The Hunt for Bugs: Fecal Testing and Skin Scraping
Bugs and germs are always trying to find a new home with our pets. It's up to Dr. Chuck and his team of excellent technicians to find and treat these bugs to make sure our pets stay healthy and happy!
Below is a glossary (list) of some of the more common bugs and germs we might find at the vet clinic. The general category of parasite is listed first, followed by the scientific name of the species drawn.
Fecal (poop sample)/Intestinal Parasites:
We look at fecal samples to try to find evidence of parasites! Worms and parasites that live in the intestines lay eggs, and those eggs come out in the poop! By analyzing a fecal (poop) sample under a microscope, we can find those eggs, and treat those parasites!
Roundworm (Toxocara canis): This is a parasite that lives in the intestines, feeding off of food your dog or cat ate! Roundworms are particularly concerning because they can infect people through poop, so it’s very important to get your pet’s poop checked regularly. Sometimes we find these worms because our pets throw them up! Eww! Make sure you wash your hands well, and don’t touch poop!
Hookworm (Ancyclostoma spp.): This is another parasite that can potentially infect humans! Unlike roundworms, which eat partially digested food in the intestines, hookworms drink blood. Humans can be infected by hookworms that migrate through the skin! Eek!
Whipworm (Trichuris vulpis): Whipworms are also blood drinkers, and infections can cause bloody diarrhea. Fortunately, this parasite is NOT one that can spread to people! Phew! Dogs can get a new infection if there is poop left in the yard, so it’s important to keep the yard clean!
Tapeworm (Taenia spp.): Tapeworms are the biggest intestinal parasites and can grow to many feet in length. Tapeworms can be spread when dogs eat other animals, or when dogs eat fleas. Humans can also be infected by these giant parasites through dog poop or by accidentally eating a flea!
Sometimes we find tapeworms because little bits of the tapeworms come out in the poop and look like little wriggling pieces of rice! Eww!
Coccidia (Isospora spp.): Unlike the earlier parasites, coccidia are not worms that lay eggs; they are single-celled organisms. This tiny parasite causes diarrhea, which leads to dehydration. There are two different groups of coccidia; the Isospora, which infect carnivores like dogs and cats, and the Eimeria, which infect herbivores like cows and sheep.
Giardia: Giardia is a type of protozoa, which are another group of single-celled organisms. They are very small and can be very hard to find! Giardia causes particularly greasy (and gross!) diarrhea in dogs and cats. Humans can get Giardia too, but it is uncommon for people to pick up an infection from their dogs or cats.
Skin Scraping/External Parasites:
When our pets are itchy, lose fur, have red spots, or any other changes to their skin, we might perform a skin scraping to look for parasites!
Flea: You can often see fleas hopping around on your pet if they are infected. Fleas bite the skin and drink blood. Some pets are allergic to these bites, and get very itchy! Flea eggs can sit in the carpet for months before hatching, so a flea infestation can take a long time to fix!
Tick (Ixodes scapularis): Ticks are found just about everywhere! Along with sucking blood, ticks can spread many diseases, including Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. These types of diseases are called tick-borne diseases, because the ticks carry and spread the disease. It’s very important that we keep ticks off our pets!
Louse (Anoplura): One louse, many lice! Everyone knows about lice in your hair, but did you know pets can get lice too? Fortunately, lice do not like to change between types of animals, so dog lice stick to dogs, cat lice stick to cats, and human lice stick to humans!
Mange (Sarcoptes scabiei): This is the classic ‘mangy dog’ mite. These mites are extremely itchy, and can spread to just about any mammal in the house!
Demodex (Demodex canis): Demodex mites naturally live on our dogs…and us! They only become a problem when they get out of control, which can occur in young puppies who do not yet have strong immune systems.
Ringworm (Microsporum canis): Ringworm isn’t actually a worm; it’s a fungus! Ringworm grows on skin and can spread between cats and dogs and people (and guinea pigs and hamsters and…). Cats can be asymptomatic carriers, which means they can spread ringworm without showing any signs of the disease!