Arecoline for Tapeworms? No.

Everybody likes to save money.  I know I do. On the other hand, "you get what you pay for" is one of those phrases that really hits home sometimes.  If I didn’t know any better, I guess I might think that treating a dog for worms ought to be pretty simple.  I might also think that if a medication is sold over the counter, it would have to be pretty safe.  I might even give the drug to my dog without really understanding what was going to happen.  IF I didn’t know any better, that is.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who indeed do not know any better.

I can understand people trusting their physician. There is really no other way to explain the numbers of people who are taking psychotropic drugs that list everything they are prescribed for as possible side effects.  Most people don’t know that the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) exists, much less have the vocabulary to read and understand it.  Too bad, but one can develop a relationship of trust with his doctor — needs to, in fact.  On the other hand, how can you really feel like you have a relationship of trust with a shelf at the feed store?

SO, these folks have four little ten-pound poodles.  At least one of them is passing tapeworm segments.  Better get them some "worm medicine".  Call your friendly veterinarian?  Oh, no, there’s nothing to that. We’ll just drop by the feed store and get a "worm pill".  And so that’s what they did.  The gal running the cash register looked at what they picked up and said, "Sure, that will be fine for your pups."  The box says, "Tapeworm Expeller".

Now if you were to stop by your friendly veterinarian (who regularly cares for your pet) and mention that your four-legged pal is passing those little yucky things, he or she could dispense a lovely medication like Droncit, Drontal, or Cestex that would safely and quietly kill the tapeworm with no fuss, no muss and no chocolate mess (much like M&Ms;  in fact, the Cestex tablets have a colored film coating and they look a little like M&Ms, or Sweet Tarts, or something cute like that).  If you’re not a skillful pill-poker-downer, bring your pal in to the clinic for a quick injection that does the same thing.  Tapeworms die, they disappear, and the pet experiences no side-effects.  All is well.

OR, you could buy a "Tapeworm Expeller" at the feed store, naively believing that it "must be okay".  Arecoline is the active ingredient.  It doesn’t actually kill the tapeworm directly.   What it actually does is to give the dog a case of screaming, violent, explosive diarrhea to BLOW them out. It’s an "expeller".  If a dog is a little on the small side (like a ten-pound poodle) and a little sensitive to the drug, and you gave it to all four little dogs, you would have one heck of a mess.  Especially since the drug can also overstimulate other parts of the nervous system, causing them to vomit heavily as well, and to have fairly severe muscle tremors, as well.

This is why I’m staying ninety minutes past closing and treating four miserable and messy little dogs.  How do you treat these guys, you might ask?  By gosh, if you’re not an old-timer like me, you’ll have a hard time answering that question.  That’s because the drug is obsolete and not mentioned in any current medical texts.  This chemical is so obsolete that I have twenty year old books that don’t even mention it.  My internet database on Veterinary Information Network had ZERO references to the drug.  Fortunately, the old pack-rat (me) had a twenty-five year old pharmacology book that still referenced it and I administered an antidote.   They all got well.

I emailed the toxicologists (the poison specialists) to ask if there was anything else I should have done.  Their reply: "I didn’t know you could still buy that stuff anywhere".  Well, you can… but you shouldn’t.  I can tell you that if the dogs had been treated appropriately, it might have cost four times as much as the pills from the feed store.  On the other hand, the emergency treatment cost TEN times as much as the appropriate medication.

Take-home message: Your veterinarian = Good           Arecoline = Bad

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