Need advice on worms Print E-mail
News - Briewe
Tuesday, 23 June 2015 01:12
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Barbara Stevens writes to Dr Liesel van der Merwe
I read your column on Spirocerca lupi in small animals with interest, however noted that it was written in 2010 and perhaps there has been some further research done and preventative methods changed accordingly.

I live in Richards Bay, KZN and have been informed by one vet that Milbemax is the correct preventative treatment for the worm; however another vet has told me that Milbemax has never been proven to be successful and that prevention is only 60%. This vet has suggested using Advocate which has 98% prevention. My dogs swim regularly and I understand that they need to be kept out of the pool for three days for Advocate to be effective.

Dr Liesel van der Merwe answers:
The problem with Spirocercosis is that the worm takes a long time to cause symptoms. Once it has entered your dog’s body through the stomach wall it migrates in the wall on the blood vessels towards the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. After hanging around there and growing and moulting, it migrates from the aorta to the adjacent oesophagus where it makes nodules, matures and reproduces.

The term ‘effective treatment’ can mean different things. Will the treatment stop infection at any stage? Will it stop the aortic damage or will it stop nodule development?

Milbemax given once a month does not stay in the body the whole month. It leaves the system after a few days, but this is enough to kill off most Spirocerca worms in the body.

However, looking at the life-cycle you can see that this timing will still allow the worm to infect the body and move to the aorta. Animals on monthly treatment showed damage to the aorta but no nodules in the oesophagus. So, animals were infected, but it didn’t take hold.

Advocate has a similar ingredient, but if used consistently every month the active ingredient stays in the system long enough to prevent infection in most cases. So, even damage to the aorta is minimal.

Because it is a topical (spot-on) treatment, it needs time to distribute and absorb into the skin. Hence the no swimming for three days after application. Bear in mind that this spot-on is not effective against ticks, so you will need to use an additional treatment.

Another problem in KZN is that microfilaria (a type of heart worm) is present in the blood of many dogs without causing symptoms. Milbemax or Advocate will kill these worms and this can cause a ‘shock’ reaction. It is advisable to get a blood test done to check for these parasites (Knotts test) if you are using these products for the first time.


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