Worm and flea treatments are routinely administered at vast expense, and while we agree that it is important to protect your animals from these parasites, it is not necessary to pump your pets full of prescriptive drugs when there are other, more natural ways to prevent infestations.
Firstly, let’s look at how the various parasites get into your pet’s body, and then we can understand how to prevent them.
One of the most prevalent pet parasites, roundworm is commonly seen as thin white threads of varying length in the stool. They are usually passed from the mother to her young during pregnancy, but can also be picked up through eating prey or even soil that contains roundworm. They can be quite harmful to pups and kittens unable to fight the infestation, but are relatively easily managed in adults.
This worm looks like small grains of rice or maggots in the stool and can sometimes get stuck around the anus causing your dog to scoot her bottom along the floor (which can also be a sign of infected or blocked anal glands). They attach themselves to the gut wall, can multiply rapidly and grow to some length.
Most commonly picked up through eating slugs, lungworm can also be transmitted through drinking or eating anything that carries the worm’s larvae. Once in the system, as the name suggests they make their way to the lung where they can cause serious respiratory problems if left untreated.
Passed onto your pet through the bite of an infected mosquito, heartworm is difficult to expel and can live up to seven years, so prevention is definitely the best course of action. If you suspect your dog has contracted heartworm, it is important to go to your vet immediately.
This parasite can be caught by ingesting soil or other matter which contains infected faeces. Whipworm attaches itself to the lining of the intestines and causes illness which is hard to detect as there are limited symptoms and they cannot been seen in the stool. An annual faecal test is the only way to identify whipworm.
Typically entering your dog’s body through the paw or skin, or by being ingested through contaminated stagnant water, Hookworm lives in the stomach sucking the host’s blood, causing anaemia and serious illness.
How do I know if my dog has worms?
As well as seeing physical signs of worms in the stool, there are other symptoms that you should be aware of: unexplained weight loss, increased appetite, lethargy, dull coat, diarrhoea, vomiting or constipation. If your dog has worms, then it may be necessary to use medicine to eliminate them, but natural treatments should keep them at bay thereafter. If you are worming your pet through natural methods, it is advisable to use the Vince The Vet Worm Count kits and get stool samples checked periodically to make sure that your animals are parasite free.
You are what you eat
This saying is no different for our four-legged friends: the first, most important step to preventing your dog or cat harbouring parasites is to make sure he has a good diet which promotes a healthy immune and digestive system. As our pets tend to eat and drink unsavoury things while out and about, so they can easily pick up intestinal worms from time to time, however if they are otherwise fit and healthy they are less likely to get sick from the parasite and simply expel them naturally in due course. The best way to feed your pet is through a well-balanced raw menu, but processed food which follows the whole prey diet will also keep your dog or cat in optimum health. In addition, tripe is excellent for your pet’s digestive tract – read our full blog on the power of the potent superfood here – and will help maintain a good balance of healthy gut bacteria to fight any unwanted nasties.
Adding a few vegetables to your dog’s diet will help to make her digestive system an inhospitable place for worms. Orange-coloured veg in particular (squash, pumpkin, carrot) is packed with vitamin A, which can help to eliminate roundworms, while ground pumpkin seeds can be given daily to keep the parasites at bay and dried coconut can help remove tapeworms.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is an organic source of silica which also contains 15 trace minerals essential to overall well-being for humans as well as animals. The active ingredient, silica, can only be ingested in the food grade quality and is essential for bones, tendons, skin, cartilage and blood vessels, as well as helping to reduce the number of worms present in the gut.
A natural detoxifier, DE absorbs and removes numerous nasties as it passes through the system, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses, endotoxins, pesticides, drug residues, E-Coli and heavy metals. Small dogs and puppies should have 1tsp mixed with food per day, medium (20kg) dogs 2 tsp, large (45 kg) dogs 1 tbsp, dogs over 50kg can have 2 tbsp per day.
Slippery Elm (Tree Barks Powder) is gentle laxative which will help remove any worms and soothe irritation caused by the parasite.
Garlic not only helps ward off any parasites – both internal (worms) and external (fleas and ticks) – it also acts as a natural antibiotic and small quantities can be fed daily to boost the immune system to guard against giardia. Dogs can get sick from consuming too much garlic, so make sure you calculate how much using your dog’s weight at 1/2 tsp per 6kg.
Chamomile can be given to expel roundworms and whipworms as the anti-inflammatory properties will also calm the gut and reduce bloating and gas.
Natural Flea and Tick Treatments
There are a range of natural flea treatments available, such as Billy No Mates, Vet’s Best and TropiClean, which are based on natural oils known to repel fleas and ticks.
Natural Flea and Tick Supplements
DE can also be used externally to remove fleas and mites from the skin – just be careful to rub it into the coat when outdoors as inhaling DE can irritate the lungs, then wash your hands after use and rinse the dog after a few hours to avoid any skin irritation.
Apple cider vinegar is an acidic cure-all remedy suitable for animals as well as humans. It is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral and makes the body inhospitable for parasites. It can be given daily in the food or water, but it can also be diluted and used as a shampoo to remove fleas. We also stock apple cider vinegar with garlic to boost the immune system as well as ward off fleas.
Rose Geranium essential oil is reportedly the best prevention for ticks and is widely used in America where Lyme disease is a real concern. Simply dab a few drops between your dog’s shoulder blades, or on a bandana around her neck. Alternately you can use citronella or peppermint essential oils, both of which are known to repel ticks, but these need to be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut or grapeseed before application.
Some of these natural treatments should not be used for pregnant or nursing bitches, and some should not be given to puppies or kittens under 6 months old. It is best to seek further advice if you are looking to treat either of these two category of pets.
Written by: Lucy Ellis