by Dan Shouse
My wife, my veterinarian, our friends, and my co-workers call me poop obsessed. Like there could really be such a thing, right? Just because I am constantly checking my pets stool for consistency or foreign matter, does that make me strange ? Recently I had to take my Shiba Inu to the vet for a digestive work-up. She was suffering from diarrhea for about a week and feeding her a bland diet was just not working. I knew from experience that the vet would probably want a stool sample so he could perform a fecal float test, checking for any bacteria or worms in my dogs digestive system. I came prepared with not one, not two, but three samples wrapped neatly in Ziploc bags and proudly handed them to a vet tech. Needless to say the tech was a little shocked that I had even thought to bring a poop sample in before being asked to do so, and was stunned that she had so many prime choices. She told me, “Nobody carries poop around until we tell them to go home and get us some.” Our vet however understands my obsessive compulsive nature when it comes to my pet’s health and took it all in stride. The tech’s surprised reaction to my already having poop on hand got me thinking. Why doesn’t everyone poke around in their pets poop and carry samples off to the vet without being asked?
Does you pet have worms, or a bacterial infection, or and obstruction? Is your pet getting all the nutrition it needs from the food you are feeding. Your pets stool is a wealth of information about overall health condition and how well their current diet is working. Following the poop signs may help you get answers sooner than later. Here are some key indicators about what your pet may be suffering from based solely on poop examination:
Lets take a look at Purina’s Fecal Score Chart and grade our pet’s poop.
poop score of 1: Very hard and dry, leaves no residue, and is hard to expel. Stool of this consistency could mean a lack of hydration in the body[/box]
Just like humans pets are mostly made of water, and being made of water they need lots of replenishment. There are two ways dogs naturally get their fluids topped off, either through the food they eat (rarely effective), or through the water they drink. Obviously if your dog eats a dry dog food then the only source of water they have access to is the clean water you put down, or the dirty ditch water you hope they don’t drink when they are out for a walk. Don’t even get me started on that – gross and dangerous.
If your dogs poop is very dry, leaves no residue and is hard or painful to expel, and it seems they are drinking enough water, then they could be absorbing too much fluid as the food passes through the digestive tract or there might be an issue in the urinary tract that is effecting the distribution of fluid that other body systems need to function correctly.
In the case of stool being too dry a trip to your veterinarian for consultation is recommended.
Additional signs to look for:
- Pain or strain when your dog tries to defecate.
- Taking a longer period of time to completely defecate, or trying multiple times in a short period to completely defecate
- Defecating in the house even when the opportunity to go outside or on a walk is given. This is an indication that your dogs routine is off because normal digestion and the urge to go is either slowed or interrupted.
- Eating grass or other objects. Your dog might be trying to eat something to help them move things along. Eating grass is also a sign of other digestive processes issue’s or can also be attributed to boredom.
- disinterest in food or water.
What the vet might check to help relieve your dog of hard stool:
- Kidney function – If the kidneys are damaged they might be over processing. If the kidneys are over worked then fluid will leave the body to quickly as urine, leading to dehydration. This could be a serious issue.
- Quality of diet – Feeding dogs too much grain or too much raw vegetable fiber (for those that feed a raw diet) might be giving them constipation. If your pet can not poop often enough then the moisture content of its stool will over absorb in the intestines. Remember fiber is good to loosen stool but it must be processed and in a small form (like Metamucil) or your dog will not be able to digest it. Access fiber build up in the stomach could cause a Phytobezoar or slow the digestive process, and yes you can give your dog a fiber additive like Metamucil after asking your veterinarian the recommended dose for your dogs size.
- Pain Reflex – Your dog might be in pain and it might be hard from them to assume the proper pooping posture. If a dog hurts when it tries to poop then it might try less often, holding their poop too long, and over absorbing moisture in the intestines. Dogs with arthritis in the hind legs or spine, hip dysplasia, or and injury might have this problem. Remember that dogs mask their pain very well and it might not be readily apparent your friend is suffering.
Another suggestion we have seen around is that your dog might be ingesting too much bone, either from scrap bones they are given or cooked bones in a raw diet. I guess the theory is that bone, or any dense material your dog has in it’s diet, will lead to a slowing of the gastric process and over absorption of fluid. We do not advocate giving dogs bones and that practice of giving your dog your leftovers or buying them natural meat-on-bone treats seems dangerous and contrary to keeping your pets safe and healthy. Bones splinter and tear at the lining of the stomach. They add almost nothing to your pets needed nutritional profile that a well balanced pet food can not offer, and there are safer ways to treat your dogs to something yummy. In our opinion you should steer clear of giving your dogs real bone products.
Again, a trip to your veterinarian is highly recommended if these issue’s continue for more than 5 days or if your dog shows any signs of pain when trying to defecate.
Things you can do that might help soften your dogs stool:
- Add a small amount of water to your pets dry food and let it soak in. This may help with digestion and will add some water into the system.
- Add a tablespoon of canned pumpkin like Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin, the no sugar or spice added kind used for pies (also good for diarrhea), into their food.
- Add a tablespoon or two (depending on dog size) of plain yogurt in their food.
Also, one of the things we like to do for our dogs is give them ice as a treat. Most dogs love chomping on ice cubes, but make sure the ice is not too hard. Try not to use the hard ice or diamond ice that comes in bags, making ice in your freezer will work fine. Put some ice in a cup and cover it with water, let the ice sit in the water for 5-10 minutes and then treat your dog with these little water nuggets. If you can chew a piece then it will be safe for your dogs teeth as well. This is a great way to add water into a dog that is dehydrated.
Fecal Score 2: Firm, but not hard; should be pliable; segmented in appearance with little or no residue left on the ground when picked up.
Poop #2 is border line dehydrated, but generally looking pretty good. Getting more water into your dog might be a good idea, or if you are feeding your dog 100% dry dog food then you might consider adding a wet food to create a 50/50 mix.
Remember that changing or adding to your pets diet needs to be done very slowly to avoid stomach upset. If you decide to add some wet food into your pets diet do it in small amounts at first, over a two week period, leading up to a complete integration of the new food. Monitor your dog closely for any inconsistency in normal digestion or defecation that last for longer than a 2 or 3 day period.
There is not much to worry about with Poo #2 (excuse the pun) and a consistency between #2 and #3 is what you are shooting for.