Yes, your pet needs fecal testing every year or 6-months. Fecal flotation or fecal testing is one of the best ways to check if your pet has intestinal parasites or worms.
You can squeeze the fecal exam into your pet's regular wellness check, so you need not take them to the vet often. Along with wellness monitoring, the veterinarian will also inspect if your pet has any worms and if it needs deworming drugs.
According to the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, over 38% of dogs attending outdoor parks have intestinal parasites.
What is Parasitic Infection in Pets?
Some of the parasites tested for include roundworms, coccidia, giardia, hookworms, and whipworms. These parasites can infect both humans and animals. Unlike humans, dogs and cats can easily pick up parasites from infected food, soil, water, and animal feces.
In roundworm infection, the parasite undergoes a complicated life cycle before mature roundworms are found in the intestinal tract. This involves several stages and includes migration through various bodily tissues. Roundworm larvae (immature worms) can migrate and become enclosed in a cyst in the host's body's tissue.
You can’t immediately tell if your pet has been infected with a parasite unless they start showing signs of infection, including refraining from eating, vomiting, unusual behavior, chewing on grass, etc. However, as the number of parasites increases, your pet may start showing tell-tale signs;
- Losing weight
- Diarrhea, with or without blood or mucus.
- Distended abdomen (belly)
- Weight loss
- Decreased activity
- Dull coat
Because intestinal parasites can go undetected for months and even years, it is a perfect reason to get fecal testing on your pet carried out every 6 months. A bi-yearly fecal test can help to catch parasites early and mean that they are easier to treat. Most vets recommend that all dogs and cats be tested for parasites at least once a year.
What is fecal flotation?
Fecal flotation is a veterinary exam used in diagnosing internal parasites. The test detects the eggs of mature parasites that live inside the body and pass their eggs to the outside by shedding them into the host's stool. Some of these parasites are worm-like, while others are tiny single-celled organisms called protozoa. The worms, eggs, larvae, and even smaller protozoan cysts cannot be seen with the naked eye, even after retrieving a fecal sample; hence it needs further microscopic probing to determine the infection.
The veterinarian will test your pet's stool sample mixed with a special liquid that causes the parasite's eggs to float to the surface. The eggs are collected and examined under a microscope to identify the type of adult parasite present inside the intestine.
Your vet will require you to bring a fresh sample for the test. The closer you can collect the sample before the appointment, the better. It becomes difficult to identify the condition and properly prescribe the right intestinal parasite treatments if the stool sample isn’t in an appropriate condition.
Does the test work every time?
- No, fecal flotation is only a basic screening test and may fail in some situations.
- When the parasites present in the intestine are too young to produce eggs. If no eggs are being shed, then the infection cannot be detected.
- The infection isn't severe, and there are only a few adult parasites present. In this case, the number of eggs in the stool may be too low to be detected.
- Some parasites only produce small numbers of eggs, and infection may be missed on a single test. You'd have to take other tests as well, such as smear test or centrifugation.
Can humans become infected with parasites from pets?
Parasites in pets are zoonotic, i.e., they easily spread from animals to humans and vice versa.
According to a recent study, approximately 34 percent of the dogs that live in America have some intestinal parasite. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that as many as 14 percent of the human population has been infected with roundworm. Roundworm Toxocara infections cause an average of 700 Americans to lose their eyesight each year.
Humans can get infected with parasitic infections when they walk around barefoot in the garden, present as dog poop by eating infected food items, contaminated water, and not washing hands after playing with pets.
How to prevent parasite infections?
Although you can’t completely protect your pet or yourself from a parasitic infection, you can take measures to control the infection. These easy steps will reduce the chance of you and your pet becoming infected with a parasite.
- Use flea and tick preventative measures to keep your pets flea-free.
- Arrange for fecal testing once or twice a year. If your pet is under 12 months old, arrange for fecal testing every 3 or 4 months.
- Every pregnant pet, including dogs and cats, requires worming. The newborn pets will require worming.
- Speak to your vet about heartworm treatments that include protection against hookworms and roundworms.
- Don’t allow your pet to eat raw meat.
- Always wash your hands after touching or handling animal feces.
- Don’t walk in public parks barefoot and use gloves when gardening.
Check this infographics for more information.
Get in touch with Urban Pet Hospital & Resort, the reliable pet hospital in Urbandale, to get your pet tested for parasitic infections. Our certified veterinarians will ensure that your pet is diagnosed and treated for all kinds of parasitic infection.