Sunday, January 08, 2012

Do whipworms make dogs eat dirt?

The canine whipworm (Trichuris vulpis) is a common dog parasite.

The juvenile form of the parasite develops in dirt; it's transmitted by eating dirt (geophagy). It may be particularly common in dog parks [1]

Some dogs eat dirt.

Many parasites change the behaviors of their hosts to facilitate their life cycle.

So do whipworm infested dogs find dirt particularly tasty?

The association between geophagy and worm infection has been studied in humans, but a PubMed query on geophagy and trichuris vulpis in dogs produced no hits (PubMed includes veterinary literature).

I'm sure someone is studying this even as I write this post. I'm hoping for an article within the year.

[1] I don't know how hard it is to study this. A visit to the local dog park might be the basis for a great high school science experiment.

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