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Pet Care|Worms V

ets are always banging on about fleas and worms arenʼt they but when do you ever see

them? If I wasnʼt a vet Iʼd be highly sceptical about the whole idea. Thereʼs something of the Emperorʼs new clothes about it but I promise you it is a real concern. I can attest to this by virtue of the three months we spent at university covering parasitology and with thirty six hours of lectures a week I can tell you that it tends to stick in the mind!

The first thing to say is that the majority of cats and dogs will not become unwell as a result of worms. Parasites have evolved to damage the host as little as possible and they would soon reach an evolutionary dead end if they killed their home before reproducing. (Lung worm is a relevant exception to this, causing fairly nasty clinical signs and even death in some dogs and we are always alert to new parasites spreading north.)

The second thing to say is that it is very difficult to tell if your pet has worms. Worms will sit in your petʼs intestines or other organs without producing any outward signs at all.

So we have three options for dealing with them:

1. Do nothing – Some people do not like the idea of treating their pets and would rather avoid medication. This is an understandable position and not one that I would particularly argue against as long as itʼs done from a rational perspective. The trade off is that your pet may have some parasite burden and a proportion of them will be overrun by parasites. This is only a small proportion but it is a few orders of magnitude greater than the proportion

of animals that will suffer adverse effects from the medication. This is not a suitable option for families with young children or dogs at risk of lungworm who really should be treated on a routine basis.

2. Test and treat as necessary. This again is a good option but not one pursued by many people for pragmatic reasons. We could look at a faecal sample once every 3 months and treat based on results. Most people eschew this as one faecal analysis costs the same as 3 or 4 yearʼs worth of wormers and it is not a particularly pleasant item to have on the to–do list. It would however limit the overall exposure to drugs whilst ensuring good quality protection against internal parasites.

3. Treat prophylactically. This means treating your pet on a routine basis following the assumption that they will probably pick up some parasites at some time. This seems the most sensible basis both in terms of cost and prevention and is what most people opt for. There is a wide array of products available; if you get them from the vet then you know they are safe and effective. If they are not from a vet they should be labelled NFA-VPS, this signifies drugs which have received marketing authorisation but are no longer prescription controlled.

Mr Richard Harper is the owner and principal vet at the newly opened Arc Veterinary Centre in Muswell Hill.

Arch 3, St James Lane, Muswell Hill N10 3QX Tel: 0208 444 9006 | E:

Mr Richard Harper BVetMed MSc(Onc) MRCVS 32 To advertise please telephone 020 8275 5307 or email:

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