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Preventative health care - why and how - an easy guide!

Written By: Jane Davidson RVN

As a pet owner I know I need to ‘flea and worm’ my pets, I hear it at the vets, I see the adverts on TV and in the press, but what does this mean, how important is it and where can you buy what you need?

To put the problems our pets have into perspective, all animals have parasites that can cause them problems -and I’m using parasites in the official sense -something that lives off another. Like all animals, including us our pets can attract some lovely little “friends” that aren’t very pleasant to live with, for our pets and also sometimes for us.

In the UK we luckily don’t have some of the most severe diseases caused by parasites but if you can prevent any suffering for your pet,you should.

What can these fleas and worms do?

 Parasites that affect our pet split neatly into the “outside” ones and the “inside” ones, by which I mean the ones that we might see as they live outside our pets -e.g. fleas - and the ones we might not see as they live inside our pets - worms.

Fleas can cause skin problems for all pets -a vet I know once said ‘95% of skin problems are caused by fleas and the other 5% are made worse by them’ so if that’s a big motivator to for me as skin problems can be very distressing for pet and owner. Fleas make your pet itchy and sore and can do the same for you.

Worms come in severaltypes and can cause lots of tummy upsets and diarrhoea but they can also move around inside your pet and causethem to have more serious illness. You may see worms in your cat or dogs poo and they are small and white and can be long and thin, or little sections that look like rice.

While for healthy adult cats and dogs an occasional visit from fleas or worms is more uncomfortable than a big issue, there can be serious health implications for the young, the old, or those with health issues.

At the worst, I’ve seen kittens die as the fleas had bitten them so much they had not enough red blood cells to survive.

Worms can cause so many issues and can be deadly, as some can stop blood clotting and can attack the heart. I’ve seen a puppy with such a bad case of worms some were even swimming in his eye!

What about ticks?

 Ticks are also a parasite for our pets, most usually our dogs. Many flea treatments will also treat for ticks andit’s worth thinking carefully about;ticks may not be a problem where you live, but may be a serious issue in places you visit -so get some good advice from your vet!

Where should I buy the best product?

Some flea and worm treatments can be bought in the supermarket, or in a human pharmacy, from a pet pharmacy online or from your vets. While this offers a lot of choice for us pet owners it can be confusing -there are different products and different prices, so what can each option give you ?

Before we head to this I’ll set you a mini glossary that will help you compare these options:

POM-V (prescription only medication - veterinary) :medicines that are POM-V can only be prescribed by a vet and dispensed by the vets or from a pharmacy

NFA-VPS and POM-VPS : a lower category of medicines that don’t need a vet’s prescription but have some restrictions on their sale

AVM-GSL :medications that can be purchased without a prescription “over the counter”

Prescription :paper or electronic permission for you to buy POM-V medications for your pet

VMD:Veterinary Medicines Directorate -the people who regulate the sale of veterinary medicines

Buying from supermarket

Price -the price for the products available is likely to be quite competitive. Supermarkets can buy in bulk and this usually creates a better price for the customer.

Convenience -as easy as going to the supermarket! What could be easier?

Choice -this is where the supermarket comes unstuck, yes it might have some good value products and it’s pretty handy but you will not get a choice of all products available. In fact you will only get the over the counter or AVM-GSL products. The choice of products will include some we definitely wouldn’t recommend,that are flea deterrents and so not as effective in treating our pets as products that kill fleas.

You will also find two issues that are quite complex to explain. The first is that there are some flea treatments for cats sold over the counter that can be bad for cats. Thankfully iCatCare have created a list that you can check-please don’t use these products and NEVER use any dog flea treatment on a cat.

Secondly there is the confusion over Frontline. Frontline Plusis a flea product that was once only available at a vets with a prescription, but now sometimes it can be sold in human pharmacies, as well as the “weaker” Frontline original.

Buying from a human pharmacy

Price -the price may vary so you would need to shop around for the best price.

Convenience -there is likely to be a pharmacy close to you that sells NFA-VPS and AVM-GSL wormers and flea treatment.

Choice -as mentioned above it’s likely that a human pharmacy will only stock one typeand brandofmedication (usually Frontline for fleas and Drontal for worms!)so it’s only going to be beneficial if you are very specific and want that brand.

Buying from an online pet pharmacy

Price -can be very competitive.

Convenience -these pharmacies will deliver the products you buy so there is usually a 2-3 day wait and of course you need to be in to receive the delivery!

Choice -the choice is usually the best around as the online pharmacies can stock a high volume of a number of products.

Buying from an online pharmacy does require the usual vigilance when buying from online sources. You should still check more than one provider for price and delivery and it’s wise to make sure they are on the accredited retailers listfrom the VMD. This ensures they meet the requirements for storing medications properly and it is a safeguard that you are buying the genuine branded products -I’m afraid fake vet medicines exist so you will want to make sure you are buying from an accredited retailer.

You will also still need a prescription from your vet for POM-V medications (which are usually the most effective products), so could your vet be the place to buy your medications?

Buying from vet

Your vet can provide a mix of the benefits of the other buying options, and they know you and your pet and the products really well! With the other options you aren’t going to be able to ask for the great free advice you get from your vets.

Price -this will vary. Vet practices are businesses and how they price items is individual to them. Many now have their own online pharmacy to make life easier andthey can advise the pharmacy directly of your pets prescriptions.

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