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Trichuris vulpis, also known as the whipworm, commonly infects dogs of all ages. Although this parasite is small in size, its effects on the body are mighty. If you notice your dog is having diarrhea, losing weight, or vomiting, it’s time to take him to a veterinarian for evaluation. These could be signs your dog is fighting a whipworm infection, which can be fatal if left untreated. 

Here is everything you need to know about whipworms in dogs, including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What Is Whipworm in Dogs?

Whipworms are intestinal parasites that cause severe inflammation within a dog’s cecum and colon. They are common in dogs of all breeds and ages. This parasite’s eggs are shed in dog feces, which acts as a source of infection for other dogs who may later come into contact with the contaminated environment. Whipworm eggs are highly resistant and can actually survive in the environment for many years! 

Infected dogs experience symptoms related to gastrointestinal upset and can become dehydrated rather quickly. In some cases, whipworms have the potential to cause serious illness that requires hospitalization. This is especially true if a dog has a large number of worms present or the infection was left untreated for an extended period of time. 

How Do Dogs Get Whipworms?

Dog sniffs the soil

Whipworms are not spread directly between dogs but rather through their feces. Dogs become infected by ingesting poop or soil that contains whipworm eggs that another dog has shed. Once ingested, the eggs develop into larvae within a dog’s small intestine. The larvae then migrate to the cecum and colon where they mature into adults that later release eggs into the stool. This process takes about three months. 

Can Humans Get Whipworms from Dogs?

Whipworms are not considered zoonotic, which means they cannot spread from dogs to humans. 

Can You See Whipworms in Dog Poop?

A whipworm is a long parasite that is thin on one end and thick on the other, resembling a whip. They are not commonly seen in a dog’s stool. Additionally, the parasite’s eggs are microscopic, so you will not be able to see them by simply looking at your dog’s stool. Eggs are small, brown, and ovoid with distinct borders and can only be seen using a microscope. 

Whipworm Symptoms in Dogs

Veterinarian holds a puppy

In the earlier stages of infection, there may not be any obvious signs of illness. In these cases, a whipworm infection may be incidentally diagnosed when running a routine stool test. However, the longer whipworms go untreated, the more symptoms develop and progress in severity. 

The signs of whipworm in dogs are similar, regardless of age. However, because whipworms cause significant fluid loss, puppies and senior dogs are more vulnerable to dehydration and severe illness compared to adults. Common symptoms of whipworms in dogs include: 

  • Diarrhea, which may contain bright red blood and mucus
  • Weight loss 
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting 
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia
  • Death

Diagnosing Whipworms in Dogs

Whipworm eggs under a microscope

A veterinarian begins with a physical exam to assess your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. This includes assessing hydration status and weight. If the veterinarian suspects your dog may have an intestinal parasite, a fecal float will be done. During this test, a veterinarian collects a small sample of stool from your dog and analyzes it under a microscope to check for whipworm eggs. Because the eggs are shed intermittently, they may not be present in your dog’s stool at the time of testing, which can lead to a false negative result. 

If a veterinarian does not find eggs on a fecal float but still suspects whipworms, they may send a stool sample to a laboratory for a fecal antigen test. This test detects antigen from the whipworms before eggs are shed and appear in the dog’s poop. It can detect infections that a fecal float may have missed. 

Whipworm Treatment for Dogs

Pet parent and vet with dog

There are a couple ways to get rid of whipworms in dogs. Treatment can be in the form of a tablet or a liquid and is given orally at certain intervals to eliminate the parasite. Deworming medications and heartworm preventatives are two options for treatment. It is important that treatment continue for at least three months after diagnosis to ensure all stages of the parasite are eliminated. After treatment is finished, a follow-up stool test is done. If any eggs are still present on follow-up testing, treatment will need to be repeated. 

Pet parents should understand that this parasite has the potential to cause severe dehydration and blood loss, which can make dogs severely ill. Whipworms can be fatal if left untreated. 

Whipworm Medicine for Dogs

Deworming medications are often given to treat whipworms in dogs. Fenbendazole is a liquid that is administered orally once daily for three consecutive days. It is repeated for two additional months to eliminate whipworms. Another medication containing praziquantel, pyrantel pamoate, and febantel can also be used as treatment. This medication is effective against many types of intestinal parasites, including whipworms. It is a tablet given once a month for three months to treat whipworm infections. 

Monthly heartworm preventatives can also be used once a month for three months to treat whipworm infections. Ideally, though, all dogs should remain on heartworm prevention year-round to prevent heartworm disease and intestinal parasites.

General Cost of Whipworm Treatment in Dogs

Costs of diagnosis and treatment for whipworms can vary greatly depending on location. However, pet parents should expect to pay $15-$35 for each monthly treatment depending on the dog’s dose (based on weight). Fecal floats are generally $30-$45, while fecal antigen tests are more expensive since they must be sent to a laboratory. 

How to Prevent Whipworm in Dogs

Pet owner giving a dog a chew

To lower your dog’s risk of contracting whipworms, ensure your dog does not come into contact with another dog’s poop, especially during walks or visits to the dog park. If your dog is already infected, promptly clean up stool from your yard and provide a separate area for other household pets to potty in until the parasite has been eliminated. 

The most important tool for prevention is keeping your dog on a monthly heartworm preventative that prevents heartworm disease in dogs while also treating and controlling intestinal worms, including whipworms. Heartworm prevention is relatively inexpensive and only needs to be given once per month. Your veterinarian can recommend the best product for your dog. 

Related Conditions 

There are other intestinal parasites that can present with some of the same symptoms as whipworms. These include: 

A veterinarian can perform testing to differentiate between these parasites and determine an appropriate treatment plan.