FECAL EXAMINATION (SMEAR)
All pet owners, and most pets, ask the same question: what's with this fascination with my dog/cat's poop? Why do we have to keep checking it? What's the big deal if we don't check it? These are very valid questions, because acquiring a stool sample, whether via the owner picking up a specimen in the yard, or direct acquisition from the pet, is not a pleasant task for anyone!
Stool samples are the specimens we need to check your pet for intestinal parasites. The intestinal parasites we check for include:
Your dog or cat can get exposed to these parasites in a variety of ways. If your dog or cat is allowed to roam, it could get exposed anywhere an infected pet has defecated (ever seen a dog or cat carefully checking out someone else's poop?) In addition, your backyard could already be contaminated by a previous occupant's pets. Another possibility is stray cats and wildlife crossing through your yard at night, and leaving their "calling cards."
Puppies and kittens get intestinal worms from their mothers, through the placenta and the first milk. The first stool check should be done when the litter of puppies or kittens is about 4 weeks of age, and every 2-4 weeks after that until there are TWO negative stool checks in a row.
On the average, 21% of adult dogs and cats are infested with at least one of the above parasites at any one time. Intestinal parasites can cause upset stomach, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, increased frequency & volume of defecation, flatulence, housetraining problems, coat/skin problems, and general misery for your pet. Indoor pets can be infested, too: we can track in contaminated mud on our shoes; Giardia sporocysts can literally blow in on the wind. No pet is completely safe from being exposed to intestinal parasites.
Unfortunately, 3 of the above parasites can infect people: Roundworms, Hookworms, and Giardia. Roundworm larvae cause seizures and blindness in children. Hookworm larvae cause cutaneous larval migrans, a skin disorder, and visceral larval migrans, a chronic form of gastroenteritis, in children and adults. Giardiasis is better known by some of its more popular names: Touristas, or Montezuma's Revenge. People get exposed to these parasites when they live and play in the same premises as an infected pet--the yard gets seeded with worm eggs & larvae, as well as Giardia sporocysts. Fecal contamination on pets' fur can contaminate human hands; failure to properly wash hands can mean direct ingestion of parasites.
Intestinal parasites are a big problem wherever pets live in a warm, humid environment. Since most of us have back yards with sprinklers, our pets live in the perfect environment to be exposed to (and expose us to) parasites. Because dogs and cats can be exposed to and acquire intestinal parasites at any time, we must routinely check their stools. Maintaining control of intestinal parasites in an ongoing battle.
The National Council on Parasitism and the American College of Veterinary Parasitologists recommends we check all dogs and cats for intestinal parasites twice yearly. They recommend we check puppies and kittens monthly until 6 months of age. In addition, because monthly oral heartworm preventativessuch as Interceptor and Sentinel for dogs, and Revolution for cats, help reduce the incidence of intestinal parasitism, all dogs and cats should be maintained year-round on these products.