I found myself standing in the dispensary last week looking at the bewildering choice of anti-parasitic agents and wishing for the simpler days when I was training – when the only options were cans of flea spray, worming powder for pups, and tablets for adult dogs. 

Things have moved on because the old products weren’t always effective and contained ingredients found to cause health problems. Sadly, we face more parasite threats now than in the past. The trouble is, gundog owners are now faced with a lot of products in very different price ranges, and it can be hard to know which products will suit your needs best.

Vet, pharmacy or pet shop?

UK animal medicines have to be authorised for sale. Parasite control products can be:

  • GSL Meaning they can be sold anywhere. These are usually older products with a wide safety margin. Pack sizes can be limited and these may not be the most effective products. 
  • POM-VPS These can be sold by vets, pharmacists, and ‘suitably qualified persons’ who have passed a course on their safe use. These are usually newer products than the GSL ones and can be more effective. They have been around long enough to be considered safe in most dogs though there may be precautions which the seller should explain. 
  • POM-V These can only be obtained from a vet or with a prescription. These are normally the newest and most effective products but can include some older products which must be used carefully in certain breeds.

The question for many gundog owners with multiple dogs will be: do I really need to buy the newest and most expensive stuff from the vet? My answer is maybe not, but you do need to establish the risk to your dogs and choose products and a dosing interval which ensures protection. Speak to your vet or veterinary nurse to design a programme which works for your kennel, but there are some general points to consider.

Adult dogs

These have the lowest internal parasite risk because they do develop some immunity. Dogs with limited access to grass and in colder parts of the UK may only need roundworm and tapeworm treatment once every three months. Flea treatment should be carried out year-round for most dogs because both heated kennels and houses provide a breeding ground for fleas, even in the winter.

You may choose to give tick treatment all year if you are in a high-risk area, otherwise treat between late spring and early autumn. Be aware that some products need applying more often to control ticks. Sadly, lungworm is a growing problem in the UK with infection causing a variety of symptoms from chronic coughing to bleeding disorders and even death. Spread by slugs and snails, dogs with outdoor runs are at elevated risk, though any dog can be affected. Ask your vet about prevalence in your area and use a treatment monthly if concerned.

Breeding bitches

Traditionally we would give fenbendazole from day 40 of pregnancy until two days after whelping. This will reduce the number of roundworms passed to puppies through the placenta and the milk. However, if a bitch has been regularly wormed prior to mating this may not be necessary. Some POM-V multiwormers are safe to give during pregnancy, but do read the label carefully. 

Pregnant bitches and puppies do seem more prone to flea attacks so do ensure mum is covered with a product which is safe to use when nursing. Make sure your vet, pharmacist or SQP knows if you intend to breed from your dog or bitch because some products are not advised.


Puppies will get some roundworms from their mother no matter how well you worm her, but infection can be life threatening. Puppies should get their first worming at 2-3 weeks old, then every 2-3 weeks until rehoming. After eight weeks, worming once a month is advisable along with flea treatment. Puppies are at higher risk from lungworm infection so ensure the product you use covers this. Tapeworm control is not usually needed until puppies are six months old unless they have access to raw meat, dead rodents, or have had fleas.

Travelling dogs 

Dogs that travel overseas have additional parasite risks. Returning to the UK only officially requires tapeworm treatment but it is highly recommended to speak to your vet to prevent your dog coming home with more than you bargained for!