Whipworms in Dogs & Puppies
Reviewed for accuracy on June 22, 2020 by Brittany Kleszynski, DVM
Whipworms, also known as Trichuris vulpis, are parasites that make their home in and cause damage to your dog’s large intestine. Dogs may become infected with whipworms by ingesting contaminated soil, food, water, animal carcasses, or feces. Dogs of any age are susceptible to whipworms.
It is important to bring your dog to the veterinarian if you suspect any type of parasitic infection. If left untreated, whipworms can lead to severe disease and sometimes death.
Symptoms of whipworms in dogs
When infected with whipworms, some dogs might not show any symptoms until the worm burden gets very high. Symptoms of whipworm infections in dogs include the following:
- Bloody or mucoid diarrhea
- Straining to defecate
- Weight loss
To confirm a diagnosis of whipworms, your veterinarian will perform a fecal flotation test on a stool sample. Parasite eggs can be detected using a microscope if they are currently being shed. However, whipworm eggs are shed intermittently and may not be detected consistently. If your dog shows signs that whipworms may be present, your veterinarian may choose to treat even if no eggs were detected on the fecal float.
Treatment for whipworms
There are several medications available that can treat your dog’s whipworm infection. Because it usually takes three months for immature whipworms to grow and become detectable in a fecal float or to cause symptoms, treatment is continued for three months. The easiest treatment is to give a heartworm preventative with whipworm coverage once monthly for three months in a row. Your dog will need a negative heartworm test prior to starting this treatment.
Another common protocol is to use fenbendazole for three days in a row at the time of diagnosis, three weeks later, and then three months later. A fecal float can be repeated at the end of the three months to see if the infection has cleared.
How to prevent whipworms
Whipworms are contracted through exposure to unsanitary conditions, so it is important to clean your home and your pet’s areas regularly. Remember to pick up after your dog each day, and be mindful when in parks or other communal areas.
As mentioned, keeping your dog on a monthly heartworm preventative (which is highly recommended!) will also reduce the risk of whipworms as these medications contain a specific ingredient that intestinal parasites are susceptible to. Scheduling annual vet visits is also a good idea to ensure your dog stays healthy and free of parasites.
Can I get whipworms from my dog?
Nope, you’re safe! Humans cannot contract whipworms from their dog.
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