Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) are major parasites of gastrointestinal tract of dogs. Cats are most often infected with Trichuris campanula and Trichuris serrata species of whipworms. Whipworms are much less common in cats than in dogs and produce milder symptoms. There have been no reports of human infection with cat trichurids.
Female worms lay about 2,000 eggs per day which are passed in feces. Eggs are very resistant to harsh conditions and can persist in the environment for several years. Therefore, even mild infections will gradually result in considerable contamination of the environment.
Pinkish gray adult worms measuring approximately 4 cm in length live in the large intestine. The thin whiplike anterior part of the parasite is embedded in the epithelium of the colon. They live 1 to 3 years or longer. In dogs, heavy infections can irritate the large intestine and cause diarrhea, sometimes with blood, and intestinal protein loss. In severe cases, a decrease in the blood levels of sodium and potassium may lead to seizures.
T. vulpis is a whipworm that is common to dogs. Adult worms are 30 - 50nm in length, and as parasites, reside in the cecum, a region of the large intestine where it is joined by the small intestine or ileum. This specie of whipworm, though common to canines, has been found in the human digestive tract.
Infection with whipworms (trichuriasis, is diagnosed by finding the eggs in the stool. To control whipworms and prevent reinfection, remove the feces from the litter box daily. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommends that appropriate fecal examinations be performed on puppies and kittens at least 2-4 times during the first year of life and 1-2 times per year in adults. 5
An estimated 604-795 million people in the world are infected with whipworm. Whipworm, hookworm, and Ascaris are known as soil-transmitted helminths (parasitic worms). Together, they account for a major burden of disease worldwide. People infected with whipworm can suffer light or heavy infections. People with light infections usually have no symptoms. People with heavy symptoms can experience frequent, painful passage of stool that contains a mixture of mucus, water, and blood. Whipworm is effectively treated with albendazole, mebendazole or ivermectin. Each drug needs to be taken for 3 days.7