Whipworms

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The PetStuff Online Newsletter
Volume 1 Issue 4  September 3, 1999


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"Whipworms and the Neighbor's Dog"

This week I want to start by telling a true story:  I used to have a little white Poodle/Terrier cross named "Ralph". No matter how often I wormed him, I just couldn't seem to get rid of his Whipworms.  Everytime I wormed him, three weeks later he had more Whipworm eggs in his feces.  This went on for nearly a year, until I started seeing the neighbors dog as a patient. This dog lived on a 25 foot chain near his dog house the year-around.   His owners must have felt guilty and tossed him a rawhide chew about three or four times a week. Ralph, being the little food thief that he was, stole his chews everytime he got the chance. When I checked a fecal sample on the neighbors dog the first thing I discovered was Whipworm eggs! This taught me a lesson about how tough and infective these little eggs can be.   

What are they?
If you look at the picture below (the insets) you will notice that the Whipworm buries it's entire head in the wall of the large intestine and cecum (appendix). Isn't it strange that parasites have particular areas of the host's body that they like to live in? Why not the small intestine wall?    Who knows, but they are comfortable living in the large bowl and cecum of dogs only!  Like the Hookworm, Whipworms are also very tiny and can't be seen with the un-aided eye.  They are called Whipworms because they have a larger head and a whip-like thin tail section.

How do our dogs get Whipworms?
After the above story, I think you already know, "Dogs have to eat the eggs to get Whipworms".  Whips are not passed from mother to offspring; they make no migrations through the skin; they never get in the mothers milk - Plain and simple, "The only way to get a Whipworm is to eat the egg".  Take a moment to look at the eggs in the image below.   Notice the thick brown shell?  This shell is so tough that the eggs can live in the soil for years. Although they resist freezing the eggs are succeptible to drying and sunlight.  This is another reason for concrete surfaced kennels.

As a dog walks over the eggs and licks its' paws or egg infested soil gets on toys or food or water dishes the eggs are swallowed.  Within 1 to 3 months after the egg is swallowed it hatches in the intestine; attaches to the intestine wall and begins sucking blood and laying eggs.

WhipwormLife.JPG (89849 bytes)

What are the signs of Whipworm infestation?
Signs may include any or all of the following:  Inapparent infestations; nonspecific diarrhea; blood-streaked diarrhea; unthriftiness; weight loss.  Most infestations are inapparent.  The problem is that Whipworms can precipitate "recurring" diarrhea and colitis.   Since the adult Whipworms may not lay eggs everyday, if your veterinarian performs a fecal flatation and looks for Whipworm eggs they might not be found.  But the diarrhea keeps coming and going. Like the Hookworm, Whipworms also suck blood, but not nearly as much.  What happens is that when the Whipworm buries it's head in the intestine wall it causes a tremendous inflammatory reaction. The inflammed intestinal wall gets red, erroded and prone to invasion by bacteria.  I believe this is the underlying cause of the intermittent diarrhea.   We treat the diarrhea with antibiotics and it goes away, only to come back later. We kill the bacteria, but if we miss the Whipworms. The damage to the intestine wall continues allowing recurrant bacterial infection to invade the intestine and cause the large bowl diarrhea.

What is the treatment?
It is easy to get rid of Whipworms.  Just give any effective oral wormer, but you have to be careful what you use.  Most over-the-counter wormers won't touch them. We use fenbendazole, the active ingredient in Panacur.  This is a powder wormer that must be given once a day for three days.  The problem is the eggs.  You have to clean, clean, clean.  It is best to replace all old toys and bones and other items that the dog likes to chew on. If your dog is kenneled or tied out, it needs to be moved to new ground to get away from the eggs.  What if you can't move the pen? In that case you need to administer a low level wormer everyday to prevent reinfestation.  I like to use Filaribits Plus a once-a-day heartworm preventative that also kills Hookworms, Roundworms and Whipworms. Many of my patients that live in dirt-run kennels take Filaribits Plus to eliminate the reinfection problem from the worm eggs or larva in the soil.

Can humans get Whipworms?
No, you are safe with this worm.    They only affect the canine breeds.

Be Safe - Be Sure - Have Your Vet Check Your Pet's Feces for Intestinal Worms Twice a Year!

Next Week

If you don't mind, I would like to continue discussing the parasites of dogs and cats for the next few weeks.   Here is the schedule:

September 10th - "Those Disgusting Tapeworms"
September 17th - Demodex Mites & The Red Mange
September 24th - Sarcoptic Mange - You can get it!

A Little Pet Humor in Closing

Rules For Cats

Doors
To get a door opened, stand on your hind legs and hammer it with your forepaws and/or yowl. Once the door is opened, it is not necessary to use it. After you have ordered an "outside" door opened, stand halfway in and out and think about several things. This is particularly important during very cold weather, rain, snow or mosquito season. Protest if the human uses a foot to "encourage" you to leave. Sometimes doors can be opened by Cats without the aid of humans. Such doors must be kept open for the Cat(s) to investigate within any time. Swinging doors are to be avoided at all costs; their nickname "Tail-Biter" tells it all.

If a human goes into a room, especially the bathroom, and closes the door to exclude a Cat, meow pathetically and try to stick your paws under the door to open it. If the human relents, lets you in and then closes the door, immediately demand to be let out. If the human lets you out and closes the door, immediately demand to be let in again. This is especially fun when it's the bathroom and there are guests. This game can be played until the human wises up and hoses you with a squirt gun. Scuttle out of range and wash yourself, to pretend that the assault on your Dignity didn't happen.

 

Rules for Dogs


Barking
I do not always have to have the "last bark".
I do not need to bark when the computer makes a funny warning noise.
I will learn that howling when I hear sirens doesn't help firemen find their way.
I will not atttack the cactus and then bark when it bites back.
I will not back-talk, mumble or grumble at Mom and Dad all through dinner, after they make me go and sit on my bed because I drool.
I will not bark at my human just because she's wearing a hat.
I will not bark at my brother who has the ONLY desirable chewtoy even though there are a dozen identical ones.
I will not bark at the dog (in the aquarium, floating outside the window, in the oven). It's just my reflection.
I will not bark at Daddy when he sneezes.
I will not do a "bark and hold" on the plastic Santa Claus on the neighbor's front lawn.
I now realize that the monster in the yard that I so carefully stalked and barked at all night was just a paper sack blowing in the wind...

Credits

Images used in this publication taken from Hill's Atlas of Clinical Anatomy, Published by Veterinary Medicine Publishing Company, Inc.   A publication donated to veterinarians by the Hill's Pet Food Company to teach clients about their dogs and cats in sickness and in health.   Hill's Pet Food Company produces Hill's Prescription Diets and Science Diet Premium Pet Food

Have A Fun and Safe Labor Day Weekend

Later,  Dr Dan