Today, I am posting a interesting article written by Christine Wilford who received her doctorate of veterinary medicine from Texas A&M University, Texas. The point of the article is that doing fecal exam on your German Shepherd Dog is likely a waste of time and money. Like all animals, your dog will get stomach worms, such as round, hook, tape, and whip worms are the most common. We at Keystone German Shepherds & Kennel do not do fecal exams rather like livestock ranchers, we assume that our dogs will get worms; therefore we place them on a worming program. Thus, worming our dogs twice a year for less than the cost of a fecal exam, which as you will read is not a reliable method to determine whether your German shepherd has or does not have worms. You too can learn how to worm your German Shepherd Dog for less than the cost of a fecal exam.
FECAL EXAM RELIABILITY
A common test for worms may not always give you the right results
A majority of owners may be surprised to learn how inaccurate the common fecal examination really is. Many owners are familiar with the annual regimen of bringing fresh fecal samples to their dogs’ annual physical examinations. Likewise, most owners take heart in hearing their dogs’ test are normal or, alternatively, owners are glad to receive medications for treating the worms lurking within the bowels of their companions. But what do these results really tell us? Understanding how the test is run and knowing a few facts about intestinal worms can help you understand the test’s relative inaccuracies.
In general, the fresher the sample, the more accurate the test results. As a sample ages, the contents of the eggs may hatch, may dry out and burst, or may mix well enough with the solution to be separated and float. How fresh is fresh? The preservation of worm eggs in a stool sample varies tremendously depending on temperature, humidity, and the consistency of the sample. AS time elapses, eggs will degrade and thus will go unrecognized when the slide is examined. During busy times of the day, other priorities may cause fecal samples to be left unexamined far beyond the optimal reading time. Even when a sample is fresh and handled appropriately, results may still be unreliable.
The chances of finding a worm egg depend on how many worms there are in the intestine, how many of the worms are female, the maturity of the worms and whether the females were laying eggs during the time that the feces was formed. If there are only a few worms in the intestines, the relative number of eggs laid in a fecal sample is usually much lower than if there is a heavy worm concentration in the dog. It is also possible to have a significant worm burden with relatively few female worms present; thus, a dog could have clinical signs of intestinal worms without showing evidence of that in a fecal examination. Similarly, if many of the worms are too immature to lay eggs, there will be no way to identify their presence through a simple fecal exam.
Additionally, because worms do not lay eggs at a constant rate, there may be no eggs in a fecal sample simply because the feces were formed and collected during a period when the adult female worms were not shedding eggs.
Based on this information, one could argue that an annual screening of an otherwise healthy dog is an unnecessary, and possibly inaccurate, test. So why bother checking a fecal sample if the results could be misleading? If no eggs are found, then there may be no worms present or there may be worms and they’ve gone undiagnosed. Owners cannot depend on a single negative result. Veterinarians who specialize in the gastrointestinal diseases recommend examining three separate fecal samples before concluding that a negative result is reliable.
When your dog’s stool is abnormal, that is, if you see blood, mucus, or a change of color or consistency, or your dog has loose stools, a fecal examination is advisable. Depending on the types of worms present, clinical signs may not occur or may be subtle. Worms do not necessarily cause weight loss or decreased activity.
In many cases, veterinarians use deworming medication as a diagnostic tool when fecal exams do not reveal worm eggs. In fact, it may be easier, cheaper, and faster to administer a deworming medication that eliminates the common types of intestinal worms. If the stools return to normal, it is concluded that the clinical signs were caused by intestinal worms. Sometimes, common sense and practicality should prevail over complicated and expensive diagnostic tests.
CHRISTINE WILFORD, D.V.M.
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