Have you ever wondered why your vet asks you to bring a stool sample? Why would they want my pet’s poop? I love my pet but I don’t want their poop! The answer is simple: parasite testing.
No matter how cute your pet is, the fact is that they are still animals and have a high risk of picking up (and potentially passing along) parasites. We often think to protect our pets from the obvious external parasites that we see – fleas and ticks, but what about the unseen ones? Whether they prefer the couch or are active explorers of the great outdoors – all dogs & cats should have a stool sample tested at least annually More testing is necessary for those that are “at one with nature”.
Most parasites have fecal-oral transmission, which means they have to ingest the egg from the environment where it will develop into the mature worm inside your pet’s body, but this is surprisingly easy to do. Think about when you take your dog for a walk and you want to keep it short and brisk because you have lots of things you need to do. Unfortunately, your dog has other plans – they want to sniff and investigate every blade of grass, tree trunk, a dead bird and other dog’s poop (yuck). Even the fecal matter that you don’t see (but was once there), may have left behind microscopic eggs that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Even just touching their nose to the ground exposes them to parasites – they lick their nose or paws after a walk and voila, the parasite lifecycle has begun again.
While it is true that some symptoms occur with parasitic infections (loose stool with or without blood/mucous, vomiting, weight loss), the body does amazing things to compensate and we often don’t see these clinical signs until the burden is quite heavy (think worms in vomit on your kitchen floor, super gross).
It goes without saying that no one wants to have these unwanted guests in their home (or bed), especially because some of the parasites are zoonotic. This means they can be passed from animals to humans. Roundworms, hookworms and giardia, are all parasites that can be passed on to humans.
So, next time your veterinarian asks you to bring in a stool sample for your pet’s annual physical exam, please be sure to bring one so that we can help you and your pet stay healthy!
Written by Angela Noble, RVT & Practice Manager