Procedure Spotlight

Worms, Germs & Parasites! What’s in Your Pet’s Poop?

The Importance of Annual Parasite Screening

Did your veterinarian just ask you to bring in your pet’s stool sample for “a fecal” or parasite screening lab test?

And then, did the veterinary receptionist, and the assistant, and several other hospital staff members also ask you questions about your pet’s poop?

Are you wondering if perhaps the entire veterinary profession has some sort of freakish-feces-fetish?

It may seem so, but please know there are many reputable sources, such as The Companion Animal Parasite Council, which have compiled loads of solid evidence backing-up our parasite screening movement as we push toward a parasite-free pet population.

You may also be wondering why your pet should be screened for intestinal parasites every year, even when your pet seems to be feeling fine?

It is a common question we hear from many local pet parents here at our San Jose animal hospital.

With the exception of adult roundworm and adult tapeworm (more about tapeworms here) most intestinal parasites are too small to be seen with the naked eye.

In addition, many pets do not show any signs or symptoms while they are infected and “shedding” (spreading) contagious parasites through defecation (pooping) outdoors or in the
kitty litter box.

Below are answers to some of the other most frequently asked questions about worms and parasites.

Q: Can pets pass worms to children?

A. Yes! Several different types of worms are “Zoonotic” which means they can pass from animals to humans; children and adults.

Q: Can children catch parasites such as Coccidia or Giardia from pets or pet feces?

A: Yes! Both Giardia and Coccidia are “Zoonotic” which means they can spread from animals to humans; children and adults.

Q: Why are children at higher risk for worms and parasites?

A: Children tend to get worms more often because kids may not wash their hands well enough, or at all, (even when they promise to do so) in order to wash away the sticky microscopic hitchhikers. In addition, little kids often put all kinds of things into their mouths.

Speak with your child’s pediatrician for more information. However, prevention is the best medicine. Do not allow your children to play in dirt or sandboxes where animals may have recently defecated, and supervise hand-washing to ensure the soap has had enough contact time on the skin to help remove microscopic parasites.

Q: Can my dog or cat get worms or parasites from other dogs, cats, or local wildlife?

A: Yes. If wildlife (rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, rodents, coyotes, etc.) other dogs, or even stray cats pass through your yard, they could be bringing in some hitchhiking parasites.

Q: How much poop does the vet need to run the annual parasite screening?

A: Only about 1 Tbsp. worth of fresh stool.

However, there may be some cases in which your veterinarian will want to see a larger sample size, such as when trying to diagnose or rule-out issues other than parasites.

It is okay if the sample is encrusted with kitty-litter as long as it is fresh.

Q: Why does the stool sample need to be fresh?

A: Because exposure to the elements (sunlight, temperature changes, humidity, time, etc.) could alter the shape of the microscopic cells, making them unrecognizable when tested. The laboratory uses high-powered microscopes to recognize specific shapes in order to make a proper diagnosis.

If you can’t get your pet’s stool sample to the vet right away, it is ok to place the sample in a sealed container or sturdy zip-top plastic baggie (you may want to double-bag it) and then store in your refrigerator for up to 12 hours.

Any longer than 12-hours, you may as well discard it and collect a new fresh sample the next day.

Q: What does the fecal test screen for?

A: Roundworm, Hookworm, Whipworm, Coccidia, and Giardia.

Q: What does it mean if the vet says the fecal test was negative?

A: A negative test is good news. It means no signs of ova (eggs) were present in this test.

Q: If my pet does test positive for signs of worms or parasites, what are the treatment options?

A: Luckily, pets tend to respond very well to the veterinary-specific medication and dosage levels which your veterinarian will prescribe for your pet’s condition and body weight.

Prompt and proper treatment lessens the chance your pet will be passing on worms or parasites to people or to other pets.

Also, many of the Heartworm Preventative Medications now contain added medicine to help prevent Roundworm, Hookworm, and Whipworm.

However, these added ingredients don’t prevent every worm or parasite, and the parasite could be introduced to your pet in-between the time you give your pet their monthly heartworm preventative.

This is why it is important to have your veterinarian test your pet’s stool sample at least once per year, even when your pet is on a monthly preventative.

In addition, the drug and dosage used in monthly preventatives is not the same as what the vet will prescribe to get rid of the parasites. It is important to understand the difference between preventative medication and treatment medication.

Here is a link to Story Road Animal Hospital’s YouTube Channel & a video playlist of educational videos about worms and parasites:

Worms & Parasites Playlist

Here are links to The Companion Animal Parasite Council website for more information about worms and parasites in dogs, cats, and people:

www.petsandparasites.org/giardiasis-dogs-cats-people/
www.petsandparasites.org/resources/

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