Today I get to share with you something we (fortunately) donât see very often on fecal exams â Whipworm eggs. Those are the pink football-shaped objects in the photo below.
Whatâs so awful aboutÂ Whipworms?
An infection can lead to diarrhea (sometimes with blood), weight loss, abdominal pain, dehydration and anemia.Â
Whipworms (so named for their whip-like appearance as adults: thin at the front end and fatter at the rear) are not the most common intestinal parasite that we find in dogs, but it is a nasty little bug if contracted. Whipworms are rarely seen in cats.
Whipworm eggs are deposited in the soil when an infected animal defecates. When the same or another animal ingests the contaminated soil (this can happen by mouthing a toy left on the ground or licking the paws after playing outside), the infection begins again.
Once swallowed, the eggs hatch out and the larvae spend about 10 days in the small intestines before moving on to the large intestines. Then the larvae spend the next two to three months maturing to adulthood.
Adult whipworms use their narrow heads to pierce your petâs intestinal walls and hang on, then rob your pet of its blood and nutrients. By the 70th day after the initial Whipworm eggs were swallowed, the adult Whips are ready to produce new eggs.
The adult female Whipworm can lay up to 2000 eggs per day. That is actually a small number, compared to a Roundworm that can lay 80,000 eggs per day. Because Whipworms lay a relatively few number of eggs and do not constantly reproduce, they can be difficult to detect. Multiple stool sample exams may be necessary.Â
PREVENTION AND CONTROL
Whipworm eggs are hardy and difficult to eradicate in the yard, so recurrent infections are likely.
Once diagnosed, a Whipworm infection can be treated with a course of medication, such as Panacur.
Then, because of the high likelihood of recurrence, affected dogs and their canine housemates should receive a monthly heartworm/intestinal worm preventative rated to control Whips. Our go-to choice has been Sentinel, but it is not currently available. Until Sentinel is returned to the marketplace, we recommend Trifexis.
LOW ZOONOTIC POTENTIAL
The most common type of Whipworms found in dogs isÂ Trichuris vulpis. Though they tend to be host-specific, there are a few reported cases of people contracting Trichuris vulpis, as well. To be on the safe side, wear disposable gloves when handling soil or pet waste and wash your hands well afterward.
See our previous entries in our âScope series: