Whipworms are parasites that can infect a dog or cat’s intestinal tract and feed on the pet’s blood, ultimately causing dehydration, anemia, and if left untreated, can lead to death.
Here are the top five things to know about these parasites and how to keep your pets safe.
1. Dogs, and Puppies Especially, Are at a Higher Risk
Dogs and puppies can have a higher chance of infection, particularly if they’re coming from a pet store or situation where they’ve been around lots of other pets—the chance that they’ve caught an infection from another pup is higher. Some veterinarians recommend deworming puppies whether there are signs of parasites or not, just in case.
2. Different Types of Whipworms Infect Dogs, Cats, and Humans
Trichuris vulpis and Trichuris campanula are whipworms that can infect dogs, and Trichuris serrata infects cats, though whipworm infections in cats are rare. There are whipworms that can infect humans, but they’re different than any of these types, so you won’t catch whipworm from your pet.
3. Heartworm Medications May Work, But Check with Your Vet
Some heartworm medications are also effective against whipworms, so you may be able to use your regular heartworm medicine. Check with your veterinarian to be sure, though, and don’t put your pet on two types of deworming medications without first talking to your vet.
4. Clean Up After Your Pet to Avoid Reinfection
Whipworm eggs shed the infected pet’s body through the feces, and the eggs will be able to infect other animals, or re-infect your pet, in 15 to 30 days. Be sure to clean your pet’s litter box and pick up after your dog to avoid a reinfection. You may need to replace gravel, woodchips, or other un-cleanable surfaces in your yard if the infection persists.
5. Keep Using the Deworming Medication as Long as Instructed
Because whipworm dewormers target the adult worms, one dose of the medicine probably won’t kill all the parasites in your pet’s body. Keep using the deworming medication as often as your veterinarian or the medication instructs, to avoid a return of symptoms.
Whipworms can cause discomfort, pain, and in severe cases anemia and death, so it’s important to take infections seriously. Once on a medication, though, your pet will be cleared of the parasite.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.