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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

How To Clean Whipworms From The Yard, Grass, Rocks, Landscape, or Soil

whipworms yard soil landscaping

SHORT ANSWER: You can’t.

And so begins a story about how Dr. Google fooled a veterinarian… for a short while, and the lengths some of us will go to find you the RIGHT answer to your pet’s problem…


As you may or may not know, whipworms are one of SEVERAL kinds of dog intestinal worms. Whipworms lay microscopic eggs that pass through an infested dog’s poop into the yard. The whipworm eggs are then stepped on by another dog (or the same dog, re-infesting himself), licked off the feet, and grow into adult whipworms inside the gut, thereby continuing the life cycle.

whipworm egg

Whipworm egg - Pretty much bulletproof.

These tiny little (invisible, microscopic) whipworm eggs in soil and grass are darn near IMPOSSIBLE to kill, because they don’t hatch until they’re inside a dog. They just sit there in the yard for at least five years, waiting patiently, and nothing short of “scorched earth” will eliminate them.

Dr. Google gives the incorrect answer about eliminating whipworms

Anyways, I came across THIS LINK to what appears to be a very reputable website, explaining that “while scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences report that there is no commercial product to eliminate (whipworms) from lawn soil, they suggest a homemade concoction to kill them.” (turns out the article recommends rock salt). Halleluja! RIGHT!?!? (wait… or not?)

Skeptical, I dug further. Further investigation revealed the ORIGINAL article from the University of Florida titled Managing Hookworms in the Landscape, by Robert A. Dunn and Ellis C. Greiner.

Did you catch the difference? Dr. Greiner’s original article discussed HOOKWORMS, which are relatively easy to kill, not WHIPWORMS, which are a BEAST.

What’s a curious veterinarian to do? Naturally, call the guy who wrote the article!!

So I emailed Dr. Ellis Greiner, Professor Emeritus, Dept of Infectious Diseases and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida himself (what a nice guy!), and asked him how one might remove whipworm eggs from soil. Here’s what he said:

“I am sorry to tell you this, but there is nothing you can treat the soil with to kill the whipworms eggs, The best would be to remove the soil (not sure how large the lot is) maybe 4 – 6 inches deep, replace the soil and put the contaminated soil somewhere dogs cannot get to it for 10 years or more. Then treat the dogs and pick up all feces and discard it so the new soil will not become contaminated again. Do not let any other dogs visiting the place to use the lot. The scorched earth model is still good.

Bare earth might be treated with rock salt, as Dr. Courtney always promulgated that. I have never seen it in use so cannot give any real voice on that one. Hope this helps. -Ellis”

Dr. Courtney? Who’s that? LET’S FIND OUT!!

Not one to be shy and remain ignorant, I then phoned Dr. Charles Courtney, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (what another nice guy!!!) and here’s what I learned:

Do you want to eliminate whipworms from your yard, or just from your dog?

1. Whipworm eggs can survive about 5 years. (Dr. Ellis said 10, I doubt anyone has timed it to be sure, but you get the idea)
2. There is no way to destroy a whipworm egg, chemical or otherwise, that won’t also destroy your lawn.
3. SHORT TERM, you can DEEPLY rototil your entire yard, then reseed with grass – that will eliminate about 90% of whipworm eggs by burying them under the tilled soil.
4. LONG TERM, you can remove the top 4-6″ of soil (just like Dr. Greiner said, above) and replace your entire yard.
5. Rock salt will kill hookworms that hatch from their eggs and turn into larvae in your yard, but will NOT kill roundworm eggs and whipworm eggs that do not hatch.

Or……..

6. Instead of trying to destroy the eggs, you can just leave them in your yard, and instead treat the dog with Interceptor heartworm prevention monthly to prevent eggs from developing into adults, except…. Interceptor is on indefinite backorder right now. D’ohh!

Or…………………

7. Since a whipworm egg ingested by a dog takes 60-90 days to develop inside the dog into an adult whipworm, treating the dog with a prescription dewormer (fenbendazole, mebendazole, or flubendazole) every TWO MONTHS for five years, while you wait for the eggs in the yard to finish dying, will eliminate the problem

AND MEANWHILE…

8. Pick up ALL feces at least twice weekly. As snow melts, get rid of all poopsicles.

So there’s your choices!

For my client, I recommended options #7 and #8, and everyone lived happily ever after.

And then I blogged about it, because that’s what I do.

Thank you for reading! Please visit Leo’s Pet Care veterinary clinic in Indianapolis. :)

  • Worried mom of 4

    What about removing them from your home: floors, furniture, etc? Are they stuck there, too?

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcy.fisher1 Marcy Fisher

    Thank you so much for your insight. I found out today that a rescue dog I fostered, then adopted, has whip worms and I am treating all three of my dogs now. I was I’m sitting here worrying about how I am going to remove six inches of topsoil and sod from 2 acres of land without remortgaging the house. Your options 6 and 7 seem much more manageable.

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