Why Does My Pet Need a Fecal Test?
Fecal testing is a routine wellness service that involves your veterinarian testing a pet’s feces for intestinal parasites that may be slowly affecting their overall health. Most pet owners understand why fecal testing is important in cases of diarrhea and other abnormal bowel movements, but what they may not know is how beneficial routine fecal testing is even when their pet’s poops are regular.
What do fecal tests detect?
Fecal tests are used to screen for several different species of intestinal parasites, also sometimes referred to as intestinal worms. These species include:
Hookworms: Hookworms suck blood by attaching themselves to the intestinal wall of their host. If left untreated, hookworms can cause anemia, lethargy, weakness, pale gums, bloody diarrhea, and weight loss.
Whipworms: Whipworms cause bloody diarrhea in dogs, resulting in weakness and further debilitation over time.
Roundworms: Pets with Roundworms are often asymptomatic. However, in extreme cases these worms can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a dull coat, weight loss, and a distended abdomen (pot-bellied appearance). As the worms grow, they can migrate to the lungs and cause respiratory distress such as coughing.
Coccidia: This intestinal parasite can also go undetected for a long time due to infected pets being asymptomatic. In young pets or debilitated adults however, diarrhea, dehydration, and abdominal distress may occur.
Giardia - Giardia is a protozoan parasite common in puppies and dogs that drink contaminated water that can cause watery diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. We test for this through an add-on test. This parasite (as well as hookworms and roundworms) is transmissible to humans, making it that much more important to screen your pet’s feces for them regularly.
"I don’t see any worms in my pet’s feces, can he still have worms?"
Yes! In fact, most intestinal worms are microscopic and will remain in the pet’s GI tract until the pet is dewormed through medication. They will shed their eggs however, which are microscopic and are what we look for in fecal tests. Some parasite eggs go through shedding cycles, which means they only shed eggs during part of the year. This is why routine fecal testing is so important, as your pet can have intestinal parasites but still get a negative fecal test if the parasites are not currently shedding their eggs.
How are fecal tests performed?
At Newberry Animal Hospital, feces are either sent to our reference laboratory, IDEXX or ran within our hospitals. Fecal samples for this test must be as fresh as possible, and not more than 24 hours old. If a fecal sample cannot be delivered to us within an hour of collection, we recommend refrigerating it until it can be delivered.
The fecal sample with then be mixed with a solution that allows lighter fecal matter such as parasite eggs to float to the top. This lighter fecal material is then examined under a microscope to identify the parasites themselves and/or their eggs.
How are intestinal parasites treated? Is there any way to prevent them?
If your pet tests positive for an intestinal parasite or worm, your veterinarian will usually prescribe a specific type of dewormer. This dewormer will often need to be administered twice. The first dose will kill off all adult parasites, and then a second dose given 2-3 weeks later will kill off any parasites that may have hatched from leftover eggs. Each parasite has a specific treatment plan though, so medication and dosing can vary greatly depending on which one your pet has.
When it comes to prevention, heartworm preventatives also have intestinal parasite protection included in them. Preventions such as Sentinel Spectrum and Simparica Trio cover a multitude of intestinal parasites.
If you have any questions about intestinal parasite treatment and prevention, or if your pet is due for a fecal test, send us a contact form through www.newberryanimalhospital.com or give one of our locations a call today!