Whipworms are an especially intractable parasite. It's difficult to rid your dog of whipworms, and it can be even tougher to eliminate the parasite from your yard since the eggs can live in soil for up to five years. Research from the Companion Animal Parasite Council found that 14.3 per cent of shelter dogs nationwide have whipworms. The bugs can also infect people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2010 that as many 795 million people worldwide had whipworm. Treating the parasites calls for several methods, including soil additives such as lime.
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How Infestations Start
Whipworms get into your soil when an infected host, such as a dog, coyote or fox, defecates in your yard, depositing whipworm eggs in his stool onto the ground. If a new host, such as your pet dog, inadvertently comes in contact with the eggs, he may ingest them during grooming. The swallowed eggs hatch new whipworms inside your dog's intestine. Within three months, those whipworms are laying eggs themselves. Your dog continues the infestation cycle by depositing fresh eggs on the ground whenever he goes outside to defecate.
Whipworms can cause serious problems for you, your children and your pets. People with significant whipworm infestations can develop painful, bloody diarrhoea. Children who live with untreated whipworm infections can become anaemic and suffer from stunted growth. Whipworm can also cause bloody diarrhoea, weight loss, dehydration and anaemia in dogs. Puppies are especially vulnerable to the symptoms of whipworm infection. Whipworms do occasionally infect cats, though such infestations are rare and mostly harmless.
Powdered agricultural lime made from limestone or chalk is a common treatment for whipworm soil infestations. You can buy lime in 40- to 22.7kg. bags. Sprinkle enough lime over the infested soil's surface to cover it thoroughly in a layer about 1/2 inch thick. For extra measure, work some of the lime into the topsoil with a garden cultivator or rake, and reapply one more coating of lime. The lime works by drying out whipworm eggs. However, the treatment doesn't work unless your soil stays dry for at least two weeks. Rain or sprinkler water that wets the lime application will keep it from killing whipworm eggs.
Because lime won't work if your soil is wet, you may need to try other techniques. You can replace infested soil with new soil, or place a thick layer of gravel over the site to prevent whipworm eggs from coming into contact with pets and people. If your dog lives outside, you may need to pave over infected soil to avoid repeated whipworm infestations.
Stopping the infestation cycle requires treating your infected pet and practicing good backyard hygiene. Your vet will prescribe a deworming medication such as Panacur or Drontal Plus for your dog. Because whipworms have a three-month maturation period, you'll need to repeat the treatment at least once. A monthly dose of the worm killer milbemycin oxime can keep fresh infestations from taking root in your pet. Outside, pick up dog faeces immediately. Whipworm eggs must sit for two to four weeks to form embryos before they become infectious. After one to two years of diligent treatment for your pet and constant cleanup in your yard, your soil should be whipworm-free.
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- Companion Animal Parasite Council; Current Advice on Parasite Control; April 2010
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Parasites-Trichuriasis; November 2010
- Valley Veterinary Clinic: Whipworms
- Doody Calls: Whipworm Overview
- Iowa State University Center for Food Security and Public Health; Whipworm Infection; January 2006