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Posted on 08-08-2016

The Scoop on Poop

(why we care, and why you should too)

If you have a pet you probably take him or her to your vet at least yearly to get that pet it’s “shots”.  (If you don’t, stop reading and immediately call for an appointment!) But did you know that vaccines are only ONE small (albeit important) part of the annual visit? In our professional opinion, the head-to-tail exam that precedes those vaccines are even MORE important – that is when you veterinarian will notice lumps or bumps before they become inoperable,  answer your questions about your pet’s health and behavior, and give you options to help you give your pet the best and healthiest life possible.  We will also recommend appropriate lab testing – and the key word IS appropriate – your pet may need a simple heartworm screen, or she may be a candidate for more extensive testing for detection of medical conditions that we can then help you manage. One such health screen is the “fecal parasite exam”.

And at some point during your visit, someone on our team will ask you if we may run a fecal parasite screen for your pet. An intestinal parasite assay. A stool check.  A “we need to check your pet for worms”.  It is a routine part of the annual exam.  It is recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (yes, that is a real thing) that EVERY pet receive such a test at least every year. It is in the best interest of your pet, and, because several common intestinal parasites are transmissible to humans, it is in YOUR best interest as well.

“But I haven’t seen any worms in his poop!”

Good deal – then we are unlikely to find roundworms or tapeworms!   But whipworms, hookworms, coccidia, and giardia are all invisible to the naked eye, and can cause effects from mild intestinal cramping to extreme diarrhea

and even life-threatening anemia.   Knowledge is power – once diagnosed, we can then devise a treatment plan to eliminate those freeloaders and keep them from returning.   

So this is what we do.  Unless you had the foresight to bring us a sample in a baggie, we obtain the needed material using a “fecal loop” (lubricated, of course).  This sample is mixed with liquid that facilitates the separation of the fecal material from the parasite eggs, spun in a centrifuge, and finally examined under a microscope by a technician.

Yep, it’s a poopy job, but somebody has to do it.  If your pet is diagnosed with intestinal parasites, we can choose the appropriate dewormer (NOT every parasite is susceptible to “general dewormers”) and talk with you about taking action to prevent recurrence. Generally, we do advise folks whose pets are diagnosed with intestinal parasites to do the following in addition to giving needed medication:

  1. Wash your hands.  Double down on hand-washing after playing with your pet or handling waste until we can confirm that the parasites have completely left the GI tract!  (Most important for humans who commonly put their hands in their mouths – like small children.)
  2. Pick up and dispose of solid waste (poop) so that your pet stops re-infecting itself.  Hookworms easily move from fecal matter into the soil, where they can live for months before being picked up through the skin of bare feet (pets or humans).  Shoes are recommended if your pet is diagnosed with hookworms.
  3. Routinely use a product that controls common intestinal parasites. Did you know that most heartworm preventatives for dogs, as well as some products for cats (like Revolution and Advantage Multi) also help control roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm infections?  That’s right - heartworm preventative – something your pet should be taking anyway!

Bottom line (pun intended) – at Four Paws we care about all aspects of your pet’s life – even the parts that you may not usually focus on.  We want what you want – a happy pet that feels great so you can enjoy your relationship without worry!

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