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Parasite risk assessments

02 October 2018
10 mins read
Volume 9 · Issue 8


Risk assessments are a vital component in creating a parasite control plan. No single parasite control plan will fit all pets, but a risk assessment will enable parasite control to be optimised while avoiding over treatment. Fleas and Toxocara spp. worms are ubiquitous, with all cats and dogs likely to be exposed in their lifetime. Routine treatment for these parasites is therefore the basis for UK parasite control plans with risk assessment then helping to ascertain whether preventative treatments for other parasites are required and at what frequency. Veterinary nurses play a vital role in making parasite risk assessments through dedicated clinics, discussions at reception and by phone.

Risk assessments are a vital component in creating a parasite control plan. No single parasite control plan will fit all pets, but a risk assessment will enable the pet to be allocated a risk group. Parasite control plans can then be easily tailored to meet the individual pet's needs.

In the UK, most parasite control plans begin with considering the ‘common’ parasites. Due to climate changes and the use of central heating in homes, the environmental stages of the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, can persist all year. This results in an increased flea challenge and the establishment of infestations if routine prophylaxis is not utilised (Coles and Dryden, 2014). In addition, all puppies and kittens are infected by Toxocara canis and Toxocara cati at or after birth via the transplacental (puppies) and transmammary (puppies and kittens) routes (Overgaauw and Van Knapen, 2013). If untreated 5–10% of adult domestic dogs and 10–26% of adult domestic cats shed Toxocara spp. eggs (Wright and Wolfe, 2007; Overgaauw and van Knapen, 2013; Wright et al, 2016). The eggs contaminate the environment where they develop to embryonated eggs which present a zoonotic risk to humans. For the preventative treatment of roundworm, the minimum recommendation is treatment with a licensed anthelmintic every 3 months to reduce egg shedding. This routine treatment combined with routine flea control to prevent household establishment is therefore the basis of parasite control plans for cats and dogs in the UK.

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