Whipworms

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.

Cancer in Cats

Cancer is the leading cause of death in senior cats. As we already know, this is a very serious disease that can affect virtually all areas of your cats body. However, the spread of cancer is more rapid when certain areas of the body are reached, such as the lungs or liver. There are too many forms of cancer to discuss in this post; so instead, we will discuss various signs that you can be mind of and the veterinary options available.

There are many symptoms to watch for that might indicate your pet has developed a cancer. It is important to realize that many of these symptoms can be related to several other illnesses, so do not assume your cat has cancer until he has been officially diagnosed by a veterinarian. Unexplained weight loss, abdominal distention, respiratory distress, difficulty swallowing, changes in bowel consistency (diarrhea or constipation), blood or mucous in the stool, unusual bleeding or discharge, lameness, growths that can be felt through your pets skin and any areas of skin discoloration should be reported to your veterinarian. Remember that these symptoms are merely indicators that you should bring your cat to see the veterinarian.

Unfortunately, there are no blood tests to determine whether or not cancer is present in our cats. Therefore, acquiring a sample of the tumor through biopsy is often necessary and this sample is normally sent off to a specialized pathologist for microscopic examination. Many cancers can be cured if caught early enough and if the lump is small enough to surgically remove. Even after a lump is removed, your veterinarian may wish to send the sample to a pathologist to ensure that the margins of the growth are cancer free.


If your cat is diagnosed with cancer, many of the same treatment options available to humans are also available for pets. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for pets is offered at most veterinary specialty practices in major metropolitan areas. Your veterinarian will be able to share more information about these treatment options with you. It is important to understand that these therapies are costly and some forms of cancer are more easily treated than others. If chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy are not an option, your cat can be treated symptomatically, and depending on how aggressive the cancer is, your cat may be able to live for several months to a year. Other medications and therapeutic options will be outlined by your veterinarian.

There are steps that can be taken to avoid cancers. Having your pet spayed or neutered will drastically decrease the chances of various reproductive cancers. Feeding your cat a high quality diet and keeping him at a healthy weight will also help to prevent certain cancers. Obesity is a major cause of many cancers in pets. It is impossible to prevent all cancers and genetics also play a role in this disease. If you have any additional questions about a specific cancer or are concerned about your cat, please do not hesitate to discuss this with your veterinarian.

Cancer in Pets

Splenic CancerOur pets are living longer and as a result they are also susceptible to some of the same illnesses as senior humans. One such illness is the development of cancer which is now the leading cause of death in our senior dogs. Cancer can affect many different organs from the skin, to the liver or lungs. Many factors may increase the susceptibility to cancer, such as genetic predisposition, exposure to insecticides, environmental toxins, second hand smoke, and many more.

Since cancer can affect many different organs, it is up to you and your veterinarian to monitor your pet for any changes in their weight, eating, urination, stool consistency, drinking more or less water than usual and changes in breathing.  Semi-annual exams and screening blood work can help detect problems when they are most able to be treated. Daily grooming can help you detect any lumps or bumps that may be skin cancer. Oral exams, dental x-rays and dental cleanings can detect oral cancer. Some cancers sometimes can only be found by x-rays or  exploratory surgeries.

Your family veterinarian is your first defense against cancer with early detection and removal or biopsy of the cancer. Once the cancer is identified, then treatments can be initiated depending on the type, size and location of the cancer. Just like in people, treatment can range from surgical excision, radiation and chemotherapy or combination of therapies. If you are located in a major metroplex or near a veterinary university, you may be able to consult with a veterinary specialist in oncology to determine the best treatment for your pet. The goal of cancer treatment is not always to eradicate the cancer entirely, but to lengthen the time you have left with your pet and to improve their quality of life.