The prevention education of vet school that no one tells you about

Jenni Falconer and her dog Alfie

Something that many people do not realise is that vet school is not all about treating diseases or cool surgeries to put animals back together again. A lot of it is about learning how to stop animals getting sick in the first place. This training involves both infectious diseases as well as parasitic diseases – in fact vets are often better trained in this area than human doctors.

It is often said than an ounce of prevention is better than cure, and in the case where it is so simple to do there is little reason not to. However, a survey of 1056 dog owners carried out in February 2017 shows that whilst some people know what dog parasites exist, they do not know the risks.

Over a third of these dog owners said they never think about the parasites their dog may be hosting even though they sleep in the same bed, sit on the sofa together or even lick their face. In fact one in four people didn’t realise that their pet could have parasites without them even being visible.

One of the reasons that so much effort goes into prevention is that sometimes parasites and diseases can affect both animals and humans as a zoonosis. So helping to protect a pet against these parasites in turn also helps protects you and your family especially for those with children. So let’s take a quick look at some of the types of parasites out there, what people think, and what really is true…

Most dog owners are worried about lungworm with 82% of people knowing that it could be fatal to their pet. However 43% also believed it was a big risk for humans, this is not true as it is actually harmless to humans.

Ticks were second on the list with 36% saying they were worried about them, however less than half realised that ticks could cause death because of the diseases they can transmit. Just 28% realised that ticks could also be harmful to humans as they can transmit Lyme disease.

The most dangerous parasite came bottom of the list with just 15% worrying about roundworms and only 7% believing they could be harmful to human health. Roundworms of the Toxocara variety can cause big problems in humans if their eggs are swallowed such as blindness or neurological disease with children at most risk.

Prevention for these parasites has become easier with palatable oral chews available as well as spot-on medications so you can still interact as your dog as normal after the treatment. With so much at risk it was a surprise that the Pet Parasite Action survey found 1 in 6 hadn’t treated their dogs for parasites in the past year.

Your vet is trained to support you in helping to keep your pet healthy, and there are many options of different treatments. Their expert guidance and support can really prove priceless.

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