16 July 2020

First-of-its-Kind Study Shows 1 in 5 Dogs Visiting Dog Parks in Major U.S. Cities Tested Positive for Intestinal Parasites


Post by: Keri McGrath Happe

This raises unique concern as COVID-19 Dog Socialization Survey suggests increased socialization of dogs during pandemic

GREENFIELD, Ind. (July 16, 2020) A new survey of more than 1,000 US pet owners shows that recent COVID-19 restrictions have increased our reliance on our four-legged family members. Further, pet parents report plans to keep canine friends integrated into their daily lives after the pandemic is over, including working from home, errands and social time.2

But without the right care, that socialization can come at a price. 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 Animal Health Inc. (NYSE: ELAN), 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 Susan Little DVM, PhD, DACVM, 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.”

The 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.1
  • Even if your dog visits the veterinarian annually, your pet may not be fully protected. An estimated 40% to 52% of dogs remain completely unprotected from internal parasites, and only a minority of dogs receive the recommended 12 months of protection each year.3
  • 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.

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.

COVID-19 Dog Socialization Survey
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the long-term relationship between dogs and their owners. People have re-evaluated their priorities during the pandemic and are not only spending more time with their dogs, but want to integrate their dogs more into their daily lives more after the pandemic ends.

According to a June 2020 online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by TRUE Global Intelligence, dog owners:

  • Report they are 10% more likely to work from home and 11% more likely to take their dog more places than pre-pandemic levels as restrictions begin to ease across the country, suggesting this shift may be long lasting.2
  • Spent more time with their dogs during the pandemic—with a strong majority (68%) saying they have become more of an emotional companion during the pandemic.2
  • Three-quarters (75%) of Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X report they have become more emotionally attached to their dog.2

“The pandemic is a catalyst for a trend that we were already seeing of pets’ integration into society,” said Dr. Tony Rumschlag, head of Consulting Veterinarians for Elanco. “These two pieces of unique data underscore the necessity of worm detection and prevention.”

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,” said Little. “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. 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.1 Experts agree, however, that parasite prevention should know no borders.

“Today, pets are wherever people are,” said Little. “From airports to shopping centers, restaurants to parks, you don’t have to look far to find dogs living life alongside their owners. And that is exactly how we want it to be. We love our dogs! Appropriate parasite detection and prevention efforts guided by veterinarians can help us continue to safely include pets in our daily routines.”

To learn more about internal parasite protection and the study results, visit https://web.elanco.com/bewormready.


Elanco (NYSE: ELAN) is a global animal health company that develops products and knowledge services to prevent and treat disease in food animals and pets in more than 90 countries. With a 65-year heritage, we rigorously innovate to improve the health of animals and benefit our customers, while fostering an inclusive, cause-driven culture for more than 5,800 employees. At Elanco, we’re driven by our vision of food and companionship enriching life - all to advance the health of animals, people and the planet. Learn more at www.elanco.com.

1Stafford KS, Kollasch TM, Duncan KT, et al. Detection of Gastrointestinal Parasitism at Recreational Canine Sites in the United States (the DoGPaRCS study). Parasites & Vectors. 2020; 275:1-23.

2TRUE Global Intelligence. Elanco COVID-19 Dog Socialization Survey. 25 June 2020.

3Little, S., Duncan, K. Parks, Pets, & Parasites: Controlling Canine Intestinal Helminths. 2019 https://www.cliniciansbrief.com/article/parks-pets-parasites-controlling-canine-intestinal-helminths.

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