The benefits of comprehensive parasite prevention

The animal health industry is constantly innovating to improve animal welfare, protect human health, safeguard food security and sustain livelihoods. Among these developments are new methods of parasite control to help fight and prevent disease outbreaks.
In this newsletter, we focus on the importance of detecting parasites and some of the available approaches to controlling them.

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Parasites can live in or on our pets and livestock, having detrimental effects on their health and wellbeing. One recent study found 1 in 5 dogs visiting a dog park tested positive for parasites, potentially putting the people and animals around them at risk.
Treatment is required to limit these effects and so the use of testing to detect the presence of parasites and a need for intervention is essential. Here’s two major reasons why: 

1. Parasites are often invisible to humans
While some parasites make their presence known (such as worms in faeces or fleas in fur), often animals will not show outward signs of infection. For example, the heartworm parasite is a long worm that lives in the heart, lungs and blood vessels, causing life-threatening disease in dogs and other animals. However, there is an initial asymptomatic period following infection where heartworm can go undetected while spreading inside the animal. Therefore, blood tests are required to detect them. Moreover, even following treatment, they can cause lasting damage to these organs, so early detection and treatment are vital.

2. Parasites can be zoonotic
Control of parasites on pets is crucial for household health as many can also pose a threat to people. For example, giardia is a common parasite in pets that can spread through faces. A pet owner cleaning up after their pet could contract these parasites, leading to severe intestinal illness in people. Precautions such as regular handwashing, care in dealing with animal waste and preventive testing when advised by a veterinarian can significantly reduce the risk.
This is why year-round parasite control plans are a must to provide protection against common parasites, as well as the specific risks related to travel or lifestyle. There are several options available as we will outline in the Big Read below. However, what’s also important is that we take a holistic view, reducing risks by, for example, collecting and disposing of faeces, checking for ticks, and ensuring good hand hygiene.
As climate change warms temperatures worldwide, parasites are beginning to spread to new climates. Luckily, a range of innovative options are keeping pace and helping keep animals protected. Here, we break down a few preventative options for common flea, ticks and worms:

1. Collars: These products can slowly release low concentrations of an anti-parasitic that keeps away pests. 

2. Spot-on treatments: Topical application of solutions to the back of the neck can be an effective way to protect animals against fleas, ticks and other skin parasites.

3. Oral treatments: Chewable medicines that are provided orally to a pet and protect against internal and external parasites are a growing segment of the market.

4. Regular testing: While the tools above can offer effective control when used properly, it is important to complement them with regular diagnostic testing. Many veterinarians will recommend an annual fecal and blood test to ensure your preventive is working effectively.

We are now more able to predict, prevent and treat parasite infections in animals thanks to scientific advances and the new technologies they enable. This is resulting in higher standards of welfare, but it also goes beyond protecting animal health. Preventing parasites in animals also protects human health and can safeguard livelihoods.
"When we think about parasite control, we must also consider the bigger picture. Fortunately, there are effective veterinary treatments available for parasitic infestations, but there are also other sensible measures that can be taken to reduce the risks. These include collecting and disposing of pet faeces, checking for ticks, covering sandpits and good hand hygiene."

National Office of Animal Health
Parasites are costly. Cattle parasites in Brazil alone cause economic losses of approximately $14 billion each year. While Rift Valley Fever, a zoonotic disease spread by parasites in Africa and the Middle East, can affect ruminants such as cattle or camel, costing producers US$427 million every year.
Read up on the innovations hitting the market for not just parasite control, but also vaccination, alternatives to antibiotics, nutrition and more.
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