Where do they come from?
There are a few different types of worms that can affect our dogs and cats. In our area, we deal with roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. There is also heartworm nearby, in areas many people here would be visiting. Most worms are picked up by our pets from the soil, from small rodent feces, and can be transmitted between animals. Heartworm is transmitted through mosquitoes. There are many that can be transmitted from dogs to cats and vice versa, so if you have an indoor cat and a dog that goes outside, you will still need to deworm your cat. Many worms can also be passed to humans. This is especially important if there are young children in your home that spend time crawling on the floor. They may be picking up parasites from the particles left on your dog’s paws when they come into the house from outside. So make sure to take deworming seriously if you have children at home! You may also be at risk if you are pregnant (this is the same reason you should get someone else to clean the litter box when pregnant).
What are risk factors?
Most dogs who are low risk, meaning they go outside in a year a few times a day, or go on leash walks, can be dewormed just twice per year, in the spring and fall. The exception to this is areas where heartworm is a problem. Most heartworm treatments need to be given monthly to be effective. Heartworm is not a big concern in Quesnel at this time, but make sure to let us know in advance if you are travelling with your pet. Heartworm is more common in dogs than in cats, but can cause serious clinical disease in both.
For some pets that are at higher risk, deworming every 3-4 months may be recommended. These pets include dogs that live on farms around livestock, are outdoors a lot of the time, may come into contact with wildlife or carcasses, and dogs that are fed a raw diet. Cats that are outdoors are likely hunting, even if you don’t know it, and therefore may pick up parasites from their prey. There is a saying, if you don’t have mice in your house, it’s because your cat’s hunting them!
The biggest concern with worm infestations is diarrhea. If severe, this can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and can be a big concern if not treated. Your pet also may exhibit decreased energy and appetite, further complicating the weight loss. Other signs you may notice are a dry, rough haircoat, “pot-bellied” appearance, “scooting” (dragging their bums), or licking around their anus more than usual. Be cautious also if your pet develops a cough after you have been in an area that has heartworm. This can be a sign of heartworm disease. You may want to get them tested, especially if your pet has not had any heartworm prevention on board.
What dewormers should I choose?
There are many different types of dewormers out there. Unfortunately there is no one-stop fix for all parasites we are concerned with, do not be surprised if your vet recommends multiple products. Usually this means a treatment for internal parasites (worms), and another one for external parasites (fleas, ticks, mites). If you are traveling to areas with heartworm, choose a product that contains milbemycin oxime, such as interceptor, Interceptor Plus, or Milbemax for cats. Otherwise, for those higher risk pets, make sure to choose a product that will target tapeworms such as something containing praziquantel such as Profender for cats, and you can still use Interceptor for your dogs. If your pet is low-risk, you may be most concerned with roundworms, and may be able to get away with using a single product that will also take care of external parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites. It might be wise however, to use a more broad spectrum product anyway to be safe. There is a low risk of major side effects with these products, and the clinical symptoms that can arise with infestations can be severe.
When in doubt - fecal it out!
The best practice for deworming your dogs and cats is to have a fecal egg quantification done. This way we can tell what worms are present, how high the infestation is, and what we should be using to treat. It is also a good idea to then re-check several weeks after administering the treatment to make sure it was effective.
A word about resistance:
As with most medication; due to overuse, resistance has become an issue with deworming medications for dogs and cats. Particularly with medications containing ivermectin. The medications we carry contain newer ingredients that we have not seen as much resistance to yet, but it is still a concern. This is why it is best to do fecals to check what we have internally before medicating.
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