Adult whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) in dogs are typically found in the colon and cecum, a part of the large intestine. They attach themselves firmly to the intestinal wall. Eggs are passed in the feces and become infective in about 4 to 8 weeks. Under ideal conditions, whipworm eggs can remain dormant in the environment for several years, unless they become dried out. Once infective eggs are ingested, larvae develop in the small intestine and then move to the cecum and colon, where the adults mature.
No signs are seen in light infections, but as the number of worms increases the cecum and colon can become inflamed, which can cause diarrhea and weight loss. Fresh blood might be seen in the feces in heavy infections and anemia may also result.
Because whipworm eggs take a month to become infective, whipworms can be controlled with good sanitation. Prompt removal and proper disposal of feces is critical. Whipworms are susceptible to drying; therefore, keeping the dog in an environment that is clean and dry reduces the risk of infection considerably. For this reason, kenneled dogs should be maintained on concrete slabs, and never on dirt. A variety of medications—including some monthly drugs that prevent infections with other parasites like heartworms—are available for treating whipworm infections. Your veterinarian will choose one that is appropriate for your dog.
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