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A Hidden Problem

It is very easy to forget some of the routine treatments we must administer to our pets to keep them healthy and avoid serious complications.

One of the simplest but most important is the regular dosing of worm medications. This was brought to mind recently when we were confronted with a 60cm tapeworm recovered from a perfectly happy young dog.

In many cases the problem is hidden and the pet shows no sign of illness and no sign of the parasites living internally. The major concern other than the effect on the pet is that many of the parasites of dogs and cats can pose a serious risk to the humans in the house and other animals such as livestock. This situation is known as a zoonosis infection.

The risk to humans is particularly evident in children where hand washing and hygiene is lacking and contact with the family pet is more intimate. A number of worm species can cause dramatic illness in young children. Roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms are the common problems caused by intestinal worms. Other parasites causing zoonotic diseases in humans are not protected by routine worming preparations but can be very serious.

The prevention of worms in domestic pets is relatively simple. It starts at a young age with puppy worming products and is continued regularly for the life of the pet. Even with no sign of worms the medication needs to be routinely given generally every three months. An alternative approach is to regularly test for the presence of worms and treat if the test is positive for parasite eggs.

The treatment for intestinal worms can be given by tablet or liquid or by the application of spot- on treatments. Some products are less effective than others and some have a limited range of action. Some are for puppies only and some treat particular worms only. It is wise to choose the correct product at all times. Always ask for advice if you are not sure what you need.

And to clear up a common misconception – ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin and is not related to any ‘worms’ carried by the pet. The treatment is completely different.

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