Editors' note: This is an abbreviated version of the CAPC primary guidelines. A complete set of guidelines can be accessed at
Considerations of pet health and lifestyle factors
Animals require care tailored to their individual needs. Certain factors may dictate more intensive monitoring and treatment,
while others may suggest a less aggressive approach. When recommending a parasite management program, veterinarians should
Primary recommendations for controlling internal and external parasites in U.S. dogs and cats
• Environment of the animal, including:
- Source/origin of the pet;
- Environmental exposure (e.g., climate, hunting and predation, dog parks, wild animal contact, previous infection in the household, exposure to other pets
in the household or neighborhood);
- Travel (e.g., vacation trips, boarding and day care facilities, dog and cat shows, and field trials);
• The animal's nutrition status, including the potential for parasite exposure through food or water;
• Clinical presentation of the animal (health and vaccination history);
• Age (puppies, kittens, and geriatric animals are at greater risk than healthy adults).
Lifelong prevention of common internal and external parasites
Pet-owner awareness of heartworms and fleas can serve as the foundation for effective prevention and control of other parasites.
Ascarids, hookworms, and whipworms are the most common intestinal nematodes in companion animals, and ascarids and hookworms
are a significant cause of zoonotic disease. Several tapeworms of dogs and cats can also cause zoonotic infections. Fleas
and ticks produce disease through blood loss, injection of salivary proteins, and transmission of infectious agents. Environmental
transmission stages are a source of infection for pets and humans. While the CAPC guidelines currently focus on these common
internal and external parasites, a more comprehensive list is detailed on the CAPC Web site,
Recommended protocol for common helminth and arthropod control:
• CAPC recommends year-round treatment with broad-spectrum heartworm anthelmintics that have activity against parasites with
zoonotic potential for several reasons:
- Although experts agree heartworm transmission does not occur year-round in all areas, a significant portion of the United
States experiences transmission during most of the year.
- The presence of mosquitoes and their ability to transmit heartworm are unpredictable.
- Year-round prevention may improve compliance (currently less than 50%) and eliminate the need to predict potential transmission
seasons and minimize the chance of breaks in protection.
- Pets may travel to regions where transmission is active.
- Dogs and cats may be exposed to and become infected with intestinal parasites throughout the year. Consequently, stages capable
of transmitting parasites can be shed into the environment, regardless of season or climate.
- Adult dogs and cats may develop patent infections leading to environmental contamination.
- Many broad-spectrum products eliminate these potentially zoonotic parasites.
• Dogs and cats should be placed on year-round preventive flea and/or tick products as soon after birth as possible (consistent
with label claims) for the life of the pet.
• A thorough physical examination and complete history are important for the diagnosis, treatment, and control of most parasites
and should be performed at least annually by a qualified veterinarian.
• Pets should be fed cooked or prepared food (they should not be fed raw meat) and provided fresh, potable water.
• Periodic (annual is ideal) retesting for canine heartworm infection will help ensure that preventive practices, including
owner compliance, are adequate.
• Periodic retesting for feline heartworm infection should be considered. Although feline heartworm testing achieves different
objectives than canine testing (because of differences in testing methods, test performance, and parasite biology), it plays
an important role in heartworm management and monitoring. Cats should be tested for heartworm infection to:
- Help establish a diagnosis in those cats with clinical signs suggesting infection;
- Monitor infection (or exposure) status in cats previously diagnosed with heartworm disease or after surgical removal;
- Establish a baseline reference prior to starting heartworm prevention;
- Assess the risk of heartworm infection (for an individual or a practice area).