Dogs entering shelters can carry gastrointestinal parasites that may pose serious risks to other animals, shelter staff and visitors. Shelters provide an environment that could facilitate the spread of parasitic infections between animals. Nematodes and protozoa that transmit through ingestion or skin penetration are major enteric parasites of concern in shelter settings. Ancylostoma spp., Uncinaria stenocephala, Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina, Trichuris vulpis and Dipylidium caninum are the major helminths while Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Isospora spp. and Sarcocystis spp. are the most prevalent protozoan parasites in shelter dogs. The prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites in shelter dogs is typically higher than in owned dogs. A range of cost-effective drugs is available for prevention and control of helminths in shelters, notably fenbendazole, pyrantel, oxantel, and praziquantel. Parasiticide options for protozoan parasites are often cost-prohibitive or limited by a lack of veterinary registration for use in dogs. Environmental control measures reliant upon hygiene and facility management are therefore a mainstay for control and prevention of protozoan parasites in shelters. This philosophy should also extend to helminth control, as integrated parasite control strategies can allow anthelmintics to be used more sparingly and judiciously. The purpose of this article is to comprehensively review the current knowledge on the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites most commonly found in dogs in shelters, canvass recommended treatment programs in shelter dogs, and to explore the likelihood that parasiticide resistance might emerge in a shelter environment.
Keywords: animal shelters; dogs; nematodes; parasiticide resistance; protozoa; tapeworms; treatment protocols.