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The Importance of Regular Fecal Exams for Dogs & Cats

Diagnostic tests, including fecal exams, are used to help diagnose conditions and keep your pet healthy. Here, our veterinary specialists in Crystal Lake talk about why fecal exams are important for pets and what can happen if you don't bring your cat or dog in for routine testing.

What are fecal exams for dogs and cats?

Fecals are microscopic examinations of your pet's feces, performed at your veterinarian's office. Yearly routine fecal exams help your vet identify and treat any infections that could be compromising your pet's health.

What do fecal exams detect?

When doing fecal exams, your vet will look for signs of intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms. These parasites not only make pets uncomfortable and irritable, but they could lead to more serious conditions.

It's also important to note that several intestinal parasites can be transmitted to people!

Intestinal parasites are hidden from view because they live inside your pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Fecals are the best way for your vet to detect intestinal parasites that may be hiding in your pet.

How do I prepare for my pet's fecal exam?

Collect a fresh stool sample and bring it to your veterinarian's office on the same day. For the most accurate results, the fecal sample should be delivered to the veterinary hospital within four to six hours.

If the stool sample dries out or dehydrates many of the potential parasites will be killed, which in turn could mask their presence.

How often does my pet need a fecal exam?

Many vets recommend that all cats and dogs should have fecal exams at least once each year for preventive care. Puppies and animals with gastrointestinal issues may need more frequent fecal exams. Speak to your vet to find out how often you should bring in your pet’s stool sample for a fecal. Otherwise, your pet may have a fecal exam performed when there is a suspected parasitic infection.

How are fecal exams performed?

The fecal sample will be placed in a tube of fluid and spun in a centrifuge at a high speed. It will then be examined under a microscope for signs of parasites. A wet mount method can also be used to examine samples, which may allow for better detection of motile organisms. Each parasite has a distinct appearance that an experienced technician or veterinarian can detect.

In more complex cases your pet may be referred to a specialty hospital such as CASE Hospital. Other tests, such as PCR, fluorescent antibody, and antigen tests, may be required to detect organisms, such as viruses, that cannot be seen under a light microscope. If this is the case, test results could take anywhere from 1 to 7 days to arrive.

What happens if I don't do fecal exams for my pet?

Fecal exams can not only help to protect the health of your pet but also you and the human members of your family.

Some of the intestinal parasites found in dogs on a fecal test are zoonotic. This means that animals can pass them on to humans. Contact with contaminated feces is usually the main mode of transmission. These can include:

  • Picking up feces
  • Gardening or playing in the yard
  • Your dog licks your hand and then you touch your mouth or eat
  • Your dog licks your face

Young children are more vulnerable to parasites from dogs because they love to get dirty and pick up anything on the ground (including poop) in an instant, and they despise washing their hands. Furthermore, they may find it amusing when the dog licks them in the face. If you have children, it is especially important to keep an eye on your dog for intestinal parasites.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our veterinary specialists run a variety of tests as part of diagnosing medical conditions in pets. Ask your primary vet about a referral to CASE Hospital.

New Patients Welcome

Companion Animal Specialty and Emergency Hospital is accepting new patients! Our specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions in Crystal Lake.

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Contact (815) 479-9119