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. Pets with whipworm infections will usually experience diarrhea as the first symptom.
Areas with warm and humid climates, such as the southeastern United States, are more conducive to whipworm growth, and so the risk of infection can be higher in these ares.
Whipworms of different types infect dogs and cats. Trichuris vulpis and Trichuris campanula are whipworms than can infect dogs, and Trichuris serrata can infect cats, though whipworm infections in cats are rare. Puppies are more at-risk than adult dogs.
The Whipworm’s Life Cycle
Whipworm infections begin whenever a whipworm egg enters the body of a dog or cat. An infected pet’s stool will have whipworm eggs in it, which is how the infection spreads—animals release more whipworm eggs into the environment through their feces, and other animals may pick up the eggs. If your pet gets the eggs on their paw or fur, they’ll swallow the eggs when they groom. Eating infected stool will cause a pet to become infected as well, so dogs who exhibit coprophagia may be at a higher risk.
Worm eggs hatch in the intestines after being eaten, and grow to their adult stage. The whipworms attach to the intestinal wall and drink the animal’s blood. When they reach maturity, the whipworms release eggs of their own. Those eggs are then released in the pet’s feces, starting the cycle over. The eggs become infectious again after 15-30 days, after the cells in the eggs have further developed. The worms can survive in their egg stage in the soil for up to five years, but can be safely disposed of before they become infectious by picking up after your pets.
Should I Be Worried About Getting Infected Myself?
Some parasites that infect pets can travel to humans, too, but human whipworm is a different type of worm from the types that infect dogs and cats. You won’t get whipworm from your pet, but other pets can become infected by the spread of whipworm eggs.
More on How Worms Infect Pets
How Heartworm Infections Begin
How Do Pets Get Roundworm?
Causes of Hookworms in Pets
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.