A key objective for the control of dogs and cats parasites is reduction the risk of transmission for zoonotic diseases. Parasitic fauna and endoparasites prevalence in household pets depend on many abiotic and biotic factors such as geographic location, climate, demographic factors, sampling protocols, and diagnostic techniques, status of animal ownership, veterinary facilities, antihelmintic usage and public awareness (Katagiri and Oliveira-Sequeira, 2008). Our study detected high parasitic prevalences in dogs and cats of which most of them are of zoonotic importance. The diversity in contamination of canine and feline feces with different groups of parasites points out on the substantial potential of public spaces contamination and presents a constant and non-diminishing hazard to the public health. The occurrence of relatively high infection intensities can be result of deworming programs absence or bad selection of the antiparasitic drug administered without adequate copro-parasitological examination. Recent study is the first who provides data on gastrointestinal endoparasites in household dogs and cats in Slovakia. Almost 30.7% of dogs and 36% of cats were positive for the protozoan infections (mainly Giardia cysts) and nematode endoparasites. Sofar the known endoparasites occurrence in Slovakia is known from coproscopical feces examinations from parks and playgrounds in urban settlements (Antolová et al., 2004; Ondriska et al., 2013; Papajová et al., 2014; Bystrianska et al., 2019).
The nematodes infections identified in the dogs and cats feces may cause zoonotic diseases and pose a risk for human health. T. canis and T. cati may lead to the visceral and ocular larva migrans, which may trigger blindness. Similarly to hookworm A. caninum which also may set off cutaneous larva migrans (Heukelbach and Hengge, 2009). The study of Fahrion et al. (2011) showed that a high percentage of Toxocara eggs found in the dogs feces identified by PCR analysis were actually T. cati where coprophagy of cat feces is quite common in dogs. However, Toxocara eggs in the present study have not been distinguished by PCR. We do not know how many of the Toxocara eggs found coproscopically were actually only contaminants from ingested cat feces. Since there is no difference in the zoonotic potential between T. canis and T. cati (Cardillo et al., 2009) this finding deserves special attention.
The overall endoparasites prevalence in household pets in this study was 34.9%. Detected prevalence was comparable to that obtained in studies conducted in Albania and Brazil (Shukullari et al., 2015; Curia et al., 2017) where the majority of animals were infected with only one parasite species (25.4%). In our study the majority of infection was represented by protozoa (31.6%) and remaining (17.9%) were helminthic infections. Combined infections were found in 9.8% of all examined cases.
The first stage larvae of Angiostrongylus vasorum were diagnosed in two dog fecal samples. This cardiopulmonary nematode, which can be found in dogs and several wild canines has been reported by identification of first-stage larvae from fecal examination what was similar to Greece findings (Diakou, 1995; Founta et al., 2000).
Our study showed that endoparasites prevalence in domestic cats (42.0%) is higher than the prevalence reported in a study from Canada, where only 6.0% of samples were positive for the parasite developmental stages (Hoopes et al., 2015). Similar lower infectivity levels (10.1%) were reported in study conducted in Japan (Itoh et al., 2016) and Germany (22.8%) (Barutzki and Schaper, 2013).
The prevalence’s observed in this recent work was comparable to those observed in Greece and Hungary (Shukullari, et al., 2015; Kostopoulou et al., 2017; Capari et al., 2013). In contrast to dogs less data is available for the cats. In our study, the prevalence of T. cacti was found to be about 6.0%, Cystoisospora spp. 4.0%, and A. abstrusus 2.0%. The most common parasite was Giardia spp. with prevalence of 36.0%.
Helminth T. cati was found in 6.0% of examined samples and when compared with results stray cats results in Iran (44%) and Germany (27.1%) (Becker el al., 2012; Sharif et al., 2010), the prevalence in our study was significantly lower. This observation points out on the importance of adequate treatment and animals deworming. Work of Barutzki and Shaper (2013) found that the prevalence of T. cati in Germany was 4.7%. This is comparable to our results. In contrast to our data Capari et al. (2013) study found that the prevalence of endoparasites infection in Hungarian domestic cats was 17.4%. The data is comparable with studies from Brazil and Cyprus where T. cati was found to be prevalent in 16.67% and 12%, respectively (Diakou et al., 2017; Ramos et al., 2020).
