Study shows one-fifth of dogs at dog parks tested positive for intestinal parasites.

July 17, 2020

3 Min Read
Study notes high prevalence of internal parasites in dogs

A recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. pet owners shows that recent COVID-19 restrictions have increased reliance on family pets, according to an announcement from Elanco Animal Health. Further, pet parents report plans to keep dog companions integrated into daily lives after the pandemic is over, including working from home, errands and social time.

Without the right care, that socialization can come at a price, Elanco said.

Elanco reported that a newly published study — "Detection of Gastrointestinal Parasitism at Recreational Canine Sites in the United States" (the DoGPaRCS study) — found that 85% of parks sampled in 30 major metro areas had at least one dog test positive for intestinal parasites (i.e., roundworm, whipworm, Giardia or hookworm). Of the more than 3,000 samples in the study, one in five had parasites. If even one dog tests positive, other dogs could be at risk.

Conducted by Oklahoma State University in cooperation with Elanco and IDEXX Laboratories, the study appears in the latest issue of Parasites & Vectors.

“Pets are more mobile than ever, and wherever they go, so go the worms,” said Dr. Susan Little, study director and veterinary parasitologist at Oklahoma State University. “The results of this study confirm our suspicions that, as pets become more integrated into our daily lives and public spaces, so do their parasites.”

DoGPaRCS study results

Of the estimated 76 million pet dogs in the U.S., more than 15 million could be unintentionally spreading parasites into the environment on any given day, the announcement said.

Even if with annual veterinary visits, pet dogs may not be fully protected, Elanco said. An estimated 40-52% of dogs remain completely unprotected from internal parasites, and only a minority of dogs receive the recommended 12 months of protection each year.

Consistent use of preventive medications, coupled with antigen fecal testing for detection of worm eggs and worm presence even if eggs are not being shed, can greatly reduce the spread of parasites, Elanco said.

The most common canine intestinal worms can be readily controlled with consistent use of monthly preventive medications. However, adherence rates and use practices appear to vary widely among dog owners.

According to Elanco, this DoGPaRCS study is the first of its kind to encompass such a large number of owned pets sampled from locations across the country. In addition to the overall prevalence of internal parasites, the study supported the value of high-quality fecal diagnostic procedures for detecting worms and not just the presence of eggs.

“Veterinarians can help dog owners understand how to help manage the risk of parasites, both at home and in public,” Little said. “In the case of internal parasites, prevention is the key to protection — for both pets and people. This includes routine fecal testing and monthly use of a broad-spectrum parasiticide, as well as picking up pets’ feces and disposing of it properly.”

While intestinal parasites were present nationally, there were regional differences discovered in the study, the announcement noted. In the South, 90% of dog parks had at least one positive dog present at the time of collection, regional statistics that were higher than national results. Experts agree, however, that parasite prevention should know no borders.

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