Make sure your agility dog is not their next meal...
To a certain extent, ignorance is bliss and indeed, the vast majority of well cared for pets in the UK and Ireland will never suffer the serious consequences of a massive worm burden. However, an appreciation of what we are actually preventing when we cajole Rover to consume 'this yummy tablet' is a vital piece in our armoury to a long-lived, healthy and happy pet. Parasitologist Dr. Jacqueline (Jackie) Boyd explains.
Worming is one of those aspects of pet care where everyone seems to have their own particular preferences and practices. Some dog owners who insist on worming - or to be more accurate, de-worming - on a rigid schedule and at the other end of the spectrum others wait for symptoms of worm infestation before they reach for the tablets and chopped liver. Personal experience has a lot to do with how you view your own particular (de-) worming schedule.
Our dogs are constantly exposed to environmental challenges. Agility dogs are typically exposed to new environments on a regular basis and this combined with often long (and sometimes stressful) journeys, and the physical expenditure that agility training and competition involves means that we have a serious duty of care to our beloved dogs. Parasite prevention is one aspect of this care process in which we can have a real input.
While on this subject, no matter how diligent you are with your own picking up, unless you catch the offending pile before it actually hits the ground, there is always likely to be a degree of contamination. Indeed, studies examining contamination of parks and playgrounds with dog-derived parasite eggs reveal scarily high concentrations, even where poo picking is in force. Even worse are those occasions when Rover has a tummy upset (maybe after eating the wormy bunny earlier in the week) and it is nigh impossible to gather it all. I know - it's happened to me. Even in your own yard/back garden, diligent poo picking is a vital weapon in the prevention of contamination by worm eggs; particularly if you have young children. Ideally poo should never be left longer than a few minutes, although in the real world a daily sweep is perhaps more feasible.
The faecal oral route of transmission is typically the one of choice for most of the major types of parasites that are likely to affect our dogs. Essentially that means that the worms live and reproduce in the gut, releasing eggs or larval worms in the faeces. These then contaminate the external environment and wait for their next friendly host to come along, when they might stick to grass ingested by the dog or stick to the fur to await being licked off. This is typically when young children might also become infected by accident.
Perhaps when you next take your dog to the vet for the booster vaccination or health check, have a quick chat about your current worming strategy and prevention measures, taking into account things like if you have young children or cats in the house, does Rover like eating wild birds, bunnies etc. Your vet will be able to recommend a valid program for you to follow, using the most appropriate treatment for your situation. A faecal egg count might also be a worthwhile check if you think worms might be a problem, or if you want to check Rover's current worm burden. Parasites are all around us, just waiting to take advantage. Make sure your agility star is not their next meal.
Jackie is slave to a working cocker spaniel, Megan (aka Snoozin Susan of Sleepytown) with whom she started agility training two years ago. Last year was their first season in the UK competing in Mini classes, and they are hoping to have another great year both in Ireland and at home in the UK. Megan is wormed regularly; Jackie poo picks every day and doesn't eat meat. A lot of Parasitologists don't, funnily enough!
For more information about worms,