Protecting Your Four Legged Friends Against Parasites

Our dogs Pepper and Ziggy are an important part of our family and if either one of them was to die we would all be devastated. We have had nine-year-old Pepper since she was 8 weeks old and three-year-old Ziggy since he was 6 months old. We have nurtured them through house training, their vaccinations and we have loved taking them for their first walks and buying them new toys to play in the garden.

I also know how important it is to keep up to date on their parasite prevention treatments so that they are protected from fleas, ticks and worms but it would seem that many other pet owners don’t know how important this is and they may even be putting their pet’s health and the health of their families at risk from parasites.

A nationwide survey carried out by Pet Parasite Action of more than 1000 dog owners found that 85% of those who filled out the survey said that they happily hug their pets, nearly a third have also found pet parasites on themselves or their children and most didn’t even know which parasites are the riskiest for their pets or their families.

Lungworm is a worry to most dog owners and it can be fatal if not treated, there has been a lot of advertising on TV in recent years to make owners aware of how dangerous this parasite is to pets but parasites such as ticks and roundworms are very much underestimated as disease risks to pets and people.

TV presenter Jenni Falconer is backing a campaign which aims to raise awareness of the need to treat pets in order to prevent these pesky parasites.

“As a dog owner and a mum, I want to be sure I do the best thing for my pet and my family. During the Pet Parasite Action campaign, I’m encouraging all pet owners to visit their vet for a simple way to help protect their pet against parasites inside and out, including those that might be harmful to rest of the family. Let’s act now to protect all the members of our family, furry or otherwise.”

The Pet Parasite Action survey also found that the majority of people let their pet sleep on their bed, sit on their sofa or lap and even lick their faces and give them kisses. A few even let their pets lick the family’s plates and sit at the dinner table. Over a third of people say they never think about the parasites their pet might be hosting, despite the potential risks.

The survey showed that 74% of dog owners were worried about lungworm and 82% of dog owners are able to correctly identify that lungworm could be fatal to their pets, however, 43%, said they thought dog lungworm is the parasite that poses the greatest risk to human health, when actually it’s harmless to people. Having said that lungworm is a threat – cases are increasing and spreading throughout the country and into previously unaffected areas. If your pet isn’t protected from lungworm maybe now is the time to visit you vet.

Over a third of those surveyed (36%) say they are worried about ticks but only 48% knew that ticks can cause fatalities in dogs because of the diseases they transmit. Also, only 28% recognise that ticks (as a transmitter of Lyme disease in people) are a risk to human health. The threat from ticks to pets and people is also on the increase and in recent years there has been a massive increase in tick numbers across the UK due to changing weather patterns and a growing population of deer, which host ticks. You can purchase tick removal tools cheaply but if you are unsure how to remove a tick yourself then see a GP or a pharmacist who will be able to help. If your pet has a tick you can ring your vet for advice.

The least worried about parasite according to the survey results is probably one of the most worrying. Just 15% of respondents said that they were worried about roundworms and only 7% correctly said they think roundworms could threaten human health. Did you know that if accidentally eaten, eggs from the roundworm Toxocara pose a significant threat to human health, potentially causing blindness or neurological disease – especially in children?

The results showed that one in four people didn’t know that their pet could have parasites as they might not be visible, as is often the case with lungworms, hard to find ticks and roundworms and the microscopic eggs they produce.

Around 1 in 6 said that it’s been about a year since they last treated their pet for ticks, lungworm or roundworm and despite being concerned about its effects, 23% say that they don’t know when their pet was last treated for lungworm.

The survey also showed that most dog owners avoid certain actions after treating their pet against parasites: 61 percent avoid bathing their dog or letting it swim, 41 percent avoid them or their children having contact with their dog and 33% avoid letting their dog on the sofa or bed. However, there are now palatable oral chews available to treat several parasites which mean there is no need to avoid these actions, and owners can continue interacting with their dogs as normal post-treatment.

Vet Janet Winter points out that the survey identifies that people really love their dogs, finding them a great source of comfort and non-judgemental love, while also helping them stay active,

“It’s very easy to enjoy the benefits of pet ownership and give your dog all the love they need, while also helping to protect them and the rest of your family from parasites. Dog owners should visit their vet for a simple treatment against parasites inside and out”.

In the case of parasites, prevention is better than cure… For the sake of a couple of pounds is the health of your pet or that of your family worth the risk?

Do you have pets? If so do you treat them regularly for parasites?

*This is a collaborative post*

**1056 dog owners responded to the survey which was carried out in February 2017**

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