Why Does My Dog Need a Poop Test?

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Has your dog's vet told you it's time for your dog's annual fecal test? Did you ever wonder why the vet asks you to do this every year? Do you even know what he tests your pup's poop for? One thing you can count on is that your vet does not enjoy this part of his job. However, a fecal exam is a very important part your four-legged friend's annual physical, just as much as a blood test is part of yours.  The reality is that the vet uses the stool sample to check for a variety of intestinal parasites, some of which can be transferred to humans.


What Can the Vet Find in a Fecal Sample?

Your vet asks you for a poop sample from your pup in order to detect a range of microscopic gastrointestinal parasites that may cause serious illnesses in your dog.  Among the most common parasites that he might find include coccidia, Giardia, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms.  The biggest problem with internal parasites is that, unlike fleas and ticks that live on the outside of your dog's body, these all live in your dog's gastrointestinal tract where they cannot be seen by the naked eye. The only way for your vet to detect them is to conduct a fecal examination.


How Does the Vet Perform the Fecal Exam?

The various worms, their larvae, eggs, and protozoan cysts are so small that there is no way they can be seen without magnification. The only way the vet or lab tech can see them is to place them under a microscope. There are three different ways in which the sample can be set up to be viewed under a microscope.

  • The Smear Method - this is the easiest way to examine your dog's poop sample. The vet smears a thin layer of the poop on a glass slide and then examines it under a microscope.

  • The Flotation Method – this method involves taking the fecal sample and mixing it with a special chemical. This allows the parasite's protozoan cysts and eggs to float to the top where they can be seen under the microscope.

  • The Centrifugation Method -  this method involves mixing the sample with a special solution and then placing it in a centrifuge prior to performing a flotation examination.  This method lets the vet identify the parasites via size, shape, and the characteristics of their cysts, larvae, and eggs.

How Do You Give Your Vet a Viable Sample?

When it comes to your dog's poop sample, the fresher it is the better!  The reason for this is simple, the fresher the sample the higher the likelihood is that your vet will be able to find what he is looking for. The older the sample is, the higher the chances are that the larvae and eggs of any parasite are likely to degrade to a point at which they are no longer identifiable.

If you cannot bring your vet a fresh sample taken shortly before your dog's appointment, then take the freshest sample you can and refrigerate it. "You want me to put my dog's poop in the refrigerator?" Yes, this is the best way to store it and keep any parasites, their eggs, and larvae intact. Use a single zippered baggie to pick up the sample and then seal it inside a second bag for storage to protect the inside of your fridge.


How Frequently Does My Dog's Poop Need Checked?

Most vets recommend you have a new puppy's poop tested a minimum of three times during their first few months of life, after that you should have your vet conduct this test at least once per year. Your vet may also recommend testing your pup's fecal matter any time he has diarrhea, vomiting, or any one of several other gastrointestinal illnesses.

Now you know why your vet insists on examining your pup's poop on a regular basis. Not only is it good for your dog's health, but given that what can make your dog ill can also affect your family's health, it is of vital importance to everyone!


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