There have been a few press articles lately about the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC)’s traveling roadshow on parasitic zoonoses. Measures to increase awareness about zoonotic diseases and encourage appropriate preventive measures are needed, and traveling shows such as this have the potential to reach wide audiences. However, it’s important for people to critically assess everything they are told and understand the sources. CAPC produces some excellent educational material but, to my knowledge, it is fully funded by the pharmaceutical industry. That doesn’t necessarily mean that CAPC’s educational efforts are suspect – people participating with their roadshow have solid credentials, but you do have to critique some of the things CAPC says.
One news article about CAPC’s efforts states that "The CDC reports that about 14 percent of the total U.S. population is currently infected with Toxocara, or internal roundworms, contracted from dogs and cats." I don’t think that’s accurate information. I believe that this is based on seroprevalence data, meaning 14 percent of the population has antibodies against Toxocara. The presence of antibodies means that at some point in life the person’s (or animal’s) body was exposed to Toxocara and produced antibodies. It does not mean that these people were ever sick and it certainly does not mean that these people are currently infected. Toxocara can cause serious infections and is a concern in some regions (although it’s extremely rare in Ontario), so it warrants some attention, but we need to take a balanced and evidence-based approach.
One common theme in all of the reports that I’ve read lately is the statement that "The CAPC recommends that pet owners use preventive medicine year-round to control internal and external parasites for the life of their cat or dog, no matter where they live." There’s simply no evidence supporting this broad of a statement. Risks in warm southern climates are not the same as in northern areas with cold winters. Prevalence rates of different parasites vary greatly between regions. There is no evidence supporting year-round deworming of dogs and cats in all regions. Statements like this weaken the other good educational information CAPC has, particularly when you consider their funding source.
Don’t disregard educational materials from CAPC or other industry-sponsored groups, just don’t accept them as gospel. Critically assess the information, and don’t be afraid to ask for facts, or to get information from other sources.
For more information about deworming recommendations for dogs and cats in Canada, see this previous Worms & Germs post.