ParasitesOne sure problem you will have to deal with, no matter how healthy your animals are is parasite prevention. External parasites include fleas, lice, ticks, and mites. Internal parasite include worms, flukes, etc. Many are not visible to the naked eye.
Identification of the parasite you are dealing with is obviously a first step. There is an excellent website at Ohio State University with photos and information on every parasite you can think of (and many you've never heard of!). I cannot recommend this site highly enough, it should be on the desktop of every on-line animal owner.
As with humans, most animals have some parasites, this is normal, and healthy. Only when they multiply and become symptomatic is there a problem. Obvious signs include weight loss despite adequate nutrition, general poor condition, skin, fur, or feather deterioration, and of course larger parasites can be seen in droppings or on the body. For these reasons animals are often described as "dirty" by many people. Normal good hygiene will prevent contamination, and in any case, many parasites are specific to one species only. One of the keys to parasite control is in copying nature - rotation of pasture, and always allowing animal access to the outdoors.
MOST external parasites can be quickly dispatched by suffocation. Oil or grease will kill most lice and mites. There are many expensive preparations on the market which are oil-based. In almost all cases the oil is what kills them, making the toxic (to the host animal) chemicals an expensive, dangerous, and pointless addition. The idea of the added poison is that it has a residual effect, killing bugs that hatch after the treatment has been rinsed off (as most eggs are NOT killed by the treatment). Obviously this residue is also harmful to the host animal, especially if ingested. Many animals groom themselves. In fact most of the reports I've heard of poisonings in animals are caused by ingestion of these pesticides, either when grooming themselves, or when packaging was left around carelessly.
(For information on treating poisoning please see Poison)
WormsTypical worms seen in animals are:
There are a wide variety of chemical worming treatments available. An excellent list of chemical names, brand names, doses and methods for your reference is at The University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine site. Probably the best known and most widely used anti-parasitic treatment is Ivermection (Ivomec), which has a very chequered reputation. While saving the eyesight of millions of people in tropical countries infected with Onchocerciasis, it has also been known to cause the deaths of many animals, sometimes by slight overdose, sometimes by sensitivity to normal doses, and sometimes by totally inappropriate treatment (several dog breeds should NEVER be given Ivermection - see Dogs & Ivermectin. This is one of those areas where education is your best resource. After studying everything I could lay my hands on, I decided not to use it. You may feel differently.
There are safe, effective herbal treatments for worms. Because of the importance of parasite control to keep animals healthy (and therefore resistant to other disease) many people balk at using them, because they feel the chemical treatments are more reliable. In my personal experience the herbal treatments are more reliable. Or to put it another way, we do not have a worm problem. But one anecdotal affirmation is not enough. I invite you to study the careful research of a young lady named Crissy Ore. Crissy also offers some suggestions for herbs to use, with dosages.
Several companies sell herbal wormers ready prepared. Probably the best is 7mfarm who also offer a complete range of other remedies. If you are keen to grow these herbs for your own blend, you can purchase them online at Richters. Chinese herbal wormers are available from Petsage
For information on parasites in humans, please see "Is something bugging you?"
The commonest used herbs for worms are: garlic, wormwood (hence its name, but southernwood is a substitute), mustard seed, cloves, black walnut, male fern, tansy, quassia, rue, eucalyptus, vervain, and mugwort. Most prepared herbal wormers contain a blend of several of these, and as each worm has different characteristics, it is logical that a variety of remedies will cover the worming process better. However, some of these herbs are strong stuff, and could be dangerous in overdose, or on young, or pregnant animals, and I do NOT suggest you take some of each, and use it freely!
Following each link in the list above will take you to details of how each herb works, and how safe it is. A beginner to herbs is probably best purchasing a trusted blend, such as 7m's. Keen beginners would do well to try the safest herbs like garlic, mustard seed, and cloves together. But I cannot over-emphasize the value of study here. Knowledge is the key to success!