Factors affecting your deworming protocols for puppies and kittens
From age and weight to each patient’s needs to type of parasite, this veterinarian outlines key considerations of this crucial step for young pets.
Among the happiest of pet visits are the ones with new puppies or kittens! No one can resist those cute faces and funny antics, and owners are always excited to show off their newest family members. Because deworming, along with vaccinations, is a crucial step to keep your patients and their owners happy and healthy, let’s look at the multitude of products available and factors that impact which deworming protocol you should use to get those fur babies off to their best start.
Most veterinarians will agree that pyrantel (Nemex; Zoetis) is the best medication to use in the earliest phases of puppy or kittenhood. Safe enough for 2-week-old pediatric patients, this drug is used by most breeders and shelters to begin killing parasitic roundworms and hookworms. It is not effective against whipworms or tapeworms or against the larval stages of roundworms and hookworms; thus, multiple, spaced doses are recommended to kill off all burgeoning larval infections. The drug has a large safety margin, and adverse effects are minimal. With large worm burdens, puppies and kittens can vomit or defecate abundant numbers of live worms, so warn owners that this may occur at home. Pyrantel works within 2 hours and stops working after about 24 hours.
Fecal testing is also essential in these youngsters to determine which types of worms may be present and if they are infected with any of these protozoans. Checking multiple samples as pets grow is key to offering correct treatments. Because no fecal testing is 100% accurate and larval stages complicate treatments, it is important to check samples at the end of all vaccinations so that any parasites can be effectively removed.
Older puppies and kittens can be given many types or classes of medications to kill these invaders, but age and weight are deciding factors in which drugs you choose for deworming. For example, praziquantel (Droncit; Bayer) is marketed for puppies 3 weeks and older and kittens 4 weeks and older. Meanwhile, fenbendazole (Panacur; Merck Animal Health USA) is marketed for younger animals but must be given 3 days in a row for effectiveness. Fenbantal (Drontal Plus; Bayer) is intended for puppies aged 8 weeks and weighing at least 2 pounds.
To further complicate your choice of dewormer are the combinations of multiple drugs, which are used the most now and go by various trade names. When designing a deworming protocol for your practice needs, read label directions carefully to discover when and how a dewormer can be given. Selecting a few different types of drugs and clearly labeling them for staff with the charting age and weight along with dosing information will simplify the process for everyone and remove the need for calculations at the time of service.
Anticipating our patients’ needs is important as well. For example, the kitten loaded with fleas will need a deworming in the future that will cover tapeworm infection. The puppy that lives outside on a farm will need a different deworming plan than one who’s an apartment dweller. Knowing which heartworm prevention is going to be used in the household will also dictate any additional required medications. You should always have an open conversation about intestinal parasites with owners so they understand protocols and consequences.
Additionally, the age of first contact will determine schedules of deworming for new patients. For example, a 12-week old puppy that comes in for a visit can get 2 dewormings 2 weeks apart, as opposed to a 4-week-old patient who will need multiple doses every 2 weeks. Again, owners will need to be made aware that it is not a one-and-done deal just because their breeder/shelter/friend said their pet was “dewormed.”
Animals placed on heartworm prevention can alternate their medication with their parasite control schedule because most heartworm preventatives today have added deworming medications. This can decrease scheduled deworming appointments for our young customers.
The types of parasites will also steer our course of action. Whipworms have a long prepatent period, so parasite control often relies on an appropriate choice of monthly heartworm prevention. Schedules for deworming only would be the day of, then in 3 weeks, and again in 3 months. The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends deworming for zoonotic parasites at least 4 times, spaced 2 weeks apart, and then monthly (a monthly heartworm preventative would count for this). This protocol will cover the prepatent period of these zoonotic parasites and is the best choice for the safety of pet parents.
Other considerations for your deworming protocol are ease of use, amount of medication given (is it one dosage or dosing over several days), timing for repeat dosing, and—as always—owner compliance. Many choices are available today (liquid, pill, topical, and injectable). Be sure to look at all these factors as you decide what to use in your specific practice. Flexibility with medication type and dosing modalities can help those frustrated pet parents be more accepting of these medications for their puppies or kittens.
Our owners are excited as they welcome new pets into their homes. They want everyone to see and enjoy their newest furry companion. It is our job to make sure there are no unwanted “pets” carried along inside those cute, cuddly patients.
Dr Michele Leso graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1995. A general practitioner for 25 years, Dr Leso recently shifted gears to join a Pet Urgent Care System. She shares her home with her husband of 30 years, their 5 children, and dogs, cats, rabbits , and one very mixed-up sheep.