Liza Cahn, DVM
The importance of year-round parasite prevention is becoming more and more apparent as we uncover the true prevalence of parasitic pests. However, many pet owners still decline the testing and year-round parasite prevention recommended by their vet.
Importance of Intestinal Parasite Prevention
While specific prevalence rates vary based on geographic location, lifestyle, age, and other factors, intestinal parasites are incredibly common in both dogs and cats — most will contract a parasitic infection at some point in their lives. For example, more than 30% of dogs under six months of age are found to be shedding Toxocara canis (roundworm) eggs. While younger animals with immature immune systems are more susceptible, adult pets can and do contract these parasites as well, a point that pet owners often overlook. Another sobering fact that many pet owners are not aware of: zoonotic parasitic infections transmitted from dogs and cats to humans are not uncommon — like Toxocara which causes significant health issues, especially in children. These infections can lead to conditions such as larva igrans syndromes, affecting organs, and potentially causing blindness.
Diagnostic Tools and Preventive Measures
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommends regular testing for intestinal parasites – at least four tests in the first year of life, and at least two tests yearly for adult pets. This frequency may vary depending on the pet’s health and lifestyle factors. Their guidelines also include the use of year-round broad-spectrum parasite control with efficacy against heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks, as well as tips for promoting a healthy and parasite-free lifestyle.
KeyScreen® GI Parasite PCR
KeyScreen® GI Parasite PCR brings the power of PCR to your routine wellness screening. You can use this test to find more GI parasites and treat them with greater precision, speed, and confidence — all at an affordable price.
This novel PCR test detects 20 intestinal parasites in cats and dogs, as well as emerging issues in veterinary medicine, like hookworm (Ancylostoma caninum) benzimidazole resistance and Giardia strains with zoonotic potential — both presenting human health risks.
- Detects benzimidazole-resistant canine hookworm infections1-5
- Treatment resistant Hookworms found in more dog breeds and across the US and Canada1-5
- KeyScreen GI Parasite PCR found parasites in 1 in 44 samples, Reference lab O&P only found parasites in 1 in 10 samples7
- Giardia is NOT typically zoonotic — less than are4
- Parasites are evolving so is KeyScreen GI Parasite PCR2,3,5,6
Tips for Effective Parasite Prevention
Educating pet owners on effective parasite prevention is a vital part of our role as veterinarians. Here are some key tips that can help our clients ensure their pets remain healthy and parasite-free.
- Consistency in preventive treatments: Stress the importance of regular, year-round preventive treatments. This includes monthly applications of topical preventatives, oral medications, or collars as appropriate for the pet. Remind pet owners that skipping doses or delaying treatments can leave their pets vulnerable to infections.
- Tailored prevention plans: Encourage pet owners to discuss their pet’s lifestyle and environment with you. This helps create a customized prevention plan that considers factors like outdoor exposure, local climate, the presence of other pets, and the easiest mode of administration for their pet.
- Environmental management and hygiene: Educate clients about the parasite lifecycles and the role that environmental control and personal hygiene have in parasite prevention. For example, cleaning up pet waste daily, washing hands after gardening, never feeding raw food diets, and keeping play areas such as sandboxes covered.
- Regular check-ups and screening: Emphasize the importance of regular veterinary check-ups, including preventative diagnostics such as fecal exams, PCR tests like KeyScreen, and blood tests to catch any signs of parasitic infections.
- Educational resources: Offer resources like brochures, websites, or apps that provide reliable information on parasite prevention. You may want to include data specific to your location to help drive the point home.
- Reminders: Consider setting up a reminder system through your practice to alert pet owners when it’s time for their pet’s next preventive treatment.
- Handling misconceptions: Actively address common misconceptions, such as “indoor-only pets don’t need parasite prevention,” by providing evidence-based information. Additionally, discuss that natural remedies and certain over-the-counter products may not be as beneficial, and could even be harmful in some cases.
While parasites are the uninvited guests of the pet world, we’re armed with the right tools and knowledge to show them the door. Keeping our pets parasite-free is a team effort. We’re here to support you — working side-by-side to make a better world for pets, together.
- Comparative Study of KeyScreen and traditional fecal flotation methods: https://parasitesandvectors.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13071-023-05904-z
- Leutenegger CM, et al. Emergence of Ancylostoma caninum parasites with the benzimidazole resistance F167Y polymorphism in the US dog population. Int. J. Parasitol. Drugs Drug Resist. 2023;14:131-140. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211320723000015?via%3Dihub
- Evason, MD, et al. Emergence of canine hookworm treatment resistance: Novel detection of Ancylostoma caninum anthelmintic resistance markers by fecal PCR in 11 dogs from Canada, Am J Vet Res. 2023 July: https://doi.org/10.2460/ajvr.23.05.0116
- Leutenegger CM, et al. Frequency of intestinal parasites in dogs and cats identified by molecular diagnostics. ACVIM, Philadelphia, June 2023.
- Leutenegger CM, et al. Association of the novel benzimidazole resistance marker Q134H with F167Y in dogs with Ancylostoma caninum. ACVIM, Philadelphia June 2023.
- Venkatesan A, et al. Molecular evidence of widespread benzimidazole drug resistance in Ancylostoma caninum from domestic dogs throughout the USA and discovery of a novel β-tubulin benzimidazole resistance mutation. PLoS Pathog. Mar 2023;19:e1011146. https://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1011146
- KeyScreen Whitepaper https://www.antechdiagnostics.com/keyscreen/#keyscreen‑whitepaper