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Let’s Talk about Poop

Stool, feces, poop – it’s all the same and oh, so useful. Don’t you find it odd how often the clinic asks you about your pet’s stool? We always want to know if your pet has it, how much, what it looks like, etc. We can get a lot of information from the stool.

The best sample for us to work with is one that is less than 24 hours old. After that amount of time, there are changes and parasites may die off, so it is no longer useful. Bringing the sample to us in a bag or plastic container is fine.

We open the bag and look at it. We check the colour – light, dark, brown, or the colour of the dye in your dog food or treats. We look at the consistency – watery, diarrhea, mushy, like ‘cow patty’, normal, hard or solid. We want to know if has anything grossly on it – worms, blood, mucus, foreign material. We poke in it as well looking for – worms, blood, and again foreign materials like plastic.

After these things are checked, we may do some further testing.

The most common tests we do on the stool is checking for parasites. We can do several types of tests with the most useful being a fecal float for Ova (eggs) and Parasites and Giardia testing. For the ova and parasites, we mix a small amount of the fecal matter with unique solutions that “loosen” the eggs from the stool. After thorough mixing, they are put in the centrifuge to be spun for continued loosening. When complete it is time to look under the microscope at slides to try to find eggs and other single-celled organisms that could be causing issues. For Giardia testing, we mix stool with a different solution and using dry chemistry and a bit of time see if it comes up positive for the Giardia antibodies.

The things that we are looking for can be of concern to both your pet and your family. We are looking for intestinal parasites such as hookworms, whipworms and roundworms, with roundworms being of the most significant concern as they are transmissible to people. Children like to have their hands in their mouths and can ingest the eggs. In pets, these worms are mostly in the intestinal tract, but in people, as we are not the worms appropriate host, will travel other places in our bodies with retinas being of most worrisome concern. Giardia is a single-celled organism that is common (often referred to as ‘beaver fever’ by those who camp) and is again zoonotic (transmissible to people). It can cause recurrent diarrhea in our pets and ourselves.

Now you have a better idea of why we have such a ‘fascination’ with your pets pooping habits!

Written by Lisa Clifford, RVT & Office Manager

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