Responsible use of parasiticides in pets
Parasiticides are an integral part of parasite treatment and prevention in pets. Despite their importance as life-saving medications and a major contributor to better health and quality of life, widespread and inappropriate use of parasiticides could have important consequences. Concerns over parasite control practices involving ‘blanket-treatment’ have caused key organisations to call for more responsible use of parasiticides to minimise the risk of environmental contamination and limit the development of antiparasitic drug resistance. Veterinary professionals are encouraged to follow a more targeted and individualised risk-based approach to parasite control. However, successful adoption and effective implementation of this new approach requires the veterinary profession to overcome many barriers and contextual differences in the way effective parasite control is perceived by the various stakeholders. Recently, evidence-based diagnosis (treatment based on confirmed diagnosis) together with antiparasitic drug stewardship (avoiding unnecessary antiparasitic use in pets which do not benefit from treatment) have been suggested to reconcile the trade-offs between avoiding parasiticide overuse and achieving effective parasite control. Although these new approaches cannot yet fully address the challenges of attaining optimal parasite control, they have the potential to improve the outcomes of parasite treatment and preserve the efficacy of parasiticides, the most essential component of any parasite control regimen.
Pet ownership and animal assisted therapy have become an increasingly common means to improve the physical health and wellbeing of people, including those with social and psychological conditions (Wells, 2009; Beetz et al, 2012). Like any other vertebrate animals, pets can be subjected to infection by a range of internal and external parasites, which can lead to adverse consequences on their health and welfare. The impact of parasites can extend to pet owners when their pets harbour zoonotic parasites. Individuals with compromised immunity are at high risk of infection and should avoid direct contact with infected animals. Preventative parasiticide treatment should therefore be used together with implementing environmental and hygienic measures to ensure the safety of pet owners. Rapid and hygienic disposal of dog faeces, covering sandpits and fencing off play areas, regular monitoring and safe removal of ticks, regular washing of pets' bedding and vacuuming of areas frequented by pets, as well as good hand hygiene and thorough washing of fruits and vegetables before consumption, are among the protective measures recommended by Wright (2017) to reduce the zoonotic risk of parasites.