Zoonotic Intestinal Parasites and Efficacy of a Treatment Protocol

August 31, 2017

Audience: Executive Leadership, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: University of Florida
Investigator(s): Melissa Bain and Micaela Young
Grant Amount: $5,000
Project Type: Summer Scholar
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

The University of California at Davis Summer Scholar study aimed to determine if giving melatonin to shelter dogs in the evening would have an effect on their overnight activity, barking, or daytime behaviors.The study results show that melatonin at this dose had no clear effect on anxiety in the shelter environment. The groups differed significantly in two respects: the melatonin group was more active, and the melatonin group spent more time showing multiple defensive behaviors, the opposite of what was expected.

Objective(s)

To assess the zoonotic parasite burdens in shelter dogs at intake and exit from a community shelter

Methods

Fecal flotation and fecal egg count were used to identify intestinal parasites in each dog at intake and exit from the shelter. While this study focused on Toxocara canis and Ancylostoma spp. because they can pose a threat to human health, we recorded all intestinal parasites within the study population. A total of 65 dogs finished the study with complete fecal sample. All dogs were treated at intake according to the shelter's deworming protocol, with single dose of pyrantel pamoate repeated at monthly intervals and single low-dose ivermectin.

Results

  • In total, 54% of intake samples were positive for any intestinal parasite; 46% were positive for hookworm alone or as a co-infection; two dogs (2% of intake samples) were positive for roundworm at intake, as a co-infection with hookworm.
  • 36% with zoonotic parasites at intake failed to recover at exit, and 55% of dogs with any detected intestinal parasite at intake failed to recover at exit. Moreover, 16% of dogs with no parasites at intake developed new incidents.

Conclusions

This study revealed that the current parasite control protocol at this particular shelter is not optimally effective. Shelters should adopt the Association of Shelter Veterinarians Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters that recommends all dogs be treated with a parasiticide for hookworms and roundworms at a minimum at intake and at two weeks per the CAPC Guidelines. Because of the zoonotic risk to the new owners, and the community exposure as the new dogs enter new homes, the goal should be 0% of animals leaving with detectable parasitic infections. These preliminary data indicate a need for reevaluation of treatments, hygiene, detection and husbandry at the shelter, as well as increased owner education at time of adoption.

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