Nearly a quarter of Australian dog owners never deworm their dog, while 72.3 per cent do not follow best practice guidelines when doing so.

The alarming statistics were revealed in a recent study, which showed that owners may be putting their pets, families, and themselves at risk by failing to follow the guidelines when it comes to controlling canine intestinal worms.

Professor Rebecca Traub, a Professor of Veterinary Parasitology and member of the Australian Companion Animal Zoonoses Advisory Panel, said it is alarming that despite the hazards, the results show there is a lot to be done to educate pet owners about the risk of disease transmission between pets and people.

“Dogs, both healthy and sick, may carry a range of different zoonotic organisms and given the close relationship between pets and people and their shared living environment, it is extremely important that dog owners remain vigilant to prevent exposure of these parasites to other dogs and humans both directly, and through contamination of the environment.”

Monthly deworming and prompt removal of dog faeces is key in minimising the risks associated with intestinal worms in dogs. This also extends to people as many of the worm species infesting dogs can infect and cause disease in humans, known as zoonoses, meaning best practice guidelines are key to keeping both people and pets healthy.

“Last year, we conducted Australia’s first nationwide study investigating the prevalence and distribution and risks associated with canine intestinal worms contaminating dog parks across Australia and it showed that almost half (42.6 per cent) of parks sampled were contaminated with canine intestinal worms.

“While many dog owners are rightly concerned about the risks of dog faeces not being cleaned-up in public locations such as dog parks, this survey highlights the lack of awareness from dog owners for the threat their own home/backyard presents,” explained Traub.

The Australian Companion Animal Zoonoses Advisory Panel has recently developed a set of guidelines. Key recommendations are:

• Regular veterinary health checks for pets

• Ensure good hygiene practices (e.g., handwashing, disposal of pet poo)

• Deworm pets monthly

• Treat pets for external parasites year-round

• Avoid feeding raw meat diets to pets

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