The whipworm is a worm parasite that infects the cecum and colon of a dog’s intestinal tract. The biggest trouble with whipworms is that they shed heavy eggs that commonly escape detection on routine stool examinations because they do not float (stool flotation tests are the most cost effective and commonly performed routine parasite tests). Some dogs that carry whipworms show no outward symptoms while others present with diarrhea that often has blood in it.
A recent study led by parasitologist Dr. Byron Blagburn using more sensitive intestinal parasite diagnostics determined that 3 out of 10 dogs in the study had whipworms. That translates to 30% of our canine companions may be walking around with whipworms unbeknownst to owners and veterinarians alike! That is an astounding statistic!
So if it is so difficult to detect, how to we prevent this from happening? My first strategy is for any dog that presents with chronic recurring bowel issues, before I assume that the patient has irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, I first treat them with a comprehensive deworming treatment that includes treatment for whipworms. For dogs that do not show symptoms, I recommend a heartworm preventive maintenance program that also covers for prevention against whipworms.
Heartworm preventive medications are in a class of compounds called macrocyclic lactones. The macrocyclic lactone that covers against both heartworm and intestinal parasites (including whipworms) is milbemycin oxime. Milbemycin oxime is the active ingredient in heartworm preventive products Trifexis, Interceptor, and Sentinel. Thus, in the interests of prevention whipworm infestation in your dog that is likely to escape detection on routine stool analysis that is part of the canine yearly well visit, it is wise to pick one of the aforementioned products for heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention for your dog.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.