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Fecal Tests for Dogs

Fecal Test
Fecal Test

Fecal Testing for Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide

Fecal testing for dogs is routinely performed to rule out intestinal parasites that may be invading your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) system. Several types of intestinal parasites can infect dogs, and their effects vary depending on the type of parasite and the overall health of your dog.

Fecal testing may also be performed when your dog is having acute or chronic GI tract issues, in an attempt to investigate underlying causes of the clinical signs.

Unfortunately, you can’t usually see these parasites in your dog’s feces, as they prefer to stay in the body. The parasites do, however, shed microscopic eggs in the feces, which is why you need fecal testing to look for these eggs.

Diagnosing these parasites helps vets appropriately treat and clear them from the GI system, often before they become an issue for your dog’s health.

What Parasites Does a Fecal Test for Dogs Check for? Fecal testing for dogs checks for intestinal parasites, including worms and microscopic parasites. Some of these parasites can transfer to humans (a condition called zoonosis), so it is very important that veterinarians keep your pet and your family as safe as possible.

Fecal testing assesses for the following parasites:

  • Roundworms: There are two main species that affect dogs: Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina. Adult worms are white, spaghetti-like worms that are several inches long. Roundworms can cause malnourishment, especially in puppies, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, a pot-bellied appearance, and a dull hair coat.

  • Hookworms: These parasites feast on the blood of their host. There are three main species that affect dogs: Ancylostoma caninum, Acylostoma braziliense, and Uncinaria stenocephala. Hookworms can cause intestinal inflammation and blood loss, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, poor hair coat, and anemia. They can also cause skin irritation and itching.

  • Whipworms: The species Trichuris vulpis affects dogs. They are about 5-6 millimeters in length and cause inflammation in the intestines, leading to diarrhea, weight loss, poor hair coat, weakness, blood in the stool, and/or anemia.

  • Tapeworms: The most common species in dogs is Dipylidium caninum. These worms can reach 30 centimeters in length and have segments (called proglottids) that are passed in the feces, appearing like moving grains of rice. Tapeworms can cause itchiness around the anus and frequent licking of the hind end.

  • Giardia: This protozoal parasite can cause diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, dull hair coat, decreased appetite, or vomiting. It is contagious to humans.

  • Coccidia: Another protozoal parasite, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, failure to gain weight, poor hair coat, and lethargy in puppies or immunocompromised adult dogs.

How Much Does a Dog Fecal Test Cost? The cost of fecal testing can range from $30 to $75. This depends on if the testing is performed in the clinic the same day, sent out to a lab for testing, or run in an emergency or routine setting.

How Often Does My Dog Need a Fecal Test? Adult dogs should have fecal testing performed every 6 months. Puppies require more frequent parasitic testing since their immune systems are not fully formed. Heartworm preventatives contain deworming agents that help control parasitic infections monthly, but routine testing is still important for detecting breakthrough infections and protozoal parasites not covered by these preventatives.

How to Collect a Dog's Stool Sample Use a small bag (poop collection bag or plastic bag) to collect a small amount of fresh feces after your dog poops. Seal the bag immediately. Your veterinarian may also give you a fecal test tube to collect feces. This sample is good for up to 8 hours unrefrigerated, or 12-24 hours if kept in the fridge. Wash your hands after obtaining the sample and clean the area where the sample was stored.

How Is a Fecal Test for Dogs Done? Fecal testing should be performed on fresh feces (obtained within 12-24 hours of testing). The fresh fecal sample is mixed with a special solution in a container, allowing parasitic eggs to float to the top. A small amount of the top layer is then assessed under a microscope to diagnose the presence of worm and parasitic eggs. Results can be available within 15-30 minutes if done in the clinic or 24-48 hours if sent to a lab.

Diagnosing the type of parasite helps determine the best therapy:

  • Pyrantel (Strongid): Used to treat roundworms.

  • Fenbendazole (Panacur): Used to clear roundworm, hookworms, and whipworms.

  • Praziquantel (Drontal): Used to clear tapeworms.

  • Metronidazole (Flagyl): Sometimes in combination with fenbendazole, is used to clear Giardia.

  • Sulfadimethoxine (Albon): Used to clear coccidia.

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