Rather than worm our pets periodically and unscientifically like we did before, we now do regular worm counts through wormcount.com. This requires putting a bit of fresh poo in a bag in an envelope and sending it off. A basic ‘worm egg count’ costs £18 (October 2022) and looks for gastrointestinal nematodes (gut roundworms) and protozoa. I know for a fact that hook worm also shows up as Frankie had some! Wormcount also do giardia, lungworm and cryptosporidium (a protozoa that also affects people) as separate tests.
The hardest thing was getting a poo sample for Prince. We put a litter tray in place and closed the cat flap to keep him shut indoors. Even though we were doing this, seemingly every time I looked, there he was – outside! Prince was also used to pooing outdoors and wasn’t interested in the cat litter that I was trying to use up from his kittenhood. He held out. Once I put compost or soil in the litter tray it was easy! It turned out he had roundworm. We quickly wormed him with some wormer we got from the vet. We didn’t try to worm him using natural methods – one tends to panic when faced with the reality of worms! We then kept him in for a few more days to stop him pooing in the garden and having the active ingredients in the wormer destroy soil organisms. Instead we put it in the bin to be incinerated by Veolia. Interestingly, Prince really wanted to go outside. I’ve found this a comfort since he was killed by a car this summer, before he was even 3. He may have lived longer as an indoor cat but he had shown us how happy going outside made him.
We started the worm counts at a good time, we had just got Frankie as a puppy from my friend in Tipperary (it’s a long way to..) who had been blessed with an accidental litter of puppies. We knew she had round worm immediately as we saw them in her poo. We promptly wormed her using some Drontal (active ingredients Praziquantel, Pyrantel) that I had in the cupboard in (September 2021). Again, we put any poo with the active wormer ingredients to be disposed of through the Council waste stream. We did a routine worm count in January which showed nothing. Later in the January, Frankie developed a terrible diarrhoea. I had a hunch that it might be Giardia so we did the Giardia test through the wormcount people (£30). The test came back positive. We treated her with Panacur (active ingredient fenbendazole) for 5 days in a row as directed and the diarrhoea cleared up (again disposing of affected faeces using the municipal waste stream). We did another routine count in April and Frankie had small amount of hook worms. Interestingly, the wormcount showed up that there was some undigested food in Frankie’s poo most likely related to some food intolerance – you wouldn’t have got this result from worming every 3 months as often suggested by vets. We wormed her again I can’t remember what we used.
Frankie had been living outside amongst other dogs and horses, puppies are prone to worms and I don’t think she had been wormed prior to coming to us at 3 months. Wormcount.com recommend doing a count every 3 months (£18). This is more expensive than worming with conventional worming tablets which typically cost a couple of quid. Alternatively, a monthly health care club at a vets which would include flea and worm treatments (the vast majority of which weren’t needed but which contaminate the environment) along with annual vaccination and an annual health check range between £10 and £16/month. It’s difficult to get a definitive cost for a petcare club as they vary according to which vet, size and age of pet etc. Will we continue with a wormcount every 3 months? Frankie eats everything going and is a young dog so we will continue to do counts for her until we get regular clear results and hopefully as she gets older she’ll become more resistant. In all this time Spot had nothing and whether we’ll bother checking her every 3 months I’m really not sure.
It needs to be remembered that a worm count isn’t definitive for tapeworm. Tapeworms are notoriously intermittent shedders. If eggs or egg-carrying segments are present, a worm screen will pick them up. If the sample was taken at a time when they were not shedding, they will not be present in the sample but it needs to be remembered that the shedding pattern may not have fallen in with the sampling time. Charlotte at ‘wormcount’ recommend that dogs and cats are regularly treated for tapeworm (the frequency will vary depending exposure risk) as a ‘belt and braces’ approach.
We haven’t suffered a flea problem since writing the article but Penny fleaed Frankie and her litter mates by combing coconut oil through the pups’ coats. The fleas get stuck in the oil. I spoke to Penny a few times during this process and every time she had got to the last pup, some other duty called her away meaning that she never got all the dogs done at one time! Having said that, Frankie and her brother Moondog who also came to live in Shrewsbury arrived flea free.
Around the time I started thinking about writing this article, I was having a get together with some other dog training friends to do stuff with our own dogs, Jenny had to come without a dog because she had found a flea that morning. She was determined to address the problem using only natural methods. This is what she said to me at the beginning of October:
“We’re not there yet and I fear I’ll end up resorting to chemicals. Have used neem spray and coconut oil on dogs. Coconut oil much easier on a short Labrador coat than long spaniel one. Lots and lots of combing with flea comb which does pick a few up which ! then cover with sellotape and squash. I tried the dichotomous earth but our hoover seemed to puff it everywhere when I hoovered it up so I put a pile on the carpet then hoover it up so it sits in the hoover canister and will hopefully kill anything that gets hoovered up. They’ve also had a herbal mix on their food. I think flea combing twice a day and hoovering the same would probably be best but atm just can’t seem to fit in that frequency”. In the end, Jenny resorted to a pharma spot on but she didn’t try ’Cedarcide’ ‘Billy No Mates’ as suggested by Nick Thompson – see ‘worms, fleas and their treatments in the environment its worse than i thought’ article. ‘Vermex’ treats contain herbal extracts that are meant to repel fleas and I think they reported to be effective.
Keeping your pet in tip top shape should reduce likelihood of worms and fleas by increasing immunity. In addition, regular worm counts and grooming to keep the coat checked for fleas will allow for decisive and quick action making natural parasite control more viable.
There probably is a place for the pharmaceutical flea treatment and wormer but once treated with a spot on, remember not to wash your pet or allow them to swim. Similarly if you worm your pet, don’t leave the chemical in the environment but clear up any contaminated poo into the municipal waste stream for a few days until its worked through.