Our Portland 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?
Fecal exams, also known as "fecals," are tests where a veterinarian looks at a tiny bit of your pet's feces under a microscope. Fecals help vets to identify and treat infections that may otherwise be difficult to detect. Your veterinarian may ask you to bring a sample of your cat or dog's feces if they are trying to diagnose an illness in them or for a routine wellness examination.
For dogs, it's important to do a fecal exam every year because 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're indoor cats, as they can get parasites from eating things they shouldn't.
What do fecals detect?
A number of intestinal parasites can be detected using a fecal exam, including roundworms and hookworms. Intestinal parasites make pets irritable and uncomfortable and may lead to more serious health issues. It's also important to note that some intestinal parasites can be transmitted from pets to people.
Intestinal parasites live in your pet's gastrointestinal tract, where they are hidden from view. Annual fecal exams allow your vet to detect and treat intestinal parasites early.
While you should get annual fecal exams for your pets regardless, there are some symptoms of parasitic infection in cats and dogs you can look out for at the same time:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Food avoidance
- Excessive hunger
- Blood in stool
How do I prepare for my pet's fecal?
When taking a fecal sample to the vet, make sure it's fresh and bring it on the same day as your appointment. If the stool sample dries out or dehydrates, it will kill off many of the potential parasites, which could mask their presence in the sample. Getting your pet's stool sample to us within 4-6 hours of collecting it will give the most accurate results.
How often does my pet need a fecal?
Our veterinarian in Portland advises testing dogs and cats for parasites every year. Puppies and animals with gastrointestinal issues may require more frequent fecal exams. Speak to your vet to find out how often you should bring your pet's stool sample for testing.