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Whipworms in Dogs

By | Last Updated : 2nd June 2017

What is whipworm

Whipworm (Trichuris vulpis) is one of the most harmful intestinal parasites commonly found in dogs. The name refers to the whip-like shape of adult parasitic worms, which live in the cecum, a pouch-like region between the large and small intestines, and colon, the main part of large intestine. [1, 2]

How do dogs get whipworms

Dogs contract whipworms when they consume infected food, or water, or come into contact with contaminated feces, or soil. [2, 3] Once the eggs are transmitted, they develop for 2-10 days after hatching in the intestinal mucosa. Then, gradually move to the cecum where they turn into adults within three months, thus completing their life cycle. [4]

Adult whipworms are capable of infecting dogs of any age, feeding on blood and tissue fluids, and producing eggs about 74-90 days after infection. Whipworm eggs are highly tolerant to heat and can survive for several years. [1, 4]

Whipworms

Are whipworms contagious

Whipworms are not contagious as a healthy dog will not get the infection just by being in the same room with an infected dog. The eggs are only passed with stools and even then, the eggs are not infectious till after at least 10 days [2]. So, if you make sure to clean up after your dog immediately, there is no reason for it to infect others.

Signs and symptoms of whipworms in dogs

Canine whipworms are sometimes asymptomatic, without any signs detectable by clinical tests. However, some infections may lead to:

  • Colitis or hemorrhagic typhlitis
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Large bowel inflammation
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

An acute infestation may cause:

The symptoms may occur even before the eggs can be detected by any test. If left untreated, a serious whipworm infection can cause death. [3, 4]

Diagnosis

Routine veterinary tests such as the fecal flotation performed on a stool sample may help in detecting mature whipworms and their eggs. A special liquid is mixed with the stool sample, which causes the eggs to rise to the surface. A high egg count suggests severe infection. [3, 5]

Differential diagnosis

  • Hookworm (Ancylostoma) infection
  • Amoeba infection (Amebiasis)
  • Ascariasis
  • Constipation
  • Colitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Encopresis
  • Intestinal volvulus
  • Chronic anemia
  • Celiac disease
  • Salmonella infection
  • Cytomegalovirus infection
  • Inflammation of gastrointestinal tract (gastroenteritis)
  • Intussusception [6]

Whipworm treatment in dogs

Treatment is done in an outpatient setting where anthelmintic medications are prescribed. [3]

  • Drontal Plus (febantel/praziquantel/pyrantel pamoate) [4]
  • Panacur (fenbendazole) is given three days in succession [4]

Continuing treatment using the following anthelmintics is recommended for preventing a recurrence.

  • Interceptor (milbemycin oxime)
  • Advantage Multi (moxidectin/imidacloprid)
  • Interceptor Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel)
  • Sentinel (milbemycin oxime/lufenuron)
  • Trifexis (milbemycin oxime/spinosad)
  • Sentinel Spectrum (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel/lufenuron) [4]

A dog affected by chronic diarrhea is always assumed to have the infection, even though fecal flotation of stool sample might have given negative results. In such cases, administration of whipworm dewormer may help in relieving the symptoms, indicating that it had whipworms, which was not identified during the fecal examination. [2]

Prevention

  • Remove feces from your dog’s kennel and keep it sanitized with disinfectants.
  • Desist from keeping your dog in crowded enclosures with other pets to reduce exposure to whipworm eggs.
  • Perform routine fecal centrifugation testing to identify the occurrence of intestinal parasites in your dog. [4]

According to Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), puppies should often be examined for whipworms, preferably four times a year, while adult dogs should be tested twice a year. [5]

Incidence and prevalence

A Trichuris vulpis infection affects dogs throughout the world. In the US, about 14% of shelter dogs and 10% of dogs at veterinary teaching hospitals show signs of whipworm. [4]

Can humans get whipworms from dogs

Although rare, a few instances of this contagious infection in humans have been recorded. People may ingest whipworm eggs if they eat or touch edibles without washing their hands after handling contaminated stool. [7] Just talking to the dog, or cuddling it does not spread the condition.

Make sure to wash your hands with proper disinfectant soap after handling your pets and their belongings. Also, do not consume fruits or vegetables without washing or cooking them.

References

    1. Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) – Peteducation.com
    2. Whipworm Infections in Dogs – Vcahospitals.com
    3. Whipworm in Dogs – Petmd.com
    4. Whipworms – Cgvet.com
    5. Fecal Flotation – Vcahospitals.com
    6. Whipworm Differential Diagnoses – Emedicine.medscape.com
    7. Whipworm FAQs – Cdc.gov

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