Be aware of less common, but difficult to control parasite in dogs, some cats

Due to an e-mail mistake that was not the fault of Dr. Stephanie Myers, her monthly veterinarian advice column did not run in its normal place on the second page of Community section on the second Wednesday of the month.

Look for her column to return to its normal place and date in our Wednesday, May 11, issue.

Q: My husband and I adopted a puppy from a friend who had to move. She is about 5-to-6 months old and super sweet. We went to the vet, who said she has a parasite called whipworms. We’ve had a lot of dogs, but I’ve never heard of this parasite. We don’t have any other pets right now, but can we get it? Can you tell me more? E.W., Farragut

A: Congratulations on your new puppy. Hopefully she is feeling well and not having any problems related to the parasites. And no worries, this one is not contagious to humans.

Whipworms are a less common parasite, but certainly an important one. Dogs (and rarely cats) are infected by ingesting contaminated stool from the environment. The eggs can live in the environment for quite a while, making reinfecion possible.

Whipworms live in the large intestine, where they mature, feeding on the muscular lining and blood in the colon. They later produce eggs and can do so for over one year. It is the lengthy life cycle of the whipworm that makes it difficult to control.

Dogs with whipworms eventually have loose stool that progresses to diarrhea. If the infection continues untreated, weight loss and anemia can develop.

Treatment involves oral deworming medication monthly for three months. In environments that cannot be decontaminated, such as a farm, dogs may be switched to a heartworm prevention that contains a dewormer for whipworms.

If you haven’t, please pick up after your puppy every time she goes to the bathroom. Please finish all medications that your veterinarian sent home with you and follow up with rechecks as planned.

And again, congratulations on your newest family member.

If you have a questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at