Prevention and control of parasitic infections in dogs and cats - when and how often? How much does it cost? What are the various methods of deworming?

The prevention of parasites in dogs and cats includes defense against both internal and external parasites (ectoparasites and endoparasites). It is vital to keep in mind that many parasites have zoonotic potential, which is important for human health. Parasite prevention is not only drug prescription—it also includes cleaning after your animals. Many parasites are present in feces, and that is why cleaning your dog's poop is important in decreasing the risk of parasites spreading to humans and other animals.


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When and how often do dogs and cats need to be dewormed? 

DOG 

In adult dogs, the deworming schedule depends on the amount of contact with other dogs, wild animals, and their feces. This schedule is established by a veterinarian based on environmental history and clinical examination. Usually, dogs are dewormed 4 times a year, or a stool test is performed 4 times a year and, based on the result, deworming is applied. Other regimens are used in puppies, pregnant and lactating dogs. The first anti-parasitic drug can be used in puppies after 2 weeks of age. 

CAT 

Outdoor adult cats are dewormed 4 times a year—once a quarter or based on a fecal examination, which should then be performed quarterly. If there are parasites in the stool, an appropriate anti-parasitic drug is administered. Other regimens are used in kittens, pregnant cats, nursing cats, or cats with a higher risk of infection. In kittens, the first deworming is applied after 2 weeks of age.

Indoor cats are dewormed twice a year or based on a fecal examination, which should also be performed twice a year. If the test detects parasites, the veterinarian will recommend an appropriate preparation.

What parasites are common for cats and dogs? 

Parasite diseases are the most common diseases in cats and dogs. We divide parasites into two groups: those that are living on animal skin (ectoparasites) and those that are living inside the animal (endoparasites). 

Internal parasites occurring in cats and dogs are: tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum, Echinococcus multilocularis, Taenia spp.), nematodes (Toxocara spp., Dirofilaria immitis, Trichinella spiralis, hookworm, whipworm), and also protozoa (Toxoplasma gondi, Giardia intestinalis, Leishmania infantum).

Fleas and ticks (Ixodes ricinus, Dermacentor reticulatus) are the two most typical external parasites in domestic animals. That is why people forget about the others – scabies, demodex, and lice can also occur in cats and dogs.

What types of anti-parasite drugs are used to deworm animals? 

Preparations for parasites come in various forms. Those for endoparasites are available in the form of tablets, pastes, or spot-on that are applied topically. Each of them has different active substances and has a different duration of action. A veterinarian should make the preparation recommendation based on the demands of the animal and the animal's environmental background. 

In ectoparasite preparations, there may be substances that act generally or locally on the skin. The most common are topical products. They contain substances that get into the sebaceous glands and regularly spread the preparation, which paralyzes the parasites on the animal's skin for the period specified by the manufacturer. In the case of preparations that act generally, active substances bind to blood proteins and cause paralysis after a parasite bite. They can be applied in the form of tablets or topically. Currently, there are numerous products available on the market against ectoparasites with various combinations of active substances and duration of action.

Parasite prevention – contraindications

There are very few medical situations in which we cannot administer antiparasitic drugs to an animal. Such preparations shouldn't be provided to very young animals (less than 2 weeks of age) or animals in very severe clinical conditions (with hepatic or renal insufficiency). Full doses should also not be used in animals with very intense worm infestation. In these cases, the decision to administer the preparation and its dose is made by a veterinarian.


In a situation where your pet is hypersensitive to any substances contained in antiparasitic medicines, it is absolutely necessary to inform the veterinarian about it. The vet will then select other measures that can be applied to your pet to maintain adequate protection against parasites.


In dogs, a mutation in the MDR1 gene occurs, and it is associated with hypersensitivity reaction to some antiparasitic medications: ivermectin, doramectin, abamexin, emodepside, milbemycin, moxidectin, and selamectin. It is also related to certain breeds: Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Long-Haired Scottish Sheepdog, Long-Haired Whippet. Appropriate genetic tests should be performed to determine the presence of this disorder.


What dangers are associated with insufficient parasite prevention?

Insufficient parasite control is a serious threat to an animal's health and, in some cases, even its life. Parasites are widely spread in the environment because: not every animal owner cleans after their pet; feces of wild animals; growing numbers of ticks even in urban areas; contact with stray animals. Even if we keep an eye on our pet during walks, sometimes it is nearly impossible to react on time and prevent contact with contagious material. Outdoor cats often hunt for small rodents and birds. Even feeding with raw meat increases the risk of parasite infection. Given on time, anti-parasite drugs prevent domestic animals from many diseases.

