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The Importance of Regular Fecal Exams for Pets

Our Grants Pass veterinarians explain what happens during a fecal exam and why they are important to maintaining your pet's health. They also discuss the most effective way to protect both your pets and your home from harmful parasites. 

What is a fecal exam for pets?

Fecal exams, also known as "fecals," are tests where a veterinarian examines a small amount of your pet's feces under a microscope. Fecal exams help vets identify and treat infections that may otherwise be difficult to detect. Your veterinarian may request a sample of your cat or dog's feces if they are trying to diagnose an illness or for a routine wellness examination.

Fecal exams are an essential part of preventive healthcare for pets because many intestinal parasites can cause health problems for animals and can even be transmitted to humans. By regularly screening for parasites and treating them promptly, you can help keep your pet healthy and reduce the risk of parasite transmission to your family members.

It is typically recommended for dogs to have a fecal exam every year, as they spend a lot of time outside, where they can pick up bacteria and parasites from other dogs. Cats should also have fecal exams, especially if they are indoor cats, as they can get parasites from consuming inappropriate items.

What do fecals exam detect?

A fecal exam can identify several intestinal parasites, such as roundworms and hookworms. These parasites can cause discomfort and irritability in pets and may lead to more severe health issues.

It's important to note that some intestinal parasites can also be transmitted from pets to humans.

Intestinal parasites reside in the gastrointestinal tract of your pet, making them difficult to detect. Annual fecal exams enable your vet to identify and treat intestinal parasites early.

While it's essential to schedule annual fecal exams for your pets, you should also watch out for symptoms of parasitic infection in cats and dogs.

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Food avoidance
  • Excessive hunger
  • Blood in stool

How do I collect a stool sample for my cat's or dog's fecal exam?

When collecting and transporting your pet's stool sample to the vet, it's important to do it correctly to ensure accurate results from the fecal exam. It's best to bring the sample to the vet on the same day it's collected, so try to pick it up as soon as your pet poops. Place the sample in a plastic sandwich bag or poop pickup bag, and consider double bagging or using a disposable container with a lid for easier transport.

You only need a small amount – most fecal exams only require 1-2 grams of feces. If you're getting the sample from your cat's litter box, a bit of kitty litter on it is okay. If you can't bring the sample to the vet on the same day, you can store it in the refrigerator, but be very careful not to contaminate your food or fridge.

How do I prevent parasites from infecting my pet?

Preventing parasites is essential for your pet's health. As recommended by your veterinarian, you can easily do this by using parasite control products, such as flea, tick, and heartworm preventives. These products come in various forms, including topical treatments, oral medications, and collars, and using them regularly can protect your pet from parasites all year round. 

Additionally, here are some other ways to help prevent parasite infections in your pet.

  • Maintain a Clean Environment: To minimize the risk of parasite contamination, keep your pet's living environment clean and free of feces. Regularly clean and disinfect litter boxes, bedding, and living areas. Dispose of feces promptly, especially in outdoor areas frequented by your pet.
  • Practice Good Hygiene: Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your pet, especially after cleaning litter boxes or picking up feces. This can help prevent the transmission of parasites and other pathogens to humans.
  • Regular Veterinary Care: Schedule regular wellness exams for your pet, including fecal exams and screenings for parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend appropriate preventive measures based on your pet's lifestyle, risk factors, and health status.
  • Control Wildlife Exposure: Limit your pet's exposure to wildlife, which can carry parasites such as fleas, ticks, and certain intestinal worms. Keep your pet indoors as much as possible, or supervise them closely when they're outdoors.
  • Practice Proper Grooming: Regular grooming can help you detect signs of parasites such as fleas, ticks, or lice early. Brush your pet's fur regularly and inspect their skin for any signs of infestation, such as redness, irritation, or visible parasites.
  • Provide a Balanced Diet: Feed your pet a balanced and nutritious diet to support their overall health and immune system. A healthy immune system can help your pet better resist parasite infections.
  • Avoid Contaminated Water Sources: Prevent your pet from drinking from contaminated water sources, such as stagnant ponds or puddles, which can harbor parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
  • Stay Informed: Stay informed about common parasites in your area and the preventive measures recommended by veterinarians. Your veterinarian can provide personalized advice based on your pet's specific needs and risk factors.

By incorporating these preventive measures into your pet care routine, you can help protect your furry friend from parasite infestations and ensure their health and well-being.

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.

Is it time to schedule your pet's annual wellness exam and fecal test? Contact our Grants Pass veterinarians to make an appointment.

Specialty Vets at Lincoln Road Veterinary Clinic

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