What are whipworms?

Whipworms are intestinal parasites that are about 1/4 inch (6 mm) long. They live in the cecum and colon (large intestine) of dogs where they cause severe irritation to the lining of those organs. Whipworm infection results in watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and general debilitation.


They are one of the most pathogenic worms found in dogs.

whipworm infections 1 2009 Whipworms

How do dogs get whipworms?

Whipworms pass microscopic eggs in the stool. The eggs are very resistant to drying and heat, so they can remain viable (alive) in the  environment for up to 5 years. Once laid, they embryonate (mature to an infective stage) in the environment and are able to re-infect the dog in 10-60 days. The   embryonated eggs are swallowed and hatch and mature to adults in the lower intestinal tract, completing their life cycle (see illustration).

How are whipworms  diagnosed?

“Parasites pass small numbers of eggs on an irregular basis, so some samples may be falsely negative.”

Whipworms are diagnosed by finding eggs with a microscopic examination of the stool. However, multiple stool samples are often required because these parasites pass small numbers of eggs on an irregular basis, so some samples may be falsely negative. In addition, it takes approximately 11-12 weeks after hatching for a female adult to begin to lay eggs.  Any dog with chronic large bowel diarrhea should be suspected to have whipworms, even if the stool sample was negative.
Thus, it is an accepted practice to treat chronic diarrhea by administering a whipworm dewormer. Response to treatment is an indication that whipworms were present but could not be detected on fecal examination.

whipworm infections 2 2009 Whipworms

How are whipworms treated?

There are several drugs that are very effective against whipworms. At least two treatments are needed, spaced at a three to four week interval. The most frustrating aspect of whipworm infections is the high rate of re-infection because the eggs are extremely hardy in the environment.  Therefore, if a dog is diagnosed with a whipworm infection, it is advisable to treat again every three to four months. The other option, which is much simpler, is to use a heartworm preventative that contains a whipworm medication. Whipworms are not nearly as common today because of widespread use of these modern heartworm prevention products.

Can I get whipworms from my dog?

No. Whipworms are not infectious to people. They are exclusive parasites of the dog.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis (Lepto for short) is caused by a bacterium that attacts the liver and the kidney in both people and animals.  The cat, luckily, is one species that seems to be resistant to the bacterial infection. The Leptospires are sprirochetes that live in water and have a spiral shape with a hook on each end. People and animals bcecome infected from swimming or drinking contaminated water or in direct contact with urine from an infected animal, such as raccoons, rodents or cattle. The Lepto spirochete has an uncanny ability to penetrate unbroken skin.  Once the victim is infected, the bacteria attacks  the kidney, the liver or the blood system. Signs begin to appear four to twelve days after exposure with signs varying depending on what organ is being attacked.

If the kidneys are attacked, renal failure can result. Early signs are fever, listlessness, excessive thirst and urination progressing to kidney shut down and the inability to make urine. Often times, the urine may appear brown or reddish.

If the liver is affected, the liver is damaged and the body becomes yellow or jaundiced. There will also be vomiting, fever and general illness.

The worst form is the hemorrhagic form. The dog will have a fever and develop small hemorrhages in the skin. The disease progresses to internal bleeding and bloody diarrhea and urine. This form is often fatal.

Diagnosis is often difficult because the early signs are similar to other diseases and antibody titers do not rise early in the disease.

Treatment consists of antibiotics and supportive therapy, such as intravenous fluids and a lengthy hospital stay. The fluids from the infected dog will shed the bacterium for several weeks, so care must be taken not to expose family members or hospital staff. Antibiotics are given for a few weeks after the illness to ensure killing all of the organisms. Some dogs may have lingering kidney damage resulting in chronic renal failure.

Prevention for dogs is accomplished with vaccinations. There are 4 major strains of Lepto that the vaccines will protect for. Every now and then, there are other strains that can pop up that are not covered by vaccinations. Since dogs are more likely to be exposed,  protecting them with vaccinations will help reduce possible exposure to their human friends. The downside is the lepto vaccine can cause allergic reactions in dogs. The reactions ususually result in hives or facial swelling and can be relieved with anti-histamines. I see more reactions in the Dachshunds than any other breed for some reason. Sometimes the vaccine may also cause soreness for a few days.  I feel that the benefits of vaccinating for this disease outweighs the risks of the vaccine, especially, since my clients live in a wooded neighborhood with possibility of exposure. If your dog lives in an apartment and never goes to the woods, swims in lakes or streams,  or has exposure to garbage where rodents may get into (a common source of infection), you and your veterinarian may fore go vaccinating.

Canine Parvovirus

Puppy Vet Visit

Canine Parvovirus is a serious, highly contagious disease that affects the digestive system. It is most common in puppies.

How Dogs Get Parvovirus
Susceptible dogs are infected by swallowing the virus, which is found in the droppings of infected dogs. The virus is difficult to kill with ordinary disinfectants and can survive in the environment for years. People can inadvertently spread it on their hands, shoes, or inanimate objects.

Not every dog exposed to Parvovirus will get sick. Puppies, especially those that have not completed their vaccine series, are most vulnerable. Those born to mothers that were not vaccinated are at extremely high risk. Other factors that influence susceptibility include stress, genetics, parasite infection, and general health. Some breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers, seem to be more likely to become seriously ill.

What the Disease Does
Parvovirus infects the bone marrow and lymph system, weakening the dogs immunity. It simultaneously destroys the lining of the intestinal tract, preventing absorption of water and nutrients. The damaged intestine can leak bacteria into the body. In newborns the virus also damages the heart. Signs of Parvovirus include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and dehydration. Dogs can die from dehydration or from bacteria in the bloodstream.

How Parvovirus is Diagnosed
Diagnosis begins with a physical exam but also includes laboratory testing of the feces. Other tests that can help the veterinarian treat the disease more effectively include a blood panel and a fecal test for parasites.

Treatment for Parvovirus
There is no specific treatment that kills the virus, but sick dogs are treated for secondary infections and to reduce the symptoms. Hospitalization is usually required. Treatment may include IV fluids to help with dehydration, IV electrolytes and nutrients, antibiotic injections, medications to control vomiting, and drugs that stimulate immunity. Up to 90% of puppies recover with treatment.

Preventing Canine Parvovirus
The key to preventing Canine Parvovirus is a good vaccination program. Puppies are vaccinated starting at 6-8 weeks of age and boostered every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is at least 16 weeks old. In highly susceptible breeds, boosters are given as old as 22 weeks of age. After that, vaccinations are given every 1-3 years depending on the type of vaccine. Its especially important for female dogs intended for breeding to be vaccinated. This allows them to provide immunity that protects their puppies until they are old enough to receive vaccinations.


Adult dogs that have never been vaccinated before are given one or two vaccinations initially, followed by re-vaccination every 1-3 years. Ask your veterinarian about the best vaccination protocol for your dog.

Dogs with Parvovirus should be isolated from other dogs since the disease is highly contagious. Contaminated objects should be disinfected with a dilute bleach solution.

Because puppies that have not yet received their entire vaccination series are susceptible to Parvovirus, veterinarians recommend minimizing their likelihood of exposure. Avoid taking them to parks or other public, outdoor areas where soil may harbor the virus. If possible, choose puppy socialization and training classes that require the puppies to have started their vaccines. The classes should be held in places that are disinfected regularly. It is also preferable to avoid boarding very young pups.

Keeping your puppy healthy will reduce his susceptibility to Parvovirus. Be sure he receives regular veterinary checkups, gets all recommended vaccines on time, is treated to control parasites, and enjoys a healthy diet.