iStock_000064396047_LargeHave you ever stopped to wonder why we ask you to bring in a fecal sample to your pet’s appointment? It’s not because we like play with poop! The fecal examination is actually a very important part of your dog or cat’s wellness care. Next time we recommend checking a sample, don’t poo-poo the suggestion. Read on to find out why fecal exams are essential.

What We Are Looking For

When we perform a fecal examination, we are specifically on the hunt for intestinal parasites. A recent study out of Kansas State estimates that approximately 34% of dogs have some kind of intestinal parasite.

Not all parasites are visible to the naked eye, and many only spend a short period of their life cycle as worms that you can see in the stool. When we perform a fecal, we use a specialized test to isolate any eggs or single celled parasites and view them under a microscope.

Some of the more common pet parasites that we diagnose on a fecal examination include:

  • Roundworms
  • Whipworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Coccidia
  • Giardia

There are many others as well, each as nasty as the next.

The Importance of Fecal Exams

Thankfully, intestinal parasites in humans in the United States have been all but eradicated due to better health practices, clean drinking water, and sewage treatment. This, unfortunately, is not the case for the pet population.

Even pets who are well taken care of are exposed to parasites in their environment due to stray and wild animals who may wander into the yard or an area park. Animals also are in closer contact with the ground, often drinking puddle water, grooming paws and other areas that have been in contact with the ground, and chewing on sticks, toys, and treats that may be contaminated. Parasites may also be contracted when eating small prey such as mice or rabbits.

Checking to be sure that pets are not carrying parasites is extremely important for a few reasons:

  • A parasite-free pet is a healthier one. Parasites can cause weight loss, diarrhea, an unhealthy coat, and even the dreaded butt scoot.
  • Some parasites are zoonotic (transmissible to humans). The CDC says that about 14% of people in the United States have been infected with the Toxocara roundworm.

Pets who are on monthly parasite preventatives are at much lower risk of infection, however nothing is entirely perfect. Also, there is currently no monthly preventative that offers protection against all types of intestinal parasites. That’s why it is so important that we examine your pet’s poop regularly during wellness exams and appointments.

The Scoop on the Poop

Okay, okay, you are convinced that you need to have routine fecal examinations performed on your pet. So now what? Here are a few things to know:

  • We don’t need your whole backyard. One gram of feces (approximately the size of a dice) is all that is necessary to perform a fecal examination.
  • Clumping litter can be deceiving. Be sure that you are, indeed, bringing us stool!
  • The fresher the better. We would like to examine a sample no more than 12 hours old when possible.
  • If it’s been frozen, the sample is no good. Freezing can destroy those parasite eggs that we are on the hunt for.
  • The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that fecal examinations be performed on puppies and kittens two to four times in the first year of life and one to two times a year as an adult.

Parasites and pets don’t mix. Be sure to do your part to protect your pet (and your family) from these nasty little things by participating in routine screening tests like fecal examinations during wellness visits. At Vaughn Road Veterinary Clinic, we feel that it our duty to help you accomplish this important part of your pet’s overall wellness care. Please let us know if you have any questions, and don’t forget to bring that poop!