When you adopt a new fluffy puppy or bring a small kitten home, parasites aren’t really the first thing you think about. So the Felcana team decided we’d lend a helping hand and explain the importance of protecting against parasites, in particular, worms.
As a pet owner, you’ll already know that there are all kinds of parasites out there looking to infest the next unsuspecting animal. Some parasites, for example, fleas, ticks and mites, live on or in the coat and skin. Others, like worms, find their way to one or more of the internal organs, where they feed, breed and in many cases, cause disease. And no one wants to think about their pet suffering, especially when worms are so easy to protect against. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) recommend that you worm your pets at least every 3 months.
Which wormer should I use?
With such an array of worming products available, how do you choose what is right for your pet?
It can seem really confusing when you look at all the treatments available, or when you chat to friends whose pets are being given different products to those your pet has been prescribed.
So how do you decide?
Well, it’s worth knowing that there isn’t one single product that can keep all parasites at bay, so combinations of treatments are normally recommended. Your pet’s own individuality will also help to decide which treatment to use. An older dog will usually require different treatment to a puppy. Indoor cats and outdoor cats might be recommended different medications too.
Age, lifestyle, location, and home environment are all factors that need to be considered.
It’s also worth thinking about your pet’s character too – there’s no point struggling to force a pet to take a tablet if there’s an alternative! Many brands now offer spot-on treatments that are just as effective, with half the hassle of a tablet.
How do you know what worms are a risk to your pet?
Some intestinal worms are common all over the world. Others, for example heartworm, are still confined to certain areas. So, unless you live in a region where it is endemic, or plan on travelling to one, there’s no need to worry too much about treating for this.
Parasite prevention can also help protect us humans too!
Some types of tapeworm can cause serious illness if they infect humans, so regular prevention of these may be required. In the UK, if you plan to take your pet abroad, you’ll need to visit a vet to have a tapeworm treatment administered to your pet before coming home again. Canine lungworm, which can cause serious illness in dogs, is becoming more widespread in parts of the UK and there are different preventatives and treatments for this. Vets are fountains of knowledge too – they’ll know exactly which parasites are lurking in your local area and be able to make sure your pet is protected against the right ones …
… and in the right ways!
During their lifetime, your pet will need you to adapt your approach to keeping them worm-free.
A puppy or kitten has different worming requirements to those of adult animals: It’s not uncommon for puppies to be born already infected with roundworms. Worms can also be transmitted to a litter in the milk from the mother. Although low numbers of roundworms may not cause a problem for many adult animals, in the very young they often cause illness, which can be fatal.
Older pets can develop immunity to parasites, which reduces the numbers of them breeding, but they can still hide away in the body in an inactive state for a long time. At some times in life, during pregnancy, for example, the worms can mobilize and cross the placenta to infect the unborn puppies. For this reason, it’s important to talk to your veterinary team about appropriate worming strategies if you plan to breed from your pet.
Your pet’s lifestyle will influence your worming strategy.
Is your cat a prolific hunter?
Many worms’ lifecycles involve living in more than one host animal, and these are eaten by an unsuspecting cat along with the prey, so cats who hunt require more frequent worming than indoor cats do.
Where do you like to exercise your dog?
Sniffing around, nibbling grass and picking up toys from ground where other dogs have been, are great opportunities for pesky parasites like worm eggs and larvae to be ingested; and exercising in the countryside exposes a dog to parasites from other species such as foxes.
Have you got a puppy?
Puppies seem to love chewing on anything they can get their paws on, and this includes crunching on snails, which are part of the lungworm lifecycle, so we often use products that include cover against lungworm in dogs and puppies.
Protect your pet, protect your family
Some types of worms from pets can also infect people. Puppies like to explore with their mouth, and unfortunately, so do many children. They tend to stick their fingers in their mouths, and if they’ve just been playing with the dog this can lead to infection from roundworms. Thankfully, it’s rare, but it can lead to permanent eye damage in some cases.
Of course, our pets are important members of our families, so an appropriate worming strategy and remembering to wash our hands means we can be more relaxed about close contact with our furry friends. Some leading organisations recommend monthly roundworm prevention for dogs and cats, and many of the products available are designed to be used in this way.
More than worms
Of course, worms aren’t the only parasites out there who would like to live on your pet, so when we’re thinking about worm prevention, we also need to take a look at the other parasites that might come into contact with your pet. These days, many products are designed to multitask, treating a whole spectrum of internal and external parasites. We vets normally recommend using a combination of products that between them address all the risks for your individual pet. Before treatment though, you should check your combo is safe to use together, particularly for your pet’s age, size and breed.
If you’ve given your pet medicine before, you’ll already know whether they run away when they see a tablet packet! No fear, help is here! There are now many flavoured or spot-on treatments, some of which only need to be given infrequently, meaning treatment time is less of a nightmare for both you and your pet.
Some people prefer to treat worms and other parasites once they’re aware that their pet has a problem, while others choose a regular preventative strategy from the beginning. Whichever approach you feel most comfortable with, if you understand the different factors that can affect your decision, you and your vet can make sure you choose the best approach for your pet.