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Vets spend a lot of time with dog poop – talking about it, looking at it and thinking about it – with the aim of assessing the health of the pet. Poop provides a lot of information, which is why vets ask you a lot about your pet’s poop and request for samples almost every time you visit the clinic. Certain cases of abnormal stools are indicate an emergency; others just seem like one, particularly if you are the one who has to clean up the carpet afterwards.
The Four Cs
- Color – A healthy, happy body produces stool that is chocolate brown in color. This color comes from bile, which is a fluid that is released by the gallbladder to digest the food, and bilirubin, which is a pigment in the bile. Although some variation from the expected color is normal, there are certain changes that you need to look out for. If there are bright red streaks in the poop, it is a sign that there is a bleed in the lower G.I. tract. Maroon or tarry black stools can be caused due to a bleed in the small intestines or the stomach. Pale yellow or clay-colored stools might be the outcome of problems with the gallbladder, liver or pancreas. The only exception for sudden color change is if there is change in the diet of your pet, like kibble with food coloring which will lead to unexpected flecks of color.
- Consistency – Vets use a numerical system to score the consistency of pet stool. They have a scoring system that ranges from 1 to 7. 1 represents hard pellets, whereas 7 is a puddle. The ideal number is 2 – a firm and segmented piece that is shaped like a caterpillar and feels like Play-Doh when you press it. Some pets will have stool that is squishier, but essentially the stool should be able to hold its form. If formless stools last for more than a day, you should visit the vet immediately.
- Coating – The stool of your pet must not have any coating. When you pick up the poop, it mustn’t leave behind any residue. If there is a mucous coating, it is a sign of colon disorder. There might also be bright red blood in your pet’s stool. Although it does sound alarming, a single streak of blood might happen due to a variety of reasons and is not really a cause for concern. However, if the bleeding persists for more than one stool, it is a clear red flag.
- Contents – If there are rice-shaped flecks or spaghetti-shaped strands, it is a sign that your pet has worms. If your pet munches on grass excessively, it can lead to a G.I. upset. If there are hair clumps in the stool, it is a sign that your pet is over-grooming. He might be doing that for a variety of reasons, from allergies to stress to a whole host of other medical conditions. If you are not interested in playing CSI with the poop of your pet, take him to the vet to enquire about his health.
A lot of cases of intestinal or stomach upset resolve automatically, but if the changes persist for more than a day, or if there are any changes in the eating behavior of your pet, contact the vet immediately.