Guidelines and Advice for Boxer Owners
WORMS AND DEWORMING
One of the most basic pet care responsibilities is to ensure that your dog/s are free from internal parasites. Worms are a major component of this category of parasites. Two important reasons for controlling worms are:
- the debilitating physical effect on the animal, and death, especially in puppies
- to minimize or eliminate the risk of human infections with some of the parasites
Many different worms affect dogs and numerous organ systems can be involved. However, most pet owners are familiar with worms where the adult is found in the gastrointestinal tract namely, ascarids (often referred to as roundworms or “spoelwurms” in Afrikaans), hookworms, tapeworms and whipworms.
The purpose of this document is to focus primarily on ascarids and hookworms and includes mention of tapeworms and whipworms under symptoms and control. Worms affecting other organ systems such as the respiratory tract (lungworm) will not be covered.
Insight into the life cycles of these worms will clarify the suggested deworming schedules and will explain why deworming programs differ for puppies, adults and brood bitches.
Adult hookworms attach themselves to the wall of the intestine, where they suck blood. Thus, one of the obvious symptoms of hookworm infestation is anaemia. The effects of hookworm on puppies are far more severe than on adults. Hookworms are the most virulent worms in suckling pups. In heavy infestations pups can lose up to a quarter of their circulating red blood cells per day.
Ascarids are one of the most important worms in dogs. They feed on what has been ingested into the small intestines. The adult female worm is very fertile. A single worm produces 100 000 eggs per day. Eggs are very resistant and can survive and remain infective for years.
As in the case of hookworm, most mature otherwise healthy dogs can “cope” with an ascarid infection. Puppies on the other hand are very severely affected.
Most pet and kennel owners are not as familiar with whipworm as with the previous two worms. Whipworms are more common along coastal areas, although cases have been reported in Gauteng. Symptoms can be confused with that of hookworm.
In South Africa, there are three different genus or “groups” of tapeworms. The most important consideration in controlling tapeworm infestation is to prevent human infestation.
The life cycle of tapeworms involves an intermediate host. This means that at least one stage of the life cycle is completed in another animal or organism. For example, for one group of the tapeworms, flea larvae act as intermediate hosts. Larval stages of the flea will ingest/eat the tapeworm egg from the environment where it was passed by the dog. The flea thus “carries” the tapeworm larvae. During bad flea infestations, biting irritated areas often results in the ingestion of fleas (together with the tapeworm larvae inside the flea). Tapeworm larvae are released in the dog.
In the other groups of tapeworms, the intermediate hosts are herbivores (sheep and cattle) or pigs. Never feed dogs raw offal, always cook it thoroughly. To err on the side of safety: always cook any animal protein fed to your pet.
Most of the broad-spectrum de-wormers are effective against adult tapeworms, although there are differences in the effectiveness against all three groups.
PREVENTING HUMAN INFECTIONS
Both hookworm and ascarid larvae can infect humans:
Hookworm larvae penetrating human skin cause “creeping eruption” under the skin. This is known as cutaneous larval migrans.
Ascarid larvae infecting humans migrate to the lungs and liver where they form granulomas. This is known as visceral larval migrans. They normally do not develop any further. Aberrant (deviating from the normal) migration can result in reaction in the affected tissues. Larvae migration to the eye can cause blindness.
Most Boxers are treated as part of the family, with physical contact the rule and not the exception. Good hygiene and a practical deworming regime will ensure that the potential for transmission to humans is minimised.
Pet owners should discuss the proposed deworming guidelines with veterinarians attending to their animals for confirmation that the approach is suitable to their individual circumstances.
From the introductory discussion, it should be clear that we could divide dogs into three groups of animals when looking at worming schedules or programs:
– Brood bitches
– Other adult dogs
- The majority of deworming tables (regardless of the active ingredients) is “gut-active”. This means that once a tablet is dosed at the normal recommended dose rate, it is usually only effective against the stages found in the intestines and have little or no effect on larvae elsewhere in the body.
- Most tables, unless prescribed otherwise, should be dosed with or after a meal. Dosing on an empty stomach will normally lead to the product passing too rapidly through the intestines with not enough contact time with the worms. Food ensures delayed passage and prolonged contact time.
- How do these products work? Most of the active ingredients in deworming tables work in one of three ways:
• They cause the protective layer around the worms to “dissolve”. The worm is then digested as with any protein.
• They paralyze the worm. Worms attach to the intestinal wall to avoid being moved out with the normal contractions and movements passing food along. Once paralyzed, they are passed.
• They interfere with some of the vital metabolic processes in the worm resulting in the death of the worm.
- Deworming products may cause side effects such as vomiting. Ask your vet what to expect and strictly adhere to veterinary recommendations on how to administer the product/s.
- Avoid deworming bitches during the early stages (first trimester – 3 weeks) of pregnancy. Although none of the South African registered products contain any contra-indication warnings, this does not imply safety.
FREQUENCY OF DEWORMING REQUIRED
The frequency with which owners should deworm their dogs depends on:
- Group of animal (puppy, brood bitch, adult)
- Size of property and number of animals kept on the property
A large breeding kennel with numerous dogs and a single pet on half an acre will definitely not require the same deworming program. The size of the property and the number of dogs will determine the potential for contact with faeces. However, dogs often “pick a corner” and maintain their toilet behaviour in that corner. This allows for frequent contact with faeces regardless of the property size.
Deworm every 2 weeks: from 2 weeks to 12 weeks. (At 12 weeks the puppy should also have had its final puppy vaccination). It is very important that the puppy be dewormed 2-3 weeks after weaning. The above recommendation will normally ensure this.
Two possible approaches:
- Ideally, submit a stool sample to your veterinarian for testing every six months and treat if required according to the result, or
- Deworm once a year at the time of annual vaccination boosters. Submit a faecal sample to your veterinarian to check for worm eggs and/or other intestinal parasites whenever your animal/s presents with abnormal stools lasting more than 24 hours. If worm eggs are present in the stool, indicating the presence of egg producing adults in the intestines, follow the deworming program prescribed by your veterinarian.
It is vital that future brood bitches are very thoroughly dewormed as puppies (see above).
During lactation, deworm bitches intensively, following the same schedule as for the puppies.
During the last 14 days of pregnancy deworm with fenbendazole at 50 mg/kg for 5 days. (*)
Fourteen days after whelping, deworm with fenbendazole at 50 mg/kg. Deworm for at least 5 Days. (*)
(*) Refer to the life cycles of hookworms and ascarids to understand the importance of this period. The purpose of deworming at this time is not adult worms in the intestines but migrating larvae moving to the mammary glands (hookworm) and to the placenta (ascarids). Fenbendazole is known to reach high tissue levels (absorbed from the intestines into the blood and distributed to other body tissue) but despite this characteristic, the dosage required to kill migrating larvae is far greater than the dosage level to kill adults in the intestines. A daily fenbendazole dose of 50 mg/kg from day 40 of gestation (pregnancy) up to 14 days after whelping is required. This regime is both impractical to administer and almost financially prohibitive. Products containing the active ingredient, intended for cattle and sheep, are often used to overcome the financial hurdle. However, most of these products are very unpalatable, making dosing very difficult.
It is important to note that you should discuss the above recommendation with your veterinarian before embarking on this program.