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Trichuriasis
(whipworm infection)

 

General Information

Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis, Trichuris campnula) are common in dogs and found throughout the United States. Trichuris serrata is rare in cats. Whipworms get their name from the whip-like shape of the adult worms. The front portion of the worm is very thin (the whip) and the posterior end is thick (whip handle). Whipworms live in the large intestine and cecum (a small "dead-end" portion of intestine lying at the junction of the small intestine and large intestine).

How are whipworms transmitted and how is whipworm infection diagnosed?
A dog or cat becomes infected by ingesting food or water contaminated with whipworm eggs. The eggs are swallowed, hatch, and in three months the larvae mature into adults in the cecum and large intestine where they burrow their mouths into the intestinal wall and feed on blood. Adult worms lay eggs that are passed in the feces. The eggs must remain in the soil for about a month to mature and be capable of causing infection.

An infection is diagnosed by finding the eggs in the feces. The eggs must be differentiated from those of the bladder worm (Capillaria plica, Capillaria felis cati) and C.aerophilia, a parasite of the respiratory system but whose eggs may be found in the feces.

Special care must be taken in examining stool samples from cats. Rodents and mice have parasites whose eggs look like those of feline whipworms. If a cat would ingest one of these infected prey animals, the eggs may pass undigested through the intestine, be found in the cat feces, and an inaccurate diagnosis of whipworm infection could result.

What are the signs of whipworm infection?
The signs of infection vary with the number of worms in the intestine. Small numbers of worms cause no signs but larger numbers can result in inflammation of the intestinal wall. Large amounts of mucous are produced by the inflamed intestine. Sometimes hemorrhage into the intestine occurs, and anemia can result. Animals may have diarrhea and loss of weight.

In very heavy infections the worms may penetrate through the intestinal wall and the resulting inflammation causes the intestine to adhere (stick) to the body wall. Animals with this condition may frequently lick their right flank area where the adhesion occurs.

Are whipworms a health hazard to people?
There have been reports of people being infected with T. vulpis. Humans are more often infected with T. trichiura, the human whipworm.

How do we prevent and control whipworm infections?
Whipworm eggs are somewhat susceptible to drying, but can remain alive in moist soil for years, and are resistant to freezing. Because of this, animals should be restricted from contaminated areas. There is no effective method for killing whipworm eggs in the soil. The only alternative is to replace the soil with new soil, gravel and pavement. To prevent exposure, any feces in the yard should be picked up on a daily basis.

Floors in kennels and dog runs should be impervious so they are easier to clean Kennels, runs and litter boxes should be cleaned thoroughly, and if possible be allowed to dry in direct sunlight.

Routine fecal examinations and wormings can help control this widespread parasite.

Because of the zoonotic potential of T. vulpis, care should be taken when cleaning, and people should wear gloves and wash their hands well after these duties.

Important Points in Treatment

Effective medication can cure your pet of whipworms. However, good hygiene is required to prevent reinfection. Stools should be properly disposed of daily.

Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur:

* Your pet continues to have diarrhea.

* Your pet's haircoat is dull.

* Your pet loses weight.

____A stool sample is requested.

 

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.peteducation.com