One of the most dangerous diseases for dogs carried by ticks is babesiosis, caused by protist Babesia canis. Babesia attacks red blood cells and causes their lysis. The animal very quickly shows symptoms related to anemia - reluctance to eat and drink, weakness, apathy, pale mucous membranes, dehydration, fever. As the disease progresses, more serious symptoms appear - loss of consciousness, yellowing of the mucous membranes, dark red urine, neurological deficits, pulmonary edema. If this disease is not discovered in its early stages, can lead to the death of the animal. Fortunately, babesiosis is not observed in cats in our climate zone.


The presence of endoparasites in the gastrointestinal tract is associated with progressive diarrhea and anemia. In these circumstances, our pet's ability to absorb nutrients is impaired, which leads to more and more devastation and, depending on the type of parasite present, might cause the parasite to spread to other areas of the body. Typically, owners notice worms in the animal's feces and visit the vet before an intense infestation develops. However, it is worth preventing such circumstances by giving your pet the appropriate anti-parasitic drugs on time. Protozoa such as Giardia are not visible in the stool, and we will not detect them with a standard fecal flotation test. A special stool test for Giardia should be performed if giardiasis is suspected.


What are the symptoms and what should you do if you suspect parasitic infestation in your pet? 

If your pet has symptoms such as: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Apathy
  • weakness
  • pale mucous membranes
  • the presence of parasites or blood in the stool
  • change in color of urine
  • loos of appetite
  • loss of consciousness
  • vomiting
  • skin changes
  • excessive scratching

You should go to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible to consult your pet's symptoms. The veterinarian will closely analyze the condition of your pet and suggest additional diagnostics and, after the results, appropriate treatment. He will also recommend a proper schedule of parasite control. If you stick to the schedule, you will be able to protect your pet from serious diseases.

What are the procedures conducted on a check-up visit witch parasitic control?

During this kind of visit, the veterinarian will recommend, based on the environmental interview and clinical examination of the patient, a schedule for the administration of drugs against internal and external parasites. This schedule depends on the animal species, stool examination, patient age, health, fertility (pregnancy), lifestyle, and diet. A dog and a cat have different needs, and the use of prophylactic preparations will differ between outdoor and indoor cats.

The doctor will provide the proper preparation and make the necessary notation about the medication in the patient's health record during the visit. He will also note down the date of the next administration of the preparation. If your pet has ever experienced an adverse response to any substance, inform the veterinarian about it.


FAQ

  • What are the costs of parasite control in dogs and cats?

    The cost of the parasitic control depends mostly on the weight of the pet. Considering 1 kg of body weight is always proportional to the active dose of a particular substance, the larger the animal, the more we will pay for the preparation. The costs also depend on the generation of the active ingredient and the number of antiparasitic substances present in a given preparation. Therefore, we will pay from 15 to 180 PLN for anti-parasitic medications.

  • How long does the visit with parasite control for a cat or dog take?

    Such a visit takes about 15–20 minutes.

  • How do you prepare a cat or dog for a parasite control visit with a veterinarian? 

    You should take the pet's health book with you for such a visit so that the veterinarian can write down the preparation used on it and assign the term of its next application. If the preparation used is a topical-administered preparation, you should not bathe your pet a few days before such a visit and at least a week after. The bath increases the secretion of sebaceous glands, which would result in the faster removal of the active substance from the gland and thus shorten the protection of the antiparasitic preparation.

  • Should a cat or dog receive year-round treatment for fleas and ticks?

    Yes, in the current climate, animals should be protected all year round. Ticks are very well adapted to harsh environmental conditions and only over 2 weeks of temperatures below -7 degrees Celsius are able to kill the larvae and eggs of ticks. If there are no particularly harsh frosts, this parasite's feeding season also includes the winter, when they are not typically present. During the winter, a growing number of veterinarians report cases of babesiosis. It is not worth risking the health of your pet, so you should protect your dog against ticks for 12 months.

  • Do cats need to be protected against ticks?

    Outdoor cats should be protected against ticks. Despite the lower health risk - babesiosis is not a serious disease for cats - ticks transmit many other viruses, bacteria, and protozoa and feed on blood. Therefore, they can pose a potential threat to the health of the pet and all household members - ticks easily pass from the animal's hair to people - therefore cats should be absolutely protected against ticks throughout the year.

  • Do cats staying at home also need parasite protection?

    Yes, indoor cats should be dewormed regularly. Despite the lack of contact with wild animals and other domestic animals, it happens that we give cats raw meat, which also carries a certain risk of parasitic disease. A veterinarian will select the suitable preparations to apply at the appropriate schedule based on the environmental history.

Do you have any other questions?