Adorable Jack Russell Terrier and Female Veterinarian Behind Isolated on a White Background.

It’s time for your pet’s annual examination. When you call to make the appointment, the receptionist reminds you to bring in a stool sample. Easy enough. But what on Earth are they looking for? How important is it really?

When your veterinary team performs an examination on your pet’s stool sample, they are looking for intestinal parasites. You may have never seen a worm in your pet’s feces, but that does not mean that they are not present. Some parasites are microscopic. Others don’t leave the intestinal tract. Your veterinarian is looking for microscopic parasites and parasite eggs that are being shed in the stool that you will not see with the naked eye.

The truth is that periodic fecal testing is an important test that is often overlooked. Most pets will be infected with some type of intestinal parasite during their lifetime. This includes indoor and mostly indoor pets. Besides being detrimental to your pet’s health, did you know that many of these parasites are a risk to you, too? Pregnant women, children, and immune-compromised people are at increased risk of contracting parasitic diseases from infected pets. Two of the most common human parasitic diseases in the United States are transmissible by our pets. The Companion Animal Parasite Council outlines the following steps to help protect your family:

  • Be sure to wash your hands well after any exposure to soil (gardening), sandboxes, and raw meat.
  • Eat only well-cooked meat.
  • Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • If you are pregnant, have a spouse, partner or friend change the litter box. If changing the litter is unavoidable, change it daily. Be certain to wash hands well after changing the litter.
  • Always supervise infants sitting on the ground or on the floor. Do not allow them to eat dirt or food that has fallen.
  • Pick up dog and cat feces from the yard daily.
  • Cover sandboxes and play areas to prevent wildlife and strays from contaminating these areas.
  • Take your pet to the veterinarian regularly and have your pet tested for parasites at least yearly.
  • Deworm your cat or dog per your veterinarian’s recommendations.
  • Administer year-round parasite prevention products as directed by your veterinarian to control and eliminate infections.