Fecal tests are an essential tool to ensure that your pet and your household are not infected and exposed to intestinal parasites.
Have you wondered why ABC Veterinary Hospital recommends annual fecal testing and what exactly is tested for? We recommend “fecals” because they are an important part of your pet’s annual exam. Fecals allow us to check your pet for intestinal parasites. Intestinal parasites are a major cause of morbidity in pets and also a concern for people. According to this research study at Kansas State, 34% of dogs in the United States have some kind of intestinal parasite, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that 14% of people in the U.S. have been infected with the roundworm toxocara. As a result of toxocara infections, approximately 700 people lose vision every year. Fecals are an important tool to ensure that your pet and your household are not infected and exposed to intestinal parasites, respectively.
34% of dogs in the United States have some kind of intestinal parasite.
Because intestinal parasites live in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract, they are usually hidden from view. Unlike external parasites like fleas and ticks, most intestinal parasites are never seen. The only way to detect the presence of intestinal parasites and identify them is by doing a fecal test.
ABC Veterinary Hospital fecal tests will detect the following intestinal parasites:
Roundworms - Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite in dogs and cats. The adult worms are round and range in size from less than two inches to almost 6 inches in length. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, a survey conducted in 1996 using samples collected from across the United States found that more than 30% of dogs younger than 6 months of age were shedding roundworm eggs and other studies have shown that virtually all pups are born infected. Other surveys have found more than 25% of cats infected.
Hookworms - Hookworms are a parasitic nematode (worm) that inhabits the intestinal tract of a host. Hookworms are named for the hook-like mouth parts with which they attach to the lining of the intestine and use to feed on the blood of the host. Hookworms can infect humans as well as dogs and cats. They are quite small but can cause heavy infections that result in severe inflammation and blood loss; in some individuals, kittens, and puppies for example, these infections can prove fatal if not treated.
Whipworms - Whipworms are an intestinal parasite that can occur in both dogs and cats; however, they are seldom seen in cats in North America. Whipworms are named for their characteristic whip-shaped body. The body is composed of a thin, filamentous, anterior end (the “lash” of the whip) and a thick posterior end (the “handle” of the whip). Adult worms are about 2-3 inches in length. The adult worms live primarily in the cecum (the equivalent of your appendix) where they insert their long, skinny ends into the lining of the intestine and feed on blood, other tissue fluids and the lining itself.
Coccidiaa - Coccidiosis is a disease caused by the tiny, single-cell pests, coccidia. These parasites can live in the wall of your dog’s intestines. They are most common in puppies, but can still infect older dogs and cats, as well. Our canine friends can become infected by swallowing dirt or other things in an environment that is contaminated with coccidia-infected feces. In adult dogs, there may be no signs of infection, while in puppies the symptoms can be more serious. The most common symptom is diarrhea; in severe situations, the diarrhea can be accompanied by blood in the stool.
Giardia - Giardia is a microscopic, protozoan parasite that causes inflammation of the intestinal tract and subsequent diarrhea that can be very serious. It has been referred to as backpackers’ disease because of the risk of exposure when hiking. Giardia is transmitted by oral ingestion of water or food that has been contaminated by stools of infected people and animals.
How do we perform a fecal test?
Since worm eggs, larvae and protozoan cysts are difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye, a fecal exam is done with a microscope. There are three different ways to prepare a stool sample for examination:
Smear— A smear is the easiest to do and involves smearing a small sample of stool across a microscope glass slide and examining it under the microscope.
Flotation— A flotation (also known as a float) is the most common method used in veterinary hospitals and involves mixing the stool sample in a special solution that allows the eggs and protozoan cysts to float to the surface.
Centrifugation— Centrifugation involves using a centrifuge to spin down a stool sample suspended in a special solution prior to performing the floatation. The parasites are then identified microscopically based on the size, shape and characteristics of their eggs, larvae or cysts (found in the stool specimen).
How to provide a proper fecal sample?
When it comes to stool samples - fresh is best. The fact is that fresher stool samples give you more accurate and sensitive results. Eggs and larvae from some types of parasites, as well as protozoa and protozoan cysts, can become altered and unrecognizable the longer they sit out.
No Appointment Needed - Drop off Your Pet's Stool Sample
For the best results, collect the freshest stool sample and bring it to ABC Veterinary Hospital the same day. If this is not possible, you can seal the fecal sample in a ziploc® bag and refrigerate it until you can bring it to in. If you’re putting it in your refrigerator, I recommend being extra careful to not dirty the outside of the ziploc® bag and double bagging it to insure you do not contaminate your fridge and food. But remember, fresher is better!
Symptoms That Warrant An Immediate Fecal Test
A fecal test should be done annually. However, there are times when it is necessary to study a stool sample immediately. Intestinal parasites can cause major damage to your dog or cat’s organs and if they contract a parasite mid-year you will certainly see some red flags. Arrange for a fecal exam right away If you observe any of the following behaviors in your pet:
How to Prevent Intestinal Parasite Infection:
Deworm your pet on a regular basis. Check with us at ABC Veterinary Hospital for how often this should bee done.
Have fecal exams done on your pet's feces 1-2 times a year. Have this done 2-4 times if under a year of age.
Do not allow your pets to eat raw meat. Do not eat undercooked meat yourself.
Practice good hygiene. Wash hand frequently, especially after handling pets or cleaning up pet waste. Make sure hands are washed before eating.
Try to pick up pet waste daily and dispose of it properly. It is not a good idea to use dog or cat waste as fertilizer for your garden.
Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.
Keep pets flea-free. Use appropriate flea/tick preventatives.
Wear shoes in areas where there are apt to be animal stools such as parks and playgrounds. Wear gloves while gardening.
Clean litter boxes daily. Have some one else besides pregnant or immunocompromised people perform this task.
Do not drink water from streams or other potentially contaminated sources. Provide your pet with fresh, potable water.
Keep pets clean. Give them a bath after deworming.
Administer heartworm products that also have activity against roundworms and hookworms year-round.
Is Your Pet on a Monthly Parasite Preventative?
Along with monthly, year-round parasite preventatives; routine fecal exams are the best way to ensure that your pet and your household are safe from intestinal parasites.
Your pet depends on you for all of their medical care. Call now to arrange your pet's annual wellness exam and be prepared to obtain a stool sample from your pet prior to the visit. Please call us if you have any questions.
Use coupon code ABC627 for $10 off fecal testing.
Call ABC Veterinary Hospital at (760) 471-4950 or email us.
Dr. Barry Neichin
Chief of Staff
ABC Veterinary Hospital
San Marcos CA
When he's not busy with his duties at the hospital, Dr. Neichin can be found outside, either on the trails hiking and camping or in the water snorkeling and skin diving, as well as spending time with his two children. His family also includes Tonka, a Golden Retriever; Leo, a miniature Golden Doodle; Cosmo, a Siamese, and Ruffles, a rabbit. More about Dr. Neichin -->