Whipworms in Cats

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Key takeaways

Whipworms, a parasitic species from the genus Trichuris, infect the digestive tract of cats and release their eggs through the stool into the environment. 

  • Once the eggs mature for 9-21 days, they become infectious
  • A new host becomes infected by ingesting the mature eggs at this stage
  • Whipworms are rare cats and primarily seen in tropical or subtropical climates
  • Whipworm infections typically show little to no symptoms but in rare cases, high-risk cats can have gooey diarrhea, blood in the feces, and intestinal inflammation
  • Microscopic examination of the feces is used to look for eggs and make a diagnosis
  • Treatment is antiparasitic medication and prognosis after treatment is very good
  • Prevention strategies include prompt and hygienic disposal of feces, environmental hygiene, and staying up to date with regular fecal examinations and veterinarian-recommended parasite control protocols
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A closer look: Whipworms in Cats


Whipworms in cats are incredibly rare outside of the tropics and subtropics. Ingestion of feces more than 9 days old or feces-contaminated soil is required for exposure and it is rare for cats to be exposed to enough eggs to develop a heavy worm burden. Cats are generally fastidious and selective about what they eat, so infestation in cats is very rare.

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Risk factors


Cases involving the very young, elderly, immunocompromised, ill, or those living in extreme filth are more likely to develop symptoms.

Outdoor cats living in tropical and subtropical environments are at higher risk of contracting whipworms.

Cats who regularly receive broad-spectrum parasite control products are at much less risk because many of these also provide protection against intestinal parasites.

Possible causes


The cause of whipworms is the ingestion of infective feces from another infected animal. 9-21 days must pass for the eggs to embryonate before the feces become infectious.

Main symptoms


There are no symptoms for a whipworm infection in most cases.

Testing and diagnosis


After a physical examination and medical history, a fecal sample can be examined under a microscope to identify whipworm eggs. While the adult worms are visible to the naked eye, it is only the eggs that are released in the stool. Even if no worms are visible to the naked eye in the feces, microscopic imaging is required to confirm diagnosis.

Steps to Recovery


Once whipworms are confirmed, treatment is fairly straightforward using antiparasitic medication to remove worms from the body. Cleaning the environment and removing sources of fecal contamination is also helpful.

Prognosis is good with few side effects from the medication expected.

Prevention


The primary prevention methods are prompt removal of feces from the cat’s environment. In addition, if risk factors for whipworm are present, regular testing for the parasites may be recommended. Regular fecal examinations and use of parasite control products helps prevent recurrence.

Whipworms are contagious to other cats. This can be prevented by removing feces promptly and testing for whipworms when applicable.

Are Whipworms in Cats common?


Whipworms are extremely rare in cats.

Typical Treatment


  • Antiparasitic medication

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