Whipworms (trichuriasis) are intestinal parasites that are most commonly found in dogs, and sometimes in cats. They are relatively small with a maximum length of 5-8 cms and are called whipworms for their thin, whip-like front end that carries a slightly thicker backend. These worms feed on your pet’s blood by attaching to the walls of the large intestine.
The Life Of A Whipworm
The life of a whipworm starts with your dog ingesting whipworm eggs. This is commonly through self-grooming or eating something off the ground. The eggs pass through your pet’s digestive track and hatch in the small intestine.
When the larvae eventually get to the large intestine they attach to the walls and begin to feed. Full maturity is around 11 weeks and it is at this time that they are capable of producing more eggs that pass out in the faeces. These excreted eggs become infective after 2-4 weeks and can survive for years in the environment.
Does My Pet Have Whipworms?
When the infection is light there are usually no symptoms, but as the infection becomes more serious the large intestine can start to become inflamed and cause:
- Weight loss
- Mucus/blood in stool
- Anemia (pale gums and weakness)
Please note: Symptoms rarely show in cats as infections tend to be light.
How We Diagnose Whipworms
We will ask for you to bring a stool sample during your visit to Pet Doctors, which we will then examine under a microscope. Because female whipworms only produce eggs intermittently it may mean repeated tests are necessary for a correct diagnosis.
Treating a Whipworm Infection
There are several medications used to treat whipworm and we will advise the best one for your pet. We recommend repeated treatments to stop re-infection as it is very likely your pet may pick up the eggs again in the future.
There are several preventative wormers that treat several types of the most common intestinal worms, Whipworms included. Ask us at your next visit!
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