The campaign is being supported by TV presenter Jenni Falconer, “As a dog owner and a mum I want to be sure I do the best thing for my pet and my family. During the Pet Parasite Action campaign, I’m encouraging all pet owners to visit their vet for a simple way to help protect their pet against parasites inside and out, including those that might be harmful to rest of the family. Let’s act now to protect all the members of our family, furry or otherwise.”
After conducting a nationwide survey of over 1000 dog owners, Pet Parasite Action says the findings confirm that dogs are important members of the family and most owners say that losing their pet would be devastating. The most important reason for owning a pet is to keep active but other reasons, such as non-judgemental love and an ability to give comfort, become more important across the regions.
The survey also discovered that 85 per cent of us happily hug our dogs and the majority let their dog sleep on their bed, sit on their sofa or lap, lick their faces and give them kisses. But 28 per cent said they have found parasites on carpets, 26 per cent have spotted a parasite on themselves and a shocking four per cent have even found one on their child. Despite this, over a third of people say they never think about the parasites their pet might be hosting when they hug them.
When it comes to pet parasites, most dog owners don’t have an accurate view of which pose the most rick to them or their family. It’s lungworm that worries owners most with 74% saying it is the pet parasite they are most concerned about, with the only exceptions being the North East where fleas were the most concerning parasite and Scotland where ticks were of equal concern.
While 82% of dog owners can correctly identify that lungworm could be fatal to their pets, 43% say they think dog lungworm is the parasite that poses the greatest risk to human health, when actually it’s harmless to people. Furthermore, despite concern about its effects, 23% say that they don’t know when their pet was last treated for lungworm. This is worrying because cases of this deadly parasite are increasing, and spreading throughout the country into previously unaffected areas.
Just 48% realise that ticks can cause fatalities in dogs because they can transmit diseases such as babesiosis. Only 28% recognise that ticks (as a transmitter of Lyme disease in people) are a risk to human health. Ticks should be a concern to pet owners because the threat from this parasite to pets and people is growing: in recent years there has been an increase in tick numbers across the UK due to changing weather patterns and an increasing population of deer, which host ticks. Plus, a recent study showed 1 in 3 dogs is infested with ticks.
The least worried about parasite is probably one of the most concerning. Just 15% say they are most worried about roundworms and a mere 7% correctly say they think it could threaten human health. Yet, if accidentally eaten, eggs from the roundworm Toxocara pose a significant threat to human health, potentially causing blindness or neurological disease – especially in children.
One in four people don’t realise that their pet could have parasites but they might not be visible, as is often the case with lungworms, hard to find ticks and microscopic roundworm eggs.
Around 1 in 6 say that it’s been about a year since they last treated their pet for ticks, lungworm or roundworms.
The benefits of pet ownership are considerable and pet owners do not need to be alarmed. They just need to be aware of the risks of parasites and the fact that simple, regular treatment will help to reduce these risks for all.
More information about pet parasites is also available from the Pet Parasite Action website www.petparasiteaction.co.uk.