According to Statista, over 89 million Americans own dogs. Over the years, nearly every president has had or got a Presidential dog while in office. There’s a reason one of the most famous political speeches of all time is the moment Nixon went on television to appear innocent, but most of all human, next to his dog Checkers. We are a country of dog-lovers.
There’s nothing more natural or healthy for a family than adding a dog. The current movement in animal political correctness is to eradicate the use of the word “pet” when referring to your family’s animal, instead opting to refer to him or her as a member of the family.
Unlike a lot of these attempts to rebrand language to make the world a more accepting place, this particular rebrand hasn’t met with much opposition.
Why would it? After all, any owner of a dog, cat, hamster, exotic animal that they legally can’t have or even fish knows how much of an impact they leave on homeowners. Well, less with fish. If you have a dog, they’re already a part of your family, nursing you through the hard times and celebrating the best with a hearty bark.
Your dog is indeed a member of the family. Like your children, you do your best to protect them. In today’s world, they face threats both natural and human-made.
One of the most common outdoor threats right in your yard is the presence and potential infection of whipworms. Whipworms can ravage your dog’s digestive system, leading to serious illness and even death.
Fortunately, though, you can stop them before they do any damage.
What Are Whipworms?
Whipworms, or Trichuris Trichiura, are parasitic roundworms that live within the digestive tracts of both dogs and foxes. Other species of canine, such as coyotes, also are known carriers. If an infected animal wanders on your property to relieve themselves, their feces can contain anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 whipworm eggs.
This isn’t necessarily dangerous, however, if your dog eats any of the mess, the infection can get quite serious.
Those eggs can live within the soil for up to five years. If the whipworms get to adult size, which is only approximately 1/4 of an inch, they can live in your yard’s soil. If the eggs hatch inside your dog, they then can lay more eggs, causing the infection to get even worse.
How Bad Can It Be?
While whipworms can also infect humans, it’s not a major issue. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 billion people have been infected, but few probably even knew it. Heavy infections can cause gastrointestinal issues, particularly in children. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain and unexpected weight loss.
Whipworm infection in both humans and animals occurs in warmer climates, in the U.S. it’s common in the Southwest.
If you don’t seek immediate help for a whipworm infection, it can grow more serious. You can get severe infections in your colon and appendix, delayed growth in children, anemia and rectal prolapse.
If that’s how bad it can get for humans, you can only imagine what it can do to animals. In dogs, of course, it’s much worse. Unfortunately, it’s still not always the easiest infection to spot early. It’s only in the later, more dangerous stages that it becomes obvious.
Once inside your animal, the worms will suck nutrients your dog needs from their intestines. The symptoms are much more acute, with abdominal pain and weight loss, lethargy and bacterial infections. This can get to be lethal.
Can Whipworms Survive Freezing Temperatures?
We mentioned whipworms are more common in warmer climates, however that doesn’t mean they don’t exist solely there. Whipworms can indeed survive months of freezing, snowy weather.
How to Treat Whipworms
If you find your dog having these symptoms, the most obvious of which being bloody diarrhea, take them to the vet immediately. There are deworming medications to treat and kill the whipworms in your animal.
However, not all dewormers are effective on whipworms. It’s best to get prescribed some broad-spectrum dog dewormers, such as SafeGuard to maximum effectiveness. Typically, the medication is prescribed for three months, how long it takes for all of the eggs to hatch internally.
Getting Rid of Whipworms Post-Infection
If your dog just recently went through a course of whipworm medication, they aren’t entirely out of the woods. Remember, the eggs laid were in the thousands, so those little parasites are still living in your yard. Here are some ways to get rid of the whipworms for good.
The Best Method
While it’s not always possible, particularly for those with large yards, there is an ideal method for getting rid of whipworms. This is especially necessary if your dog has had repeated infections. First,
Remove the Top Six Inches of Soil. If your worm issue is getting too hard to handle, remove and replace the first six inches of soil. This is a hassle in any yard, but replacing the soil with grass and new lawn is the only way to be certain.
Spray Surfaces with Bleach. This includes anything porous such as patios, stone surfaces, driveways – anywhere whipworms can potentially dwell.
Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth on Lawn Once a Month. This reduces the chance of whipworms recurring. If you’re very concerned, add agricultural lime to the earth.
Pick Up Dog Poop Immediately. One of the key reasons whipworms can get to your dog, or even you, is a lack of lawn hygiene. Keeping your lawn free and clear is just as preventative as the rest of the steps.
The moment you see it, have a pooper scooper and a garbage bag nearby for quick removal. Even after your dog has been treated for whipworms, they can still pass eggs for several days.
An Alternative Method
If your lawn is just too large, or the thought of tearing up six inches of soil makes you panic about the expense or amount of work it takes, there are other ways to help protect your animal.
Till Soil With Agricultural Lime. It takes pretty strong chemicals to kill whipworms and the eggs they lay. Agriculture lime has proven most effective at killing them, but there are some alternatives at the hardware store that are also useful.
Spray With Bleach. Whipworms are killed by most bleach and other desiccants.
Maintain Lawn. Lawn care is vital in preventing whipworms. This includes the monthly diatomaceous earth mentioned above, as well as dog poop removal. Doing what you can to keep other animals away is also an important step, as a wandering fox’s poop will start the spread of worms.
The Problem with Lime and Earth
Lime and Diatomaceous earth both only work when they’re dry. This is fine in warmer climates, where whipworms are most common, but it can be an issue in cooler areas.
If your ground often gets muddy, creating a layer between the mud and your dog is very important. You can do this by sprinkling a layer of gravel or paving the area where your dog plays.
It may be a little less fun for your dog, but they’ll certainly be happier not avoiding whipworms.
Preventing Whipworms Before They Become a Problem
When it comes to whipworms, it’s better to stop them before they have a chance of getting in your yard rather than deal with them after the fact. Fortunately, with the proper care, this isn’t difficult to do. These simple, ordinary steps of lawn care can go a long way in keeping your animal safe.
Basic Lawn Maintenance
Just keeping your lawn clean makes a huge difference. Any waste or garbage will attract other animals, as will leftover food. It’s important, especially if you have a lawn party, to clean up immediately after. Leaving it overnight will attract a fox or stray dog, who might just decide to leave some waste of their own.
Clean Up Waste Immediately
We can’t stress this enough. Letting feces sit in your yard is worse than a smelly eyesore, it’s attractive to other animals that might be infected.
Spread Diatomaceous Earth Once a Month Regardless
Even if you haven’t undergone a whipworm infection, this is the easiest way to eliminate the worms before they take root.
Fences, Fences, Fences
Stop those wandering foxes and stray dogs from even setting foot on your property with fencing, preferably something that’s not easy to get under or over. It’s probably the easiest way to stop whipworms.
The problem is that most people don’t think about whipworms until after they or their animal has shown signs of infection. By then, it’s too late, and the money, time and work you have to put into removing them are almost too much of a hassle. Worse, it puts a member of your family at risk.
Don’t let whipworms hide in your yard, waiting to lay waste to your animal’s gastrointestinal system. All it takes is a best practices approach to caring for your lawn and keeping other animals out.