Rational guidelines, reliable parasiticides: Working together to keep pets healthy

Mar 01, 2008


Michael Paul, DVM
Although medical guidelines and protocol-directed patient care are not new in human healthcare, they are a fairly recent development in veterinary medicine. Sometimes misunderstood, misapplied, and maligned, medical guidelines are a valuable tool in improving patient care and should be widely incorporated in companion-animal practice.

Medical guidelines standardize and enhance patient care. Best-care procedures are recommended to all patients, which helps ensure uniform patient care. And the adoption of a set of guidelines helps improve compliance with a doctor's recommendation.

Medical guidelines developed by respected organizations often become a reference for a standard of care that may have medicolegal implications. However, medical guidelines are simply that: They are not legal documents and have no legal impact on their own.

In recent years, a number of guidelines have been advocated to be universally implemented in veterinary practices. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) guidelines were the first to make clear science-based recommendations for the vaccination of cats. In 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) first published vaccination guidelines for dogs. Both the AAFP Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel Report and the AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines have since been updated and have had a lasting impact on how companion-animal medicine is practiced. The AAFP has also developed Feline Behavior Guidelines and, jointly with AAHA, has produced guidelines for pain management in dogs and cats.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has developed guidelines for the uniform use of external and internal parasite-control products. In addition, CAPC champions regular veterinary care, diagnostic testing, and client education on hygiene to control and prevent parasites and to reduce the potential for zoonotic transmission.

A number of products have a place in helping veterinarians meet the CAPC guidelines. Many of these products are similar in action but some have unique chemical properties and mechanisms of action. Some are topically applied, some are injected, and some are given orally. All have a role in parasite control either as single agents or in combination with another product. And all are effective and safe when used according to labeled instructions.

All the products in this supplement are either EPA-registered or FDA-approved. They are intended for use only under the supervision of or if prescribed by veterinarians. And other compounds are being developed that will surely expand the options we have in parasite control.

It is incumbent on veterinarians to be familiar with the advantages and shortcomings of each product. It is also crucial that the profession be vigilant for adverse events and report any such events to the manufacturer at once.

When looking back to a time not long ago when parasiticides were unpleasant at best and toxic at worst and when efficacy was dubious, we are indeed fortunate to have so many great products today. It is up to us to use them wisely.

Dr. Paul is the executive director of CAPC and a former president of AAHA. He is retired from practice and lives in Anguilla, British West Indies.