Parasite Aelurostrongylus abstrusus is the most well-known nematode infecting cat respiratory tract as its natural host (Traversa et al., 2010). In our study, the larvae of A. abstrusus feline lungworm, were found only in one of fecal sample, but the Baermann technique was not used. Nematode larvae were detected by the floatation technique; and therefore, the actual infection with A. abstrusus is presumably underestimated.
In general canine and feline feces samples were coinfected largely with protozoan cysts of Giardia spp. Since Giardia is a common cause of diarrheal disease in humans the companion animals are able to transmit it on the owners. Depending on the investigated animal population the prevalence data of Giardia infections in dogs and cats may vary extremely. As a result, the utilized diagnostic method is the most important factor affecting the prevalence rate (Bouzid et al., 2015). Our study demonstrated that the overall prevalence of Giardia spp. in domestic dogs and cats was 22.1% what is similar to study from Albania, where Giardia spp. prevalence was 26.4% (Shukullari et al., 2015). The overall Giardia spp. prevalence in cats was 36.0% and in dogs 20.2% this indicates that every third cat and every fifth dog were infected with this potentially zoonotic protozoan parasite - Giardia spp. Because of various Giardia hosts-specific genotypes/species in dogs and cats more studies are required on genotypisation of Giardia isolates in order to better understand the giardiasis epidemiology and transmission ecology. The infection prevalence in this study in household kept animals was much more higher when compared with the study of Bouzid et al. (2015), where the Giardia spp. occurrence was 15.2% in dogs and 12% in cats. We assume that the difference between those studies was due to use of different quantitative and qualitative diagnostic methodology.
Potential zoonotic agents represented by T. canis and eggs from family Ancylostomatidae were found in 7.4% and 4.3% of samples, respectively. Our study revealed that T. canis is the most common nematode in examined domestic dogs (7.39%). The prevalence of T. canis was comparable with studies where values were 8.7% (Katagiri and Oliveira-Sequeira, 2008; Klimpel et al., 2010), and 5.5% (Oliveira-Sequeira et al., 2002).
In general, the eggs from family Ancylostomatidae had higher prevalence than found in our study. In Brazil the hookworm prevalence ranged from 47–95.7% (Curia et al., 2017; Klimpel et al., 2010). In Romania it was 33% (Mircean et al., 2010). Dogs and cats up to 1 year of age were infected significantly more often than older animals (p < 0.01). The reason behind is that immune system of puppies and kittens is developing and not able yet to generate sufficient immunity (Gates and Nolan, 2009). Obviously a primary infection leads to an acquired immunity and does can reduce the parasite prevalence in older dog. Another possibility is that females may infect their puppies inside the uterus or via milk (Melhorn Aspöck et al., 2008).
Results of the present study indicate that animal gender does not play an important role as a risk factor for the endoparasites occurrence. This finding is similar to results from the other European studies (Riggio et al., 2013; Zanzani et al., 2014; Savilla et al, 2011). However, the age was identified as an important risk factor. The results suggest that young dogs (< 1 year) are significantly more susceptible to the ascarid and coccidial infections than adults. This is consistent with the findings from other studies (Claerebout et al., 2009; Mircean et al., 2010) where parasites incidence in young dogs is higher. This is also a justification for utilization of more effective deworming protocols, especially against ascarides. Another study emphasizes the importance of protozoan infections for dog health, especially in their first year of life [Claerebout et al., 2009; Mircean et al., 2010; Little et al., 2009). Testing of canine and feline fecal samples contributes to knowledge on the prevalence of various parasitic infections in companion animals. This survey is the first which evaluated the endoparasite status of client-owned, veterinary cared dogs and cats in Slovakia. The data presented in this study indicate the presence of a wide variety of endoparasites and demonstrate relatively high prevalence of potentially zoonotic agents. Therefore, the veterinary doctors and pets owners need to step up their interest on periodical endoparasites examination and antihelmintic treatment. Only these approaches will reduce the parasitism in pets and consequently lower the potential for transmission of zoonotic agents to humans.