Extreme makeover: parasite edition

Extreme makeover: parasite edition

Approximately 14 percent of people in the United States are infected with roundworms contracted from dogs and cats, according to the CDC. Don't let these be your clients. Use these tips to remodel a flimsy parasite prevention program—and protect pets.
May 01, 2009

Top internal parasites in dogs and cats
When Dr. Jane Brunt learned that her mother's cat was scooting on the rug outside the bathroom door because it was infected with roundworms, she became angry. "My mother and her beloved cat did not need to endure something that could have had very serious consequences," says Dr. Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council in Kansas City, Mo.

It's a problem the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has been puzzling over for some time: Why are so many pets still not completely protected from parasites? "Neither pets nor people should have parasites when they're so easily prevented," Dr. Brunt says. Let's examine how you and your team members can transform your parasite program to help wipe out the barriers to 100 percent parasite control.


"If we're not looking for parasites, we can be sure we will not find them," says Dr. Jay Stewart, owner of Aumsville Animal Clinic in Aumsville, Ore., and president of CAPC. According to a 2006 CAPC study, Dr. Stewart says, veterinarians and many pet owners are aware of parasite risks, but they're not necessarily paying attention to the problem consistently. Why? Here are a few factors that can batter the most well-constructed parasite prevention programs:

1. Fecals fall short. One of the biggest reasons fecal examinations and follow-up tests don't happen is that you simply never get a sample. After all, you can't force a reluctant pet owner to collect and deliver the poop to your practice. Julie Legred, CVT, a practice manager in Bricelyn, Minn., offers this team protocol to help you lock in a sample: First, include a note requesting a fecal sample when you send the appointment-reminder postcard. Next, when a client schedules an appointment, have the receptionist remind him or her again on the phone. And finally, if the client still fails to bring in the sample, follow up with phone calls after the visit.

Once you've identified an infected pet, make sure you plan follow-up tests, Legred says—especially for puppies and kittens. If you don't, a young animal that's still infected can reinfect its littermates or spread parasites to other household pets. She recommends following CAPC guidelines (see http://capcvet.org/) for treatment and recheck protocols.

The CAPC site helps team members sharpen their skills by offering a fecal-test demonstration video and encourages practices to use centrifugal flotation versus simple flotation since centrifugal flotation is more sensitive. "Performing fecal exams might not be anyone's favorite job, but it's one of the best diagnostic tools we use to protect pets," says Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM, a veterinary consultant in Springboro, Ohio.

2. Pets (and pests) are on the move. More and more pets are living mobile, active lives—which means they experience greater exposure to parasites. Often clients will report that their pets never go anywhere, but when you inquire more thoroughly, you discover the truth. "Dogs are out in parks, they're eating other animals' poop, they're splashing around in ponds and puddles, and they're exposed to lots of parasite agents," Gavzer says. "That's why it's so important to educate clients about the risks."

Dr. Stewart says clients should be encouraged to keep their pets on preventive products and to consistently pick up their pets' waste in public areas. Good hygiene is one of the best ways to reduce the number of parasites in the environment, he says.