Idea Exchange: A simple question that elicits more effective—and efficient—fecal examinations

Jul 01, 2012

Occasionally, clients present fecal samples to staff members at the front desk and ask, "Will you please check my dog (or cat) for worms?" Frequently, they leave before the testing is complete and ask that someone call them later in the day with results. On more than one occasion, the doctor gets in touch with the owners to report that no parasite ova were observed, only to have owners ask why their dogs have diarrhea, soft stools, or some other gastrointestinal-oriented affliction.

So now when a client brings a sample to our clinic—before performing a fecal centrifugation—we ask the specific reason the client is having the test performed. If the pet is being tested simply for the client's peace of mind and has no history of gastrointestinal issues, we perform a centrifugation with sugar solution. If the pet has a condition that the owner is concerned about, we perform the following: 1) centrifugation with sugar solution, 2) centrifugation with zinc sulfate solution, and 3) fecal cytology. Sugar solution centrifugation is our gold standard for routine fecal examinations. Zinc sulfate solution allows for efficient diagnosis of whipworm or Giardia species infections, and the fecal cytology helps us diagnose a Clostridium perfringens infection or other bacterial-related conditions. We bundle these tests and report the results on the three parameters.

This practice keeps us from being blindsided by the client's concerns when reporting results and helps us diagnose gastrointestinal issues in a more efficient manner. Clients appreciate the change in policy, and we are now performing the tests that are justified based on specific conditions.

Dr. Pete VanVranken
Battle Creek, Mich.