Do dogs need annual fecal exams? The Ultimate Guide

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Fecal Exams Can Detect Problems Before They Become Tragedies

Studies show exposure to parasites is a greater than ever and an annual fecal exam is important.

A fresh fecal examination is part of a sound yearly physical. Bring your dog’s clinician a fresh specimen, 4 to 6 hours old, not a desiccated “moon rock” or “fossil poop”. Drying out and dehydrating kills many of the potential parasites present and may mask their presence.

Recent studies show that most municipal city parks and public areas have a high incidence of canine gastrointestinal parasites (both worms and protozoans such as Giardia). Likewise, local ponds, lakes, creeks, and streams close to heavily populated areas also generally contain parasites that can affect our canine companions.

Grooming, boarding and day care facilities and dog parks provide even more possibilities for exposure. If you do participate in retrieving, hiking, cross-country skiing, jogging with your dog, agility, dog shows, etc., your dog’s exposure is even higher.

Infestation with intestinal parasites is no minor detail. Parasites can make dogs uncomfortable, irritable, and lead to other more serious conditions. Some can even be transmitted to humans.

A yearly fecal exam for your dog is thus an integral part of his yearly physical.

A version of this article originally appeared in AKC Family Dog’s “Ask Dr. Kevin” column by Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM. Get Your Free AKC eBook


You can’t usually see most of the stages of parasites in feces, so it’s probably not worth your while to comb through each defecatory production in search of worms (believe me, some people try). Some animals are also asymptomatic carriers, so even if your pet has “normal” poops, it doesn’t mean they’re “clean”.

As any ferret-legger will tell you, lifestyle choice can be a risk factor. For dogs, going to the park and running off leash increases the chances of contracting a parasite. But unless you are raising hermetically-sealed Labradors, there are enough parasites and enough modes of transmission that it’s hard to completely eliminate any exposure. Even the use of monthly heartworm preventatives doesn’t guarantee that your dog is parasite-free, since organisms like Giardia aren’t treated by those medications.

There is the issue, as in all screening tests, of the risk of overdiagnosis leading to unnecessary medical care. But in general, the treatments for gastrointestinal parasites are pretty benign, and the tests accurate enough that this problem is relatively minor. And especially given the high prevalence of these diseases, the risk-benefit ratio seems in favor toward screening.

How often should my dog’s feces be tested for parasites?

During their first year of life, puppies should have several fecal parasite exams. Intestinal worms are very common in puppies and can cause more problems in younger dogs, so early detection is important. Not all intestinal parasites are addressed by common dewormers, so fecal parasite exams are important even in puppies that are receiving regular deworming.

In adult dogs, fecal parasite testing should be performed every six months. This is true even if your dog is on heartworm prevention or other parasite prevention.

Why Does My Dog Need a Poop Test? | Wag!

To keep your pet and your family safe from intestinal parasites, our Clemmons vets recommend annual fecal exams for your pet. Fecals allow your veterinarian to check your pet for otherwise difficult to detect intestinal parasites.

A fecal exam is done right in your vets office, and is a microscopic exam of your pets feces. Fecals are used to diagnose and treat many infections that could be compromising your pets health. Intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans, which means that getting annual fecal exams for your pet, also protects your family!

Fecal exams give your veterinarian the opportunity to determine if your pet has intestinal parasites such as hookworms or roundworms. These intestinal parasites not only make pets uncomfortable and irritable, they can also lead to more serious conditions.

Intestinal parasites live in your pets gastrointestinal tract, hidden from view. Fecals are the best way to detect parasites which otherwise might go undetected and infect other pets or even people in your household.