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one simple thing can prevent pet disease...and you may not be doing it

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Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Oct 09 2014


I was recently at a continuing education lecture and the vibrant speaker said something that really stuck with me. He quoted a study that found that 93% of people said that they would risk their lives to save their pet’s life. Amazing, isn’t it?

I just sat there and let those words sink in a little. Almost every single person they asked said that they loved their pet so much that they would give their lives for them. It actually made me tear up a little. And then I started thinking about something else: owner compliance.

Owner compliance is the term we veterinarians use to describe how well you, the owner, follow our instructions. You know, when we tell you to make sure that Fluffy gets all of her antibiotic, even if she’s feeling better—do you do it? Or when we ask to be able to recheck her in two weeks. That kind of thing.

In general, owner compliance is spotty. And I get it. I really do. When Fluffy the cat wants to scratch your eyes out every time you approach her with a pill, it’s difficult to talk yourself into completing that course of antibiotic.

But there is one aspect of pet care that has terrible owner compliance that I just cannot understand. Parasite control. By that I mean protecting your pet against external and internal parasites: fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites (worms!) and heartworms.

Though these pesky buggers thrive in the summer, parasite control is a year round endeavor as they can still mean business during the cooler months.

  • Fleas wreak havoc on pets who are allergic, not to mention they have the capability of spreading disease. In fact, fleas are most active in October!
  • Mosquitos transmit heartworms, which can be life threatening to your dog AND your cat.
  • Ticks. Where do I start? You know about Lyme disease, but they are harbingers of so many other diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis.

Parasite control also includes taking care of intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms. This is especially important because these two parasites are zoonotic, meaning that they can spread to you and your family members and cause skin disease and blindness.

These days, there is just no excuse for poor compliance when it comes to parasite control. Options are endless—flavored oral tablets, topical medications and collars are all viable options, and they’re only ONCE a month (or even less frequently in the case of collars)! I remember the days when we had to give heartworm tablets EVERY DAY!

So, 93% of us will die to save our pets, but we can’t give them a medication once a month to protect them (and our own families) from disease? Something there doesn’t add up.

If you’re struggling with your “owner compliance” in the parasite control department, talk to your vet. I know you can find an option that will make you both happy!