The dog stool sample-perhaