Why is my veterinarian recommending fecal testing for my pet?
Fecal tests are among the most common procedures we perform, and pet owners often have questions about their necessity. This is understandable because it requires them to collect and bring in the fecal specimen to be tested, which is not a pleasant task.
Here are some of the most common questions we hear about fecal testing for cats and dogs.
What’s involved in fecal testing?
Fecal testing involves the collection and inspection of a fecal sample. Stool samples should be examined within a day of their collection. In some cases, fecal testing is performed on-site by the veterinarian. In most cases, fecal tests are performed to detect the presence of intestinal parasites including tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms, as well as cysts that are associated with giardia infections that can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
In some cases, the test is performed in an on-site veterinary lab. In other cases, your veterinarian will send the sample off to an off-site lab for testing.
The first part of any fecal test involves a procedure called a flotation test in which a small amount of the stool is mixed with a special solution and then rapidly spun in a centrifuge. After being separated from other fecal matter, any intestinal parasite eggs in the stool will rise to the top of the solution where they are collected and examined under a microscope.
After conducting a flotation test, the lab technician will perform an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test to determine if your pet has antibodies related to certain infectious conditions including giardia.
Why is a fecal test necessary?
Most of our clients understand the need for fecal testing if their pet is exhibiting symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting, but often ask if testing is necessary if their pet is not exhibiting any symptoms. The truth is intestinal parasites and infections aren’t always accompanied by symptoms during the early stages. It’s not uncommon for a dog or cat that seems perfectly healthy to have an intestinal infection or parasite. By performing annual fecal tests on your pet, you ensure that they are free of infections and parasites. The American Kennel Club and Cat Fanciers Association both recommend fecal testing as part of your pet’s overall health management regimen.
Are fecal tests necessary for indoor pets?
Indoor pets are less likely to become infected with intestinal parasites. However, they are not immune. Insects can carry parasite eggs on their legs and transmit them to indoor dogs and cats. Fleas are one of the primary transmitters of tapeworms and their eggs. Parasites can also be transmitted by outdoor pets who share an indoor pet’s food or water dish or otherwise come into contact with them.
The fecal test came back negative. Why am I seeing parasites in my pet’s stool?
It is possible to get a false negative. In some cases, the stool sample may not be large enough to contain parasite eggs. Heavy, dense parasite eggs like those produced by tapeworms aren’t captured because they sink to the bottom of the vessel instead of floating to the top of the solution. An accurate fecal test also relies on the fact that the parasite is actively shedding eggs at the time the fecal specimen is collected, and this isn’t always the case. If your pet is infected by a single parasite, there’s a good chance that no eggs will be found by the fecal test. Even in cases where there are multiple parasites, it is possible for them to be located so far apart in the intestinal tract that reproduction is not possible; hence the absence of eggs in the fecal specimen.
In these cases, a second fecal test is usually required. However, if you’re able to collect a sample that contains a parasite, you should immediately take it to your veterinarian for identification and have your pet treated.
Don’t take chances with your pet’s health and wellbeing! Call Breckinridge Park Animal Hospital at 972-690-6900 or complete our appointment form to learn more about annual fecal testing. If you suspect your pet may have an intestinal parasite or infection, call us today to schedule an appointment.
This information is not a substitute for professional veterinary medical advice. Prior to starting any new treatment or questions regarding an animal’s medical condition, always seek the advice of your veterinarian.