There are numerous parasite products on the market claiming to be “natural” alternatives for worming our pets. I would strongly advise that before using any product that you research it thoroughly; this means going well beyond viewing the product website and user reviews, where unknown, non-professional individuals claim their pet is “happier” or “healthier” after using the product.
It is a common misconception that if a product is “natural” it is therefore safer and more efficient, and somehow better for us and our pets than “unnatural” products. This is often far from being the case (worms and other parasites are also natural, but that doesn’t mean we want them inside our pets and potentially our human family members as well).
Products claiming to be natural worming remedies often do not kill worms. They might have no effect whatsoever, aside from increasing your pet’s bowel movements. Instead of killing adult and immature worms, they might remove worms from the digestive tract into the environment, where these live worms and eggs can reinfect animals. They might target some worm species but not others. They often contain ingredients which are toxic in incorrect doses, with exact levels of these ingredients not clearly specified on the product label. Yes, natural products can still cause toxicity and serious health problems in our pets; veterinary poisons helplines and emergency centres frequently receive calls from pet owners about products classified as “natural” or “homeopathic”.
Worming and other pet parasite products, along with all other veterinary medications, need to pass strict independent efficacy and safety testing (including any adverse effects) in order to be licensed veterinary products. When licensing products, some factors which are considered include:
- What tests (clinical trials/studies) have been conducted?
- How many animals were involved in the studies?
- How long did the studies last?
- Who conducted the studies? Is there any conflict of interest?
- What controls were in place?
- What limitations were there to the studies?
- Were studies conducted in a laboratory or a real-life environment?
- How was the data collected and interpreted?
- Where were the results published? Is this a reliable/reputable source?
- Are study results repeatable? Can results be manipulated to give a preferred outcome?
Before purchasing any alternative product, check whether it has been licensed for veterinary use, including which animal species it’s licensed for (dogs and cats and other species are not the same, and neither are all of their intestinal worms). If you are unsure about any product, check with your veterinary professional first. The best way to ensure any worming product is doing the job is to have your vet perform a series of tests on your pet’s faeces over time, to determine whether it contains intestinal worms or eggs. The absence of abdominal bloating and of “scooting”, which are commonly used as “proof” of a worming product’s success, does not equate to an absence of intestinal worms.
We love our pets and we don’t want to compromise their health and wellbeing, either naturally or unnaturally. The best and safest way to successfully eradicate worms and other parasites is to use a licensed veterinary product and follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding dose, frequency and how to apply the product.
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The information we offer is educational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis or treatment. Our recommendation is to always do your research.
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