Parasite Prevention Program
By Dr. Lisa Aumiller
“Dr. Aumiller, I recently read your article in Pet Boarding & Daycare magazine, “How to Keep Clients From Bugging Out”, and a couple of our staff have been fortunate enough to hear you speak at conferences. I appreciated the information you provided in the article and was pleased to see we already use some of the practices you recommended. I was wondering if you had any recommendations for a Parasite Prevention Program once the guests are here. Thank you so much for your time and I appreciate any information you can provide.” — Julie
Thanks for the great follow–up question. It is absolutely worth having a parasite prevention program in place. Most veterinary hospitals have one and our guests aren’t typically staying! A good parasite prevention program should have a few components: A parasite check at check–in and check–out, an action plan if parasites are found, a set standard for owners to follow to help keep your kennel parasite free, and a good backup plan if that standard is not met.
Team members that check pets in to your kennel and release them to go home after their stay should absolutely be trained to do a mini exam on the pets. This exam is important for the client’s perception as well as for your safety. I hate to liken it to when you rent a car but it does serve as a good analogy. When you rent a car, you and the customer service representative inspect the car for any signs of damage. This process is repeated when you return the car. Pets coming in for boarding should go through a similar process.
This will help alert the staff to any existing issues that may be present such as an ear infection, hair loss, a broken tooth, and of course fleas or other parasites. Additionally, at check–in there should be a check list the team member goes over with the owner. A key question on this checklist would be “When did you apply a flea/tick preventative last?” and “What product do you use to protect your pet from fleas and ticks?”. Likewise, just as you make sure pets are up to date on their titers or vaccines, you should make sure they have had fecal testing in the past 6 months.
Generally, new clients to kennel facilities are made aware of your expectations from the point of their interview. This is a good time to introduce your parasite protection plan. Let owners know you cannot guarantee their pet will not get parasites while staying with you but you do have a veterinary approved plan in place to greatly minimize their pet’s chances of bringing home any stowaways. Your veterinarian on record should review the plan you decide upon and offer any feedback.
My recommendation is to require that a topical flea and tick prevention be applied within the last month. Make sure you have them note the date of the last treatment and the type of medication used in case you have to repeat a treatment. Some clients prefer the more natural treatments which often require daily administration. I would be fine with this and have the staff apply their product daily for an extra fee.
Fecal tests are usually recommended annually for low risk dogs and biannually for dogs with higher risk. I consider dogs that live in apartment complexes, visit dog parks, and that participate in daycare or kenneling to be at higher risk for intestinal parasites. Make it one of your requirements that pets participating in your program get tested biannually. Also, let owners know what type of cleaner you are using. Many of the kennel cleaners kill not only bacteria and viruses but also certain intestinal parasites.
Finally, if a problem occurs have your vet on record help determine a good plan of action to remedy the situation. In our clinic, if a pet comes in with parasites we treat the patient with an all natural cedar oil spray and we administer an oral that contains Nitenpyram. Since the spray is all natural it can be used with other topicals that may have been applied. Previously, I worked at a clinic that would reapply a monthly preventative if it had been at least 2 weeks since the last one was applied.
If they have not had a fecal test recently, see if the vet that works with your kennel would allow you to turn in fecal tests at the client’s expense. If the pet comes back positive, their vet on record would need to be contacted for a prescription to treat the issue. Both clients and local vets will be impressed by your astuteness in protecting the pets in your care.
The most important thing is that there are many systems you could put into place that are all slightly different. The key is that you have a well thought out standard of care, you share it with your clients, and you have a plan of action if there is a breach in your care plan.
Great question and thanks for doing your best to keep the pets safe!
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Dr. Lisa Aumiller is a veterinarian that has been serving pets in NJ and PA for over 15 years. She is the founder and CEO of HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service, the largest mobile veterinary service in North America.