Whipworms are treated by a veterinarian, using several doses of medications. Treatment lasts for approximately two months, and may need to be repeated if the problem persists. Most heartworm medications today include a medication that helps treat whipworm infection.
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Whipworm Infections in Dogs
- Iowa State University: Trichuriasis - Whipworm Infection
- Upstate Animal Medical Center: Trichuris vulpis
- Companion Animal Parasite Council: Whipworms
- St. Francis Animal and Bird Hospital Library: Whipworms
- Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue: All About Whipworms
- American Heartworm Association: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Kane Skennar/Photodisc/Getty Images