Parasite protection - who's advising pet owners?
I feel I need to apologise for bringing up parasiticides yet again. But for an owner with a healthy dog, these and vaccinations are the main topic of interest where veterinary medicines are concerned. I wanted to find out what kind of advice is on offer from different sources, so I went around my local veterinary practices, pet shops and pharmacies asking what I should do to protect my dog against parasites.
At veterinary practices, I spoke to receptionists and nurses. The main advice was that I should take the dog in to be weighed but I was reassured that there was a variety of options, including tablets, spot ons and collars; and brands were mentioned. I would need to make an appointment to see the vet.
Advice in pet shops varied with better quality information, as expected, in shops that employ an SQP (suitably qualified person). I was offered familiar brands (Frontline, Drontal) although some were keen to point out that they sold a cheaper generic version of Frontline. In one shop I said I'd heard about lungworm and was told that if I was worried about it I should talk to a vet because only they could prescribe medicines for it.
Many community pharmacies now stock a very limited range of parasiticides and the advice I received was also very limited.
No one asked me a question, apart from the dog's weight. And I was not helped to understand why my dog might need parasite protection. The reaction everywhere was to offer products from the range that was stocked. This is not the risk-based approach that ESCCAP UK& Ireland recommends for parasite control. So it was heartening to see that a new website aimed at pet owners from the pharmaceutical company Merial presents risk-related advice. However, the ultimate aim of the site appears to be to direct owners to 'participating' veterinary practices that offer Nexgard Spectra and Broadline (isn't this illegal advertising of prescription-only medicines to the public?)
There needs to be a joined up approach to parasite protection that does not promote a false distinction between non-prescription and prescription products and that will help educate owners. There are important differences between prescription and non-prescription parasiticides but this is clouded by meaningless and misleading ideas, such as products being 'vet strength'. A new approach will require frontline (no pun here) staff in practices to be better informed about parasites and parasiticide products and for practices to offer non-prescription as well as prescription-only parasiticides. Staff in pet shops and pharmacies also need to adopt a risk-based approach to selling products and know when to refer an owner to a vet. This will put professionals, not drug companies, in charge of advising pet owners.