Pets need to be wormed reg­u­larly and ef­fec­tively

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - LIFESTYLE - PETE WEDDERBURN

WORMS in dogs and cats are im­por­tant for two rea­sons: first, they can cause se­ri­ous ill health in an­i­mals. And sec­ond, they can cause se­ri­ous ill­ness in hu­mans, es­pe­cially in chil­dren. That’s why it’s so im­por­tant to have an ef­fec­tive worm con­trol pro­gramme if you have pets in your home.

THERE are many prod­ucts avail­able over the counter, in pet shops, su­per­mar­kets and on­line. But which prod­ucts re­ally work, and when do pet own­ers need to give worm doses any­way? Some own­ers mis­tak­enly be­lieve that if you don’t see worms, and if your pet is healthy, there’s no need to do any­thing. The truth isn’t as simple as that, and I’ ll ex­plain why with a cou­ple of real life cases. BUSTER is an eight week old ter­rier puppy. When his new owner took him on from the breeder, they were told that he had al­ready been wormed. Just a week later, Buster de­vel­oped a runny tummy, and to his owner’s hor­ror, he started to pass spaghetti-like worms, with blood. They brought him to me for treat­ment, and their first ques­tion was “why did the breeder’s treat­ment not work?” THE an­swer to this ques­tion can be found by look­ing at the life cycle of the dog round­worm. This worm is found in al­most all puppies be­cause it’s passed on to them from their mother. WHEN a fe­male puppy is in­fected with worms, some of the worm lar­vae mi­grate through their pup’s tis­sues, where they set­tle into a dor­mant form, wait­ing for the day when the pup grows into an adult breed­ing fe­male. Then dur­ing preg­nancy, changes in that adult dog’s im­mune sys­tem al­low the dor­mant worm lar­vae to be­come active. FIRST while the pups are still in the womb, worm lar­vae pass to the puppies in the blood via the um­bil­i­cal cord, in­fect­ing the puppies with worms be­fore they are even born.

SEC­ONDLY, some of the dor­mant worm lar­vae set­tle into the young pup’s mam­mary glands, wait­ing un­til she grows into an adult bitch pro­duc­ing milk. These worm lar­vae are then passed on to the new gen­er­a­tion of puppies when they suckle.

THESE two routes of worm in­fes­ta­tion mean that nearly all puppies are in­fected with worms, and they then start to shed worms in their fae­ces, caus­ing all the pups in the lit­ter (and the mother) to be­come re­in­fected with even more worms.

IT’S a chal­lenge to com­pletely con­trol worms in a dog breed­ing en­vi­ron­ment. That’s why vets al­ways ad­vise that pups should be wormed as soon as they ar­rive in their new homes, with re­peated worm dos­ing us­ing ef­fec­tive prod­ucts.

AS with anti-flea prod­ucts, not all “worm­ers” are the same. There is no point in giv­ing “tape­worm” tablets to a puppy with round­worms: they won’t work. You can buy pow­ders, liq­uids and spot-on prod­ucts, all work­ing in dif­fer­ent ways. It’s easy to waste money of prod­ucts that are not ap­pro­pri­ate. THE best an­swer is to ask for pro­fes­sional ad­vice from your vet. Most puppies need to visit the vet any­way, for a thor­ough check­over and for vac­ci­na­tions. Your vet will give you clear ad­vice on pre­cisely which worm­ing prod­uct to use, and when to give it.

FOR Buster the puppy, I rec­om­mended a pre­scrip­tion-only highly ef­fec­tive broad spec­trum worm­ing tablet, to be re­peated ev­ery two weeks till he is 12 weeks old, then once a month, long term. This will keep him safe, and it will also protect the chil­dren in the house from dog worms.

THE sec­ond case that demon­strates the chal­lenge of worm con­trol was an adult Col­lie called Danny who had de­vel­oped a cough. When I ex­am­ined a fae­ces un­der the mi­cro­scope, dozens of lung­worm eggs were vis­i­ble. This explained why he had been cough­ing. DOGS pick up lung­worm by eat­ing slugs and snails: an­i­mals like Danny who spend a lot of time out­doors are prone to doing this. Even dogs that are not seen to be eat­ing slugs and snails of­ten chew grass, ac­ci­den­tally swal­low­ing tiny snails. LUNG­WORM set­tle in the blood ves­sels around the heart and in the lungs: the ob­vi­ous sign of ill­ness is cough­ing, but more wor­ry­ingly, the worms stop the blood from clot­ting. I’ve wit­nessed young healthy dogs dy­ing overnight, with no pre­vi­ous signs of ill­ness. On au­topsy, they were found to have died from brain haem­or­rhage, and they had ev­i­dence of lung­worm in their lungs: the brain bleed had hap­pened be­cause the lung­worm had stopped their blood from clot­ting. If they had been given ef­fec­tive lung­worm pre­ven­tion med­i­ca­tion, they would not have died.

DANNY had shown no sign of in­ter­nal bleeds: the cough was the only sign. He was treated with a pre­scrip­tion only spot-on worm treat­ment, and within 24 hours, he had stopped cough­ing. He now gets a once monthly dose, to en­sure that he’s never again exposed to the risk of lung­worm. I’VE only men­tioned round­worm and lung­worm: pets can also get tape­worm, hook­worm, whip­worm and oth­ers. These are all eas­ily treat­able, with the right prod­ucts given at the cor­rect fre­quency. TO protect your dog or cat, make sure you dis­cuss par­a­site con­trol with your vet at the next an­nual health check. It isn’t dif­fi­cult, but the de­tails are im­por­tant. The ap­par­ent “quick fix” from the supermarke­t pet sec­tion is un­likely to be the full an­swer that you are look­ing for.

Dog and cat worms can cause ill­ness in pets and in hu­mans

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