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How to perform a canine fecal float

A canine fecal float, also known as a fecal flotation test, is a method used to detect the presence of parasite eggs in a dog's feces. This is an important test for diagnosing internal parasites, which are common in dogs and can cause various health problems.

Here's how you can perform a fecal float:

  1. Collect the Sample: Collect a fresh fecal sample from your dog. Around one to two teaspoons of feces is typically enough. If possible, try to collect a sample that's less than 24 hours old, as some parasite eggs may hatch if they are left in the feces for too long.

  2. Prepare the Fecal Flotation Solution: Fecal flotation solution can be made from a variety of substances, including sugar, salt, and zinc sulfate, which all have a higher specific gravity than the parasite eggs. This allows the eggs to float to the top. The solution is typically mixed with water until it's saturated.

  3. Mix the Sample with the Solution: Place the fecal sample in a disposable container, add the flotation solution, and mix them together. You can use a wooden applicator or tongue depressor to break the sample apart and mix it well.

  4. Strain the Mixture: Straining the mixture helps remove large particles that can interfere with the identification of parasite eggs. Pour the mixture through a tea strainer or gauze into another container.

  5. Fill a Fecal Flotation Tube: Pour the strained mixture into a fecal flotation tube, filling it to the top. Some tests require the tube to be filled until a slight positive meniscus (a curve on the top of the liquid) forms above the rim of the tube.

  6. Add a Coverslip: Place a microscope coverslip on top of the tube, allowing it to touch the meniscus. The eggs will float to the top and stick to the coverslip.

  7. Wait for the Eggs to Float: Allow the tube to sit undisturbed for about 10-20 minutes. This gives the eggs time to float to the top and adhere to the coverslip.

  8. Examine Under the Microscope: Carefully remove the coverslip from the top of the tube, trying not to disturb the meniscus, and place it flat on a microscope slide. Examine the slide under the microscope, starting with a lower power objective (10x) to scan the whole slide, then switching to a higher power (40x) to identify any eggs present.

When identifying eggs, use a parasitology textbook or reliable online resources for reference, as the eggs of different parasites can vary widely in size, shape, and color (see diagram below). If you are unsure about the identification or if the test result is negative but the dog still has symptoms, it's best to consult with a veterinarian. It's also important to remember that not all parasites will shed eggs consistently, so a single negative result does not necessarily mean the dog is free of parasites.

Remember that working with fecal samples can carry a risk of disease transmission, so always use proper protective equipment and wash your hands thoroughly after handling the samples. Dispose of all materials appropriately according to local guidelines.

Parasite chart comparison
Canine Parasites under microscope

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