Did You Bring a Stool Sample Today?

When we ask if you brought a stool sample, is your first thought, “Crap, I forgot it!” (No pun intended. Well, maybe.) Our fascination with your pet’s poop is more about your safety and your pet’s health than anything else. We do get a kick out of the cute bags and containers you bring them in, however.

Are They Really That Common?

Intestinal parasites are more common than you might think. We run 40-50 fecal tests each week and not a week goes by where we don’t find some intestinal parasite. Have a new puppy or kitten? You most likely adopted parasites as well. Some studies suggest pets are born with certain parasites. Many of these parasites are harmful to humans in addition to your pet.

How Does My Pet Get an Intestinal Parasite?

dog shaming I eat my own poop

One way parasites are transmitted!

Finding parasites doesn’t mean that you and your pets are unclean; it is just easy to pick up these unwanted critters. Here is one scenario. Parasites shed numerous microscopic eggs. Those eggs often end up in the soil or on the ground. Your pet runs around bare-pawed outside. When he comes inside, he hops up on the couch and grooms his paws by licking them. You join him on the couch and he gives you a big smooch. And there you have it–transmission in 4 easy steps.

Before you ban your pet from the couch or refuse kisses, know that in healthy adult humans, we will likely kill off any eggs. Young children or those with compromised immune systems, however, need to be extra careful. Keeping your pet healthy keeps your family healthy.

What Do You Look for in a Fecal Test?

whipworm egg under microscopeWhen we run a fecal test on your pet, we are looking for a variety of intestinal parasites. The most common are: hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, coccidia, and giardia. Sometimes we find an actual worm in the stool, but most often we are checking for microscopic eggs, larvae, or protozoan cysts. If you are curious, the Companion Animal Parasite Council is an excellent resource for details, pictures, and videos of all these parasitic gems.

How Do You Run a Fecal Test?

At Den Herder Veterinary Hospital, we use a technique called “flotation” or “fecal float.” We take a special container and mix a small amount of the stool with a special solution. We let this sit and the really cool stuff floats to the top (hence the name “fecal float”) and the less fun stuff (the solids) sink to the bottom. We take a sample from the top and place it on a slide and carefully scan it under a microscope for eggs. Hopefully we don’t find anything, but if we do, we will let you know right away so you can get treatment for your pet.

container used for a fecal float

Fecal container we use for testing your pet’s stool.

fecal flotation container with solution

Fecal float. The fun stuff rises to the top.

What You Can Do to Help

    • Test your pet’s stool at least once per year. In some cases we recommend twice yearly testing.
    • Bring in a fresh stool sample. Old poop gives us inaccurate results. Try for something less than 8 hours old. If your pet is a night pooper, you can refrigerate overnight in a baggie (we won’t tell anyone you put your pet’s poop in the fridge.)
    • Cat litter is okay. For cat owners, your fresh stool sample can have cat litter on it. It won’t impact the results.
    • A little goes a long way! We don’t need a ton of poop, we just need it fresh.
    • We can do it for you! There is no extra charge if we get the stool sample from your pet. It saves you time and you won’t have to put poop in your fridge.
    • Give your dog a heartworm pill every month. Most heartworm meds contain a dewormer. This is a great bonus for giving your dog heartworm meds.
    • Keep your yard clean. Not a fun task (ask our Kennel Staff), but it is easy for your dog to re-infect himself from stool left in the yard.