Risk management in pet parasite control - Veterinary Practice
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Risk management in pet parasite control

BLAISE SCOTT-MORRIS of Virbac says that with all the reports of exotic parasites, we shouldn’t overlook those closer to home when considering preventive parasite programmes…

IN THE PAST YEAR BOTH VETS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC have encountered various stories in the media regarding parasites, some exotic, some less so, and the possibility of transmissible diseases.

It is important to remember, however, that the best parasite prevention programme is tailored to the individual pet and its lifestyle.

Our first old fiend to revisit is Toxocara canis, a parasite with worldwide distribution that has zoonotic potential. In young dogs, we should be particularly concerned with the occurrence of patent infections, i.e. ability to clinically identify parasite (Nijsse, 2016).

Patent infections, however, are less likely in dogs over six months of age due to a degree of age-related immunity to tracheal migration of the larvae (Dubey, 1978). Despite this, it is important that adult dogs are regularly wormed to prevent this parasite, particularly if they fall into risk groups which may increase exposure to the parasite or circumstances which affect immunity and allow the recrudescence of patent infections (Nijsse, 2016).

Examples of high-risk groups are as follows (Nijsse, 2016):

  • young animals,
  • coprophagic animals,
  • animals who spend a lot of time off the lead,
  • dogs under periods of stress,
  • dogs on immunosuppressive treatment, e.g. corticosteroids.

It is also noted that there are individual variations in adult dogs, with some experiencing multiple patent infections (Nijsse, 2016). These dogs should be identified and regularly treated for both their own health and to protect others.

The flea may be an old nemesis but many of us still regularly battle with this persistent pest due to milder winters and central heating. When tackling fleas, it is vital to remember that seeing just a few fleas can represent a much bigger problem, especially in cats who can ingest up to 50% of their adult fleas during grooming (Taylor, 2007)!

This does not only prove a hindrance to diagnosis of a flea infestation but can also facilitate the transmission of Dipylidium caninium as well as some species of Rickettsia and Bartonella (Azad, 1997).

In the ongoing battle with the flea, ensuring your clients are aware of the full flea lifecycle, with 95% of the problem in the environment, can help speed up resolution and increase treatment compliance.

Flea eggs, larvae and pupae can be found anywhere the pet goes, not just in the home – in the car, the cat carrier and even the garden shed! Environmental sprays, such as Indorex (Virbac), should be used to tackle the persistent eggs and larvae in the environment alongside adulticide onanimal treatments.

Nothing but fire can kill the pupal stage but advising owners to vacuum regularly after using an environmental treatment can encourage the pupae to emerge as young adult fleas and speed up resolution of the infestation. Indorex also has action against the developing eggs and larvae for up to 12 months so can be invaluable in preventing flea infestations; it is also authorised for treatment of house dust mites so can also be a huge asset in dogs with allergic skin disease.

As mentioned above, it is not just the bites, skin irritation and general feeling of repulsion that plague pets and owners in regards to fleas, but their ability to transmit other diseases and parasites, such as Dipylidium caninum.

Although in low numbers this tapeworm can be well tolerated by adult animals, newly passed segments are active and can cause perineal irritation – it can also be very alarming for owners to see the newly passed active segments!

A recent survey estimated the average infestation rate of fleas with D. caninum to be 19.7% (Beugnet, 2014); therefore, treatment for tapeworm is important, especially in households with children or immunocompromised individuals, as D. caninum is recognised as zoonotic (Cabello, 2011).

It is also worth noting the implications for the wider community when thinking about parasite treatment regimes, reminding clients of their social responsibility as a pet owner. Parasites do not just affect the infected pet but also the pets and humans around them.

For example, dogs of owners who regularly pick up their dog’s faeces, and appropriately dispose of it, are at significantly less risk of a patent infection with Toxocara spp versus dogs with owners who never do that (Nijsse, 2016).

In conclusion, looking at the pet, its lifestyle and risk factors should help us implement the most appropriate preventive parasite regime. Our client may be staying close to home or venturing far and wide, so it is essential we gather all the information we need in order to advise on the correct parasite prevention.


Azad, A., Radulovic, S., Higgins, J. A., Noden, B. H. and Troyer, J. M. (1997) Fleaborne rickettsioses: ecologic considerations. Emerg Infect Dis 3: 319-327.

Cabello, R. R., Ruiz, A. C., Feregrino, R. R., Romero, L. C., Feregrino, R. R. and Zaavala, J. T. (2011) Dipylidium caninum infection. BMJ Case Rep.

Dubey, J. P. (1978). Patent Toxocara canis infection in ascarid-naive dogs. J Parasitol 64 (6): 1,021-1,023.

Nijsse, R., Mughini-Gras, L., Wagenaar, J. A. and Ploeger, H. W. (2016) Recurrent patent infections with Toxocara canis in household dogs older than six months: a prospective study. Parasit Vectors 9 (1): 531.

Taylor, M. A., Coop, R. L. and Wall, R. L. (2007) Veterinary Parasitology 3rd edition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

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