Editors' Guest: Are you doing your best to protect pets and their owners?

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Aug 01, 2005


Michael Paul, DVM
At one time, rampant infectious diseases sickened and killed many animals. In the case of rabies, people also were at risk. Today in the Western world, these diseases have largely been controlled, and as vaccines improve and more animals are vaccinated appropriately, we will do even better.

But what of parasitic diseases? Not long ago, we were limited to topical and environmental insecticides that, if effective at all, were at best harsh and at worst downright dangerous. These insecticides only marginally controlled fleas and ticks. Heartworm prevention relied on zealous administration of products daily, and internal parasites were treated by using irritating and even risky chemicals.

All of that has changed. Today we have access to extremely safe and effective preventives, treatments, and control measures. And still animals suffer from and even die of heartworm disease as well as internal and external parasites. Surveys have shown that 15% to 20% of animals in shelters have internal parasites. Nationwide, as many as 250,000 new cases of heartworm disease are diagnosed annually. People, too, continue to be exposed to and infected by parasites capable of producing terrible diseases. Visceral larval migrans, toxoplasmosis, protozoan infections—all continue to occur in people despite the fact that many consider these diseases relegated to history.

Why? The best explanations are ignorance, apathy, and poor compliance. Pet owners are often unaware of the dangers to their pets and families. Veterinarians frequently do a less-than-stellar job of informing their clients and impressing on them the need for proper control measures. Perhaps most important, we fail to stress the need for excellent compliance.

That is where the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) comes in. The council was formed as a central resource to develop guidelines for the control and prevention of parasitic diseases that affect companion animals and their caregiver families. The CAPC guidelines call for year-round administration of heartworm and internal parasite control products and flea and tick control products. The guidelines also emphasize annual physical examinations, annual heartworm testing, and regular fecal analysis by using a centrifugation technique.

With greater compliance, companion-animal veterinarians can more effectively detect, control, and prevent parasitic diseases, assuring our clients of healthier pets and reduced exposure of their families to zoonotic parasites.

To learn more about the CAPC guidelines, go to http://www.capcvet.org/.

Michael Paul, DVM, is president of the Companion Animal Parasite Council. A retired practitioner, he is also president of MAGPI, a consulting firm that serves educational and research institutions.