At least once yearly, the clients of the Dunkirk Animal Clinic receive a reminder card to bring us a sample of their pets' poo. Why is this important? Most people understand that it is important to check your pet for intestinal parasites, but there is much more to this!
Not only will it improve the health of your pet but it will protect you and your family from a potentially dangerous zoonotic disease. A zoonotic disease is any infectious disease that can be transmitted across species particularly from animals to humans.
Many of the intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans causing serious disease.
Roundworms are a very common parasite in cats and dogs. Puppies and kittens acquire the roundworm from their mothers before birth. Roundworms live in the intestinal tract of cats and dogs and can cause significant disease. The eggs of the parasite can be transmitted to humans through the animal's feces. This most commonly occurs from children playing in open sandboxes where cats have defecated and from people not washing their hands before eating. Flies can also transfer the eggs from feces to food and other surfaces. Infection with roundworm eggs can lead to visceral larval migrans (migration of the larvae through abdominal organs) or ocular larval migrans (migration of the larvae into the eye). Prevention includes having your pet's stool checked by your veterinarian on a regular basis, keeping sandboxes covered, and washing your hands and food thoroughly before eating.
Hookworms are another intestinal parasite of cats and dogs that can lead to cutaneous larval migrans in people through contact with infected soil or sand. The larvae burrow under the skin and can cause infected lesions.Prevention includes not walking barefoot in areas where animals frequently defecate.
Giardia is a parasite that lives in the intestines of infected humans and animals.Transmission is through ingestion of contaminated water, soil, or food. Most common causes of transmission are poor sanitation, drinking of contaminated water or eating food handled by a person carrying the parasite. Prevention includes cleanliness and hand washing, and drinking water only from a known safe source.
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite spread either through the feces of infected cats, or through the ingestion of uncooked meat containing the parasite. Most common infections occur in immune-compromised people and precautions must also be taken in pregnant women who have had no previous exposure to the parasite. Prevention includes wearing gloves while gardening, or when changing the cat litter and most importantly eating only cooked meat.
Coccidiosis is species specific and most commonly seen in young and debilitated animals. This protozoal parasite is spread through ingestion of an infected animal or through fecal-oral transmission. It is not zoonotic but can cause significant illness in young pets.
Whipworms are common in adult dogs and puppies. Dogs acquire the disease by ingesting eggs from the environment. Heavy burdens can cause diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration, anemia, or, in severe cases, death. Disinfection is difficult. Manual removal of feces from the environment is the best way to control spread. The potential for zoonosis is low as the species of whipworms affecting humans is different than the species affecting dogs.
Tapeworms affect both dogs and cats and require an intermediate host. Pets acquire tapeworms through ingestion of fleas or by eating a rodent. Infections usually do not cause clinical signs, but may result in weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Diagnosis is by visualization of proglottids (or worm segments containing eggs) on the back end of your pet or in feces. Tapeworms possess the potential for zoonotic disease either through ingestion of fleas or ingestion of eggs.
Here are 4 simple steps to help you bring your pets sample to the veterinarian office for testing:
1. Collect a fresh sample this is usually easiest to get first thing in the morning. If you cannot get it down to your veterinarian's office immediately, keep it in a cool place until you can.
2. Put it in a sealed container and double bag it. Make sure to use gloves. This will prevent leakage and odor while in transport.
3. Bigger is not better! A small sample about the size of a quarter is enough for testing.
4. Make sure you are bringing poop. Many people bring us a clump of urine from their cat's litter box instead.
Even if your pet is strictly indoors it is still important to check a sample at least once yearly. Your indoor kitty can still get fleas which can transmit tapeworms. The Dunkirk Animal Clinic would like to help keep you and your family safe by offering free fecal tests for the month of September if you call and mention this article! Call us at 366-7440 for more information!