Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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The Confusing World of Pet Parasite Prevention

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The Confusing World of Pet Parasite Prevention


Most dog and cat owners understand the importance of keeping their pets safe from deadly parasites, like heartworms and intestinal worms.  But, our stores are now being flooded with generic products and these new brands are creating confusion.  In addition, some of the other, better known products, have disappeared leaving everyone even more confused.  Exactly what parasite control products should you be using for your pets?

Dr. Jim HumphriesBy:  Dr. Jim Humphries, Certified Veterinary Journalist, Veterinary News Network


According to PetsAndParasites.com, a website devoted to tracking the occurrence of parasites in our pets, the prevalence of deadly heartworms continues to cause problems.  More than 1% of dogs tested will be positive for heartworms in the US every year.  Thatís almost a million pets suffering from a preventable disease!  Rates are even higher for parasites like roundworms and hookworms!

Thankfully, we have had safe and effective parasite treatment and preventive products available for many years.  So, why are we still seeing so many cases? There are many theories.

Despite the claims of Internet sites who say rising resistance among heartworms or massive failure of preventives is to blame, the reality is probably a little closer to home.   Dr. Sheldon Rubin, a past president of the American Heartworm Society is quoted as saying that human error or forgetfulness is probably the biggest reason for pets developing heartworm disease.  His comments are echoed by research in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that reviewed cases of presumed heartworm preventive failure and found that owner compliance was actually much lower than originally reported.

Graphic of various pillsBut, an uncertainty among pet owners about which product to use (market confusion), as well as economic factors, are fueling at least some of the issue.  Generic heartworm preventives can now be found in many human pharmacies and online pet pharmacies are offering six to ten different medications to the public.  Itís frankly hard for a pet owner to choose.

Experts from the American Heartworm Society recommend giving heartworm preventive year round.  Just be sure you are using a prescription product that contains one of these known compounds; ivermectin, milbemycin oxime, selamectin or moxidectin.  Then your pet needs to receive a dose once monthly, every month, all year long.

Some of these medications are also effective against intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.  A few of these preventives are also now using compounds to treat tapeworms in addition to the other parasites.  Itís even possible to get heartworm preventive that also includes means to help control fleas!!

Part of consumer confusion is whether to buy the least expensive product or the one that covers every possible parasite.  Veterinarians do understand how this can be such a confounding problem. 

In fact, certain parasites are less common in some areas of the country and your petís risk factors vary quite a bit.  These risk factors also include exposure to parasites through trips to dog parks, hiking or camping, interstate travel or even the presence of other animals in the household. 

Veterinarian with petVeterinarians follow these trends every year.  They couple this information with their understanding of the different life cycles, knowledge of your petís specific medical conditions, the reputation of the drug manufacturers and your region of the country.  They are ideally equipped to help you more fully understand exactly which product provides the best parasite protection for your pet and your family.

Also it is so important for you not to fall for advice in online forums that recommend odd-ball alternative methods of protecting your pets against any parasite, but especially heartworm disease.  Many of these simply fuel speculation about diminishing effectiveness of heartworm preventives and they are not well researched.  These sites often misinterpret data or are actively promoting products that have not gone through proper testing and safety research. 

This is an area of pet care where we have made great advances, but bad advice and a confusing market have created unnecessary risks and vulnerabilities. Trust your petís healthcare advice to your family veterinarian and team.  You can also trust the advice from a site like MyVNN.com.




Dr. Humphries has been granted the Seal of Approval by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists.