Parasites, You, and Your Pet
Please review our information below on intestinal parasites and why it’s important to test your pet twice a year.
All About Intestinal Parasites
Your pet’s history and lifestyle give some indication as to whether they are more or less likely to have certain parasites. Important factors include the age of the pet, recent adoption from a shelter, frequenting of dog parks, administration of year-round preventives, hunting, presence of fleas, access to rodents or cockroaches, and presence of other medical problems. Even predominantly indoor pets are likely to be exposed to parasites. Parasites can affect your pet in a short time. If your pet has been infected with a parasite, early detection and treatment are paramount.
Protecting you from zoonotic disease (transmission from pets to people) is essential for your whole family. Click here for more details.
In addition to having health implications for your pet itself, some of the parasite stages shed in dog and cat feces are zoonotic, so removing them to prevent environmental contamination, thereby protecting you and your family, is important. Cutaneous larva migrans by hookworms cause nasty skin lesions. Larval stages of roundworms can migrate through the liver, lungs, and eyes, causing organ damage and blindness, respectively.
What do you look for in my dog or cat's bi-annual fecal exam?
While getting that sample may be a little unpleasant, the information we can glean from a good fecal exam can reveal a lot of information about your dog and cat. Here’s the poop…
Getting the Sample
Nobody likes this part, but if the sample is poor, the results may be inaccurate. First, the sample should be as fresh as possible. Day-old piles that have dried to the consistency of brick are useless. Try to get a sample into us the day you obtain it. If your dog is a late-night pooper, refrigerate the sample overnight (do NOT freeze!) and take it to us in the morning. For cats, it is OK to have litter on the stool. Just make sure it is fresh. Solid stools are the best—diarrhea is mostly water so that results may be less helpful, and we will tell you if a sample is usable. If your pet has not been feeling well, try to get the entire pile. Interesting items such as hair, toys, bones, and other foreign material can be hiding in a normal-looking stool. For routine checks in healthy pets, a 2″ piece will do. If you see a worm in your dog or cat’s stool, bring it along!
Testing the Sample
While various tests are available, from direct smears to detailed cultures, the bi-annual fecal exam usually consists of a fecal flotation. The feces are placed in a particular device, and a solution is added. The solution is heavier than the particles we are looking for, so the interesting items float to the top of the sample, while the bulk of the fecal matter that is not of interest stays on the bottom. Immature worms, worm eggs, protozoal parasites, and other abnormal organisms end up at the top of the solution and are picked up on a microscope slide. These parasites are then identified under microscopic examination by their distinct features. We may also send the samples to a laboratory for more elaborate screening for parasites.
What’s in the Sample
If your pet’s fecal sample is positive, a variety of nasty critters may be present. Here are the most common:
Roundworms, Hookworms, and Whipworms – distinctively shaped spaghetti-like worms that live in the small or large intestine and can give dogs a “potbelly” appearance.
Tapeworms – segmented worms that give off sticky egg packets which look like grains of rice (often found sticking to the hair under the tail), these worms are picked up when the dog swallows a flea, making this a flea AND worm control issue.
Giardia, and Coccidia – protozoal (single cell) parasites usually acquired through contaminated water supplies, both cause diarrhea by attaching to the surface of the small intestine. Giardia is notoriously difficult to find on fecal examination and further testing is often needed to make a diagnosis.
Hopefully, your pet’s fecal sample will be negative, meaning no abnormal organisms were detected. This means either your pet is free of parasites, or the parasites are not shedding into the stool in detectable numbers. If we feel your pet has signs of parasites in spite of a negative test, other tests may be recommended.
Follow Up Care
If your pet has a positive fecal test, we will prescribe the appropriate medication. A second fecal examination should be performed after treatment to ensure the course of therapy was successful and the pet did not re-infect itself. Clean-up is essential to prevent your pet from picking up the parasite again, or worse, infecting a human in the household. We can direct you on the best course of action for your pet’s particular parasite, as some survive better in the environment than others. If at any time your suspect your pet has been exposed to a parasite, pass the poop on to us!
Prevention is the key!
Ask us how you can prevent your pet from getting parasites.
Please note that all puppies will have a heartworm test done at 10 months of age. We will send a reminder. BE SURE TO START YOUR PUPPY ON HEARTWORM PREVENTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Due to the increasing concern about tick-borne (vector-borne) diseases in the United States as well as in our area, our routine heartworm tests will now incorporate testing for these 3 tick-borne diseases as well as heartworm disease.
We also recommend that all dogs should be on flea and tick prevention ALL YEAR LONG!
We recommend oral NEXGARD. For more tick information visit:
TickEncounter Resource Center
Show Us Your Ticks
We do not recommend buying heartworm or tick/flea prevention online. Click here to learn why.
About the Accuplex 4 Test
The test we use to check for heartworm infection, as well as tick-borne diseases, is called Accuplex 4. (Also known as a 4DX). We recommend testing EVERY DOG EVERY YEAR.
For healthier pets and so much more. The benefits of vector-borne disease screening go far beyond the well-being of your individual pet. By adopting these regular screening protocols, it will lead to a greater awareness and understanding of vector-borne disease in our community.
What are we testing for?
Transmitted by the deer tick or black-legged tick, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Clinical signs may not appear until several months after infection. Lyme disease has been found throughout North America and increasingly seen in our area. Cases are ranging from mild to severe. Early detection and appropriate treatment are key to preventing your dog from developing clinical signs.
Canine ehrlichiosis is caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia canis, (transmitted by the brown dog tick) and Ehrlichia ewingii (transmitted by the lone star tick). Canine Ehrlichia infections may progress to the subclinical phase, lasting days, months, or years.
Canine granulocytic anaplasmosis is caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilium (transmitted by the deer tick or black-legged tick). Anaplasma platys (transmitted by the brown dog tick) is the cause of infectious cyclic thrombocytopenia (decrease in platelets that will cause bleeding).
Dirofilaria immitis, the causative agent of heartworm disease, is transmitted by infected mosquitoes when D. immitis larvae are transferred to a healthy dog. Heartworm disease has no obvious clinical signs in the early stages, making preventive measures so much more important—especially as advanced infection may result in death. For more information about heartworm, click here.
Quick Tips About Ticks
- Check your dog for ticks daily. If you find a tick, remove it right away (ticks will gravitate to the head, ears, and neck).
- Use a tick preventive on your dog. Frontline Plus and Nexgard are recommended.
- Watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite and call your veterinarian with any concerns.
- Talk with your veterinarian about ticks and vector-borne disease in your area.
- If your pet’s test results are negative, congratulations! Keep up the good work with regular preventive screenings and daily tick checks.