By Iris Ege, Dr med vet, MRCVS, Cert Vet Ac

To worm or not to worm?

Do you know whether your animal has worms? And therefore, whether they need worming?

There is an alternative to the routine use of pharmaceutical worming treatments. The “gold standard”* is to test for the presence of worm eggs and worms in a faecal sample, and only use a worming medication if the test is positive. For example, faecal sample testing is now commonly used in horses and sheep, where worms are becoming resistant to some worming treatments. Your first line vet will be happy to discuss it with you.

Wormers don’t prevent infection

Dog and cat wormers are very effective at treating worms, but they don’t actually prevent infection. Depending on the animal’s lifestyle they are conventionally recommended at intervals of between one and three months.  If you want to avoid using drugs unnecessarily, faecal egg counts and lungworm tests are available for pets. You only need to treat if the result comes back positive. This avoids the unnecessary use of wormers and allows you to focus on dealing with a problem only if it actually arises.

Only worm if necessary – good for your dog and wildlife

We have tried one of the popular herbal wormers on our dog and it reduced the egg count but didn’t eliminate the worms. That is why we feel using appropriate wormers only when necessary is the way forward. This is not only better for your pet but also reduces the chemical load entering the environment which may compromise biodiversity and water quality.

If you are worried about gut health after using wormers, a combination of pre and probiotics can help.

Address underlying problems if necessary

It should be said that signs of worms are rarely detected in faecal samples. It is most common for young animals to have high worm burdens. If your pet has repeated worm infestations, the holistic approach is to address the underlying problem and enable the animal to build up its own natural resistance. A healthy microbiome and lymphatic system of the gastroIntestinal tract are crucial to overall health as well as being the cornerstones of a robust resistance to parasites. Commonly changes in diet and a bit of help using gentle herbs will make all the difference.

Faecal egg counts & microbiome testing

A.P.Vet Ltd. is now working with a lab specialising in faecal egg counts for pets and also works with a lab specialising in microbiome testing for dogs and horses. Sample kits are posted directly to you and you use the freepost envelope provided to send them back. We will let you know the results and can inform your vet of positive findings to aid with targeted treatment.

Further advice regarding treatment is available, but we don’t sell wormers. In addition, lungworm medication requires a prescription.  Problems with the microbiome can usually be addressed with dietary modification, supplements and herbs.

For our local area, Herefordshire, we are planning to map worms and highlight the number of samples tested in relation to the worm signs found. This will help us to do a realistic risk assessment and to advise on how frequently pets of which age should be tested.

Useful links

Blogs about the use chemicals in animal healthcare

Blogs about the microbiome

Article by Iris Ege, Dr med vet, MRCVS, Cert Vet Ac
Iris grew up on a smallholding in Germany.  She studied Veterinary Medicine in Germany and graduated in 2003, she trained in Wings® Animal-Kinesiology and did her Practitioner exam in Aug. 2007. This enables her to access other complementary therapy forms, especially for chronic cases.

Iris qualified in international acupuncture training with International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) in 2013.  She covers the fields of Traditional as well as Western Acupuncture and Low-Level Laser Therapy. As a result of qualifying as a veterinary herbalist and becoming a member of the British Association of Veterinary herbalists, Iris enhances or sustains the effects of acupuncture with herbs as well. She combines the scientific approach to herbal medicine with holistic herbal knowledge.  She also has an interest in nutrition and is a member of the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society (RFVS).

Iris has worked in general practice not only treating pets and horse but also cattle and goats holistically with good results. Acupuncture has become her main interest and in October 2012 she left mixed practice to focus on alternative veterinary medicine founding A.P. Vet Ltd in January to facilitate the team approach for the benefit of her patients.

* Broussard JD. Optimal fecal assessment. Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice. 2003;18:218–230. [PMC free article

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The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website