Have you ever looked at the wide range of pet parasite products available and been totally confused and overwhelmed? I have! With new products emerging all the time, the treatment of pet parasites is a huge business for the manufacturers of these products, with everyone constantly striving to “build a better mousetrap”. So, how do we know which product best for us?
The reality is that there is no single best product. Parasite control is different for everyone, depending on the individual needs of our pets and of their human caretakers as well. So, while the range and volume of products can make us cross-eyed, it also works to our advantage because we can hand-pick those that suit us best. Some of the questions you should ask yourself before purchasing a parasite control product include:
- What species of pet/s do I have? What is their bodyweight?
- How many pets are in my household?
- Is there direct/indirect contact with other animals (eg: at the dog park, farm animals, neighbour’s cat coming into my garden, etc.)
- Is my pet (cat) inside-only? Does my cat hunt?
- Does my pet eat a raw meat diet?
- Which parasites is my pet at risk from in my geographic area? (eg: is there increased risk of heartworm, lungworm, tapeworms, paralysis ticks in my area? Do I or my pet travel to high-risk areas?)
- How easy is it to successfully give my pet (especially my cat) a tablet? Does my pet accept a palatable chew? Is it easier for me to apply a spot-on product? Is the spot-on affected by swimming/bathing?
- How often does the product need to be given/applied to give full protection? Is this convenient to me? Will I remember to reapply the product as recommended?
- Is the product licensed for use in my pet’s species? Is it safe for other species (CARE if your household has both dogs and cats – some dog products, such as those containing pyrethrins, are toxic to cats and can cause death if cats are accidentally exposed)
- How much money am I prepared to spend? Increased convenience of a combination product, increased product quality/efficacy and ease of application usually means increased cost. Compare the cost of a combination product with the cost and convenience of using multiple separate products (eg: a worm tablet plus a spot-on). Based on frequency of dosing needed, how much will each option cost over the course of one year? Is this manageable, convenient and possible for me to achieve?
- Does the product cover against adult parasites only (or immature/juvenile stages only), or will it protect my pet at all stages of the parasite’s life cycle?
Based on these questions, write yourself a list of what you want in a parasite prevention/treatment product. Generally speaking, I advise against supermarket pet products, which are of lower efficacy and safety. They’re cheap for a reason. Veterinarians, veterinary nurses and some pet shop staff have training in parasite reproduction, prevalence and eradication methods, and can help you decide on a product that works best for you and your pet’s individual needs. Even if you prefer to buy products elsewhere, rather than from your clinic, your veterinary professional should be happy to advise you. Many companies also have helplines for customers and can answer any questions you might have about their product.
As an example, I can share with you my cat Maggie’s parasite control regime. Maggie is a single cat and mostly inside (she has a small enclosed garden). She has no contact with other animals and does not travel or stay at a boarding facility. Originally, I gave Maggie a 3-monthly worming tablet, a 6-monthly tapeworm tablet and a monthly flea spot-on. The brand of worm tablet I chose was very small, because I needed to hide it in Maggie’s food. Maggie is not the kind of cat to happily swallow a tablet, even one that is supposedly “palatable”, and it’s not worth the stress to our relationship to force her into it. I’m able to administer the spot-on while she is busy eating; fortunately, she likes food more than she dislikes the smell of the spot-on!
When we moved house, I realised Maggie sometimes catches small skinks in the garden (much to my chagrin, and I’m teaching her to let them live so I can relocate them after Maggie has proudly presented them to me) and there are occasionally mosquitoes around our water fountain. I changed Maggie to a monthly spot-on combo that also covers against heartworm and lungworm, in addition to some mites, fleas and intestinal worms. I also continue to give her a 6-monthly tapeworm tablet. The risk of tapeworm is low for Maggie, however a tiny, inexpensive tablet twice a year doesn’t inconvenience either one of us. The new protocol costs more than the old protocol, but it gives Maggie better protection based on her risk exposure, it is easy for me to administer and therefore my compliance (as a pet parent) in keeping up-to-date with Maggie’s treatment is good. Happy Maggie and happy me! (not-so-happy skinks, but we’re working on it…)
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