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Symptoms of Worm Infestation in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

How Whipworms Affect Dogs

Whipworms tend to affect adult dogs more often and more severely than they do puppies, which is somewhat unusual among canine internal parasites. These are large worms that spend most of their lives in a dog’s lower digestive tract, where they burrow into the lining of the large bowel wall and feed on the dog’s tissues, blood and other bodily fluids. Many dogs with whipworms show no signs of discomfort or distress. However, others develop mild to severe symptoms that usually are attributed to large bowel inflammation. Belly-aches, diarrhea and abdominal cramping are the hallmarks of whipworm infection in dogs.

Symptoms of Whipworms

Owners of dogs that are infected with whipworms may notice none, one or more of the following signs:

  • Frequent defecation (“pooping” more often than usual)
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Straining to defecate (tenesmus)
  • Loose, watery stool (+/-mucus; +/- fresh blood)
  • Severe diarrhea (+/- mucus; +/- fresh blood)
  • Gas (flatulence)
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite (inappetence; anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Ill thrift; failure to thrive
  • Malnutrition
  • Electrolyte imbalances, similar to those in dogs with Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism)
  • Seizures (probably due to profoundly low levels of circulating sodium)
  • Abdominal pain (variable; intermittent)
  • Licking at the belly or flank area
  • Anemia (pale mucous membranes; pallor; weakness; caused by abnormally low numbers of circulating red blood cells)

Dogs at Increased Risk

There is no particular gender, breed or age predisposition for whipworm infection, although for some reason it seems to be more common in mature dogs. Dogs housed in high-density kennel situations, in outdoor runs, on dirt floors or in areas surrounded by a build-up of fecal matter have a greater chance of becoming infected with these parasites, as do dogs that are allowed to roam freely.

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