[BLOG] Parasitology: to systematically screen or not, this is the question…

I was recently visiting one of our shelter partner and we had a great discussion that I thought would be interesting to share with the rest of our shelter community. This was around the following question: should all individuals entering a shelter be screened for intestinal parasites ?

This is an important question when we know how predisposed to infectious diseases shelter environments are… In a perfect world, my answer would definitely be yes. This could for sure bring extremely interesting information in order to adapt the treatment the animal will receive at intake, and even adapt the sanitation of the animal’s environment. Unfortunately, our world is usually far from being perfect… and this is especially true in shelters, where money and time are two of the main focus.

What totally makes sense from a scientific point of view might not be the most cost-effective measure. If the tests are outsourced, the shelter budget will definitely be impacted. And even if the tests are realised in-house thanks to veterinarians/technicians on site, time spent performing these assays and things to buy to be able to perform them should not be neglected. In the end, each shelter should ask itself the following question: is it really cost-effective to perform individual fecals on all entering animals?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to give up doing fecal tests, and if your organization can afford it, go ahead, again from a scientific point of view this would always be the best thing to do! But when money is at stake, it might certainly be more valuable to use a wide-spectrum wormer on all animals at intake (see the following table), most of them are extremely efficient!

I would however continue to screen cats and dogs presenting any clinical sign of intestinal parasitic infestation (diarrhea, poor coat quality, failure to thrive,…). These results will also tell the shelter which parasites are the more prevalent in their local community. And based on these results, they can eventually readapt their deworming protocols.

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