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Whipworms in Cats

Whipworms in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Whipworms?

Since the whipworm is burrowing itself into the mucosa portion of the intestine, the body’s immune system reacts and inflames the bowel, causing the feline to lose a large portion of nutrient-absorbing abilities. As the intestine is compromised, only a portion of food your cat is consuming will be absorbed by the body and the feline will begin to lose weight and become lethargic.

The whipworm is a 45-75mm long parasite with a thick posterior and thin filamentous end that resembles a whip, ergo the common name “whipworm.” Although these worms are referred to as whipworms by the majority, there is more than one species of whipworm and should be identified by the name Trichuris trichiura, the cat whipworm. 

The whipworm is a type of parasite, meaning the worm must have a host to survive in its adult form. The whipworm eggs are present in the environment and will stay unhatched until they are ingested. A cat who drinks water, licks soil off her paws, or consumes food material can infect herself with whipworm eggs. The eggs land into the small intestine where they hatch into larvae and make their way to the large intestine. Inside the large intestine, the whipworm larvae burrow their anterior end into the mucosa of the cat’s colon. From here, the parasitic worm will feed and mature into adult whipworms. 

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Whipworms Average Cost

From 587 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Symptoms of Whipworms in Cats

A mild infestation of whipworms in cats will show no evident signs or symptoms, but as the worms multiply, the burden of these parasites begin to take their toll on a feline’s body, causing the following symptoms: 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Weight loss
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome 
  • Dehydration 

In severe cases, whipworm infestation can cause a hemorrhagic effect inside the colon, causing the appearance of fresh blood to appear in the feces. A severe whipworm infection in cats can be recognized by the following symptoms:

  • Bright, red blood in the stool
  • Anemia 

Causes of Whipworms in Cats

Whipworm in cats is caused by the ingestion of water, food or flesh (mice, birds, etc.) contaminated with adult whipworms, whipworm larva, or eggs. 

To understand how a cat may become infected with whipworms, an individual must understand the lifecycle and nature of these parasitic worms. Whipworms latch on to the mucosa layer of the cecum or colon of the cat, feeding and laying eggs. These thick-shelled, weather resistant eggs, are passed through the feces, enter the soil and become active to infest within one to two weeks. If your cat drinks water from an outside source or even licks her paws after being outside, she could pick up one of the 2,000 whipworm eggs a female can lay in a day. A feline can also infect herself with whipworms upon consumption of prey animals such as rodents, birds, and other appealing prey. 

Diagnosis of Whipworms in Cats

If you notice your cat has been losing weight while still maintaining the same eating habits or is experiencing loose, bloody stools, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as these may indicate a whipworm infection. 

The veterinarian will likely request a stool sample from your cat, from the morning of your appointment, to diagnose the parasite. The thick-shelled, football-shaped eggs that are normally passed into the environment by the whipworms will be present in an infested cat and can be identified under a microscope. In order to view the eggs, the veterinarian will first need to separate the eggs from the fecal matter through the use of a centrifuge and diluted water. After the sample is removed from the centrifuge, a microscope slide is placed on top of the vial and the eggs rise to the top, sticking to the slide. The slide is then removed and can be placed under the microscope to complete the fecal flotation test.

Treatment of Whipworms in Cats

Whipworm infestation in cats is generally treated on an outpatient basis as the medication for whipworms is generally easy to administer. Your veterinarian may prescribe any of the following antiparasitic agents to terminate your cat’s whipworms: Mebendazole, febantel/praziquantel/pyrantel pamoate, or fenbendazole. Dehydrated cats or anemic felines may also receive intravenous care to reverse the effects of whipworm infestation. Anti-inflammatory drugs are also commonly prescribed to alleviate the irritated interior of the large and small intestine.

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Recovery of Whipworms in Cats

As with any medically prescribed treatment, it is important for your cat to complete the full cycle of treatment. Improvement can be seen in as little as seven days, in non-severe cases and a total recovery can be expected. 

The anti-parasitic medication will terminate the worms and your cat will pass them through defecation, therefore it is crucial to maintain a clean environment. Clean your cat’s litter pan daily, and wash bedding material. Make sure to wear gloves during the cleaning process, as human infestation is a possibility. It is also advised to isolate the feline to keep it from infecting other pets during treatment.

Whipworms Average Cost

From 587 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Whipworms Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Calico mix

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dog-age-icon

Five Years

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2 found this helpful

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2 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
None
I found this on the floor when I got up this morning. Looks like my car threw it up. What should I do?

Aug. 30, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Cats can be affected by intestinal parasites, and if she is not on regular flea or intestinal parasite control, she may have picked up a parasite. It would be best to take a stool sample to your veterinarian and have them examine it to see what parasites are in the stool sample, and what medications might be needed. When we look at a stool sample, we look at it under a microscope, so that we can see the eggs of the parasites before they become adults. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 30, 2020

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Orange cat

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Diana

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1 Year

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0 found this helpful

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0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Licking At Genitals
Weight Loss
Weakness
Poor Appetite
Tiredness
Depressed
I found a stray cat laying down in a field. There were flies all over her and she was super skinny. What do I do? I cannot take her to the vet because that costs too much.

Aug. 3, 2018

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

0 Recommendations

I don't have any way of helping Diana over an email, and there are many possibilities for what might be going on with her. If there is a humane society that can help her, that may be the best alternative. If she was to the point where she was covered in flies, it may be more kind to let her go, and a humane society will be able to help with that.

Aug. 3, 2018

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Whipworms Average Cost

From 587 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Easily compare quotes from the most trusted pet insurance companies in the United States.

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