By Dr Asia O’Neill DVM
God requires that we assist the animals when they need our help. Each being (human or creature) has the same right to protection. —Francis of Assisi
The use of an appropriate anthelminthic is fundamental in promoting good health and proper growth. A high intestinal worm burden can lead to malnutrition as nutrients are being leached and even anemia in the case of tape and hookworm infestation. Bloated abdomens are suggestive of the presence of intestinal worms, especially if there is poor body condition. It is recommended that puppies and kittens be dewormed from as early as two (weeks old, followed by another at four weeks old. The deworming protocol is continued with each vaccination visit and after the last shot, every three months, if done by the veterinarian. Monthly doses of oral preparation can alternatively be used if preferred. Keeping intestinal worms at bay will allow for optimal use of nutrition in promoting overall good body condition. Always ensure that the right dose is being given if deworming at home is chosen. This can be determined by instructions given on each package which states how many tablets should be administered depending on weight. There is a variety of broad-spectrum anthelmintics that can be recommended depending on the type of infection present.
Common types of worms
These are also known as roundworms. They are large and white and can reach three to four inches in length. They can be often seen in faeces. The first route of infection is through the placenta while in utero. Other routes of infection include ingestion of milk from the mother or faeces that contain infective eggs and/or encysted larvae. Ascarids can easily be eliminated by the use of broad-spectrum dewormers.
Tapeworms are also very common. Adult tapeworms are long, flat and ribbon-like. They are segmented and each segment contains hundreds of eggs. The segments can be shed in faeces, and have the appearance of rice grains or cucumber seeds. The spread of tapeworms involves an intermediate host, the flea. Tapeworm eggs, that have been liberated from the segment, are ingested by flea larvae. The tapeworm eggs need the intermediate host to develop into their infective stage. By this time, the flea larvae would have developed into an adult flea. Tapeworm infection occurs when a flea is ingested by the definitive host, i.e., your pet. Praziquantel is usually the anthelminthic used to treat tapeworm infection, using repeated doses to ensure complete eradication. Treatment of fleas will also help in the control by removing the needed intermediate host.
Hookworm infection has the potential to have the most harmful effect. They measure ½ inch in length and 1/30th inch in diameter. This diminutive size means they are not recognised when shed in faeces.
Their mouths contain hooks that attach directly to the intestinal lining. Heavy hookworm burden can lead to anemia and malnutrition, as they feed on blood directly and the repeated attachment and detachment leave a trail of the damaged bleeding lining. Infection occurs by ingestion of infective larvae. Same as the roundworm, an infected mother can be a source of infection by transfer through the placenta while pregnant or by nursing. Hookworms are also shed by faeces, thus the presence of contaminated faeces in the environment can lead to infection.
Often times I’m asked how soon can a bath be given. Puppies as young as six weeks can be bathed with commercially made shampoos or gentle cleansers such as baby washes/shampoos. Ideally, baths should be done no more than once a month. Excessive bathing can lead to dry flaky skin that causes itchiness and irritation. The presence of ectoparasites, such as fleas and ticks, can easily be resolved with topical treatments, such as spray or pour-on formulas. Usually, these can be used from as young as eight weeks old or as indicated by the product being used. Systemic products, which are available in the form of a tablet, are also highly effective at eradicating flea and tick infestation and provide a continuous eliminating effect for a prescribed time.
NexGard is recommended for puppies at least eight weeks old, while Bravecto can be given from six months of age. Pour-on treatments can be administered to kittens as young as eight weeks old. These preparations are placed on the skin at the back of the neck or between the shoulder blades, where it will be absorbed into the skin. It is advised to avoid the use of general body sprays for kittens, as they regularly groom themselves, which can lead to toxic effects by ingestion of the product. For puppies younger than eight weeks old, spray treatments can be used very lightly. It is important to remember that young animals’ skin can be very sensitive, so attention to strength and amount of product is needed.
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