Whipworms are parasites that infect a dog or cat’s cecum, which is a section of the intestine where the small intestine and large intestine meet. There they attach to the intestinal wall and feed off the pet’s blood. Whipworms begin life as microscopic eggs and can grow up to three inches in length. They appear string-like and are thicker at one end than the other, hence the term “whipworm.”
Whipworms can be treated effectively with deworming medications, but if left untreated, a severe infestation can lead to dehydration, anemia, and possibly to death.
Whipworms of different types infect dogs and cats. Trichuris vulpis and Trichuris campanula are whipworms that can infect dogs, and Trichuris serrata can infect cats, though whipworm infections in cats are rare.
An infected pet’s stool will have whipworm eggs in it, which is how the infection spreads—animals release more whipworm eggs in the environment through their stool, 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.
Sometimes a whipworm infection will cause no symptoms at all, if there are not enough worms present to cause significant trauma to the pet’s intestinal tract. The more worms are present, the more persistent and serious symptoms become.
The most common symptom of whipworm is bloody diarrhea. Dehydration, weight loss, lethargy, and anemia are also common symptoms.
Deworming medicines target the adult whipworms that have attached to the intestinal wall. Dewormers attack the worms’ nervous system, so they release their bite on the intestines and pass out of the body through the stool. Once in the outside environment, the worm dies. Because some worms may be in different life stages at the time of treatment, deworming medicines may have to be administered several times to be fully effective.
Since whipworms can be common in dogs, especially puppies, it’s essential to get your new pup checked immediately. Cats are less likely to be infected with whipworms, but if you notice any symptoms, take your pet to the veterinarian.
More on Parasites in Pets
Preventing and Treating Heartworm
Roundworm Infections in Pets
Hookworms in Dogs and Cats
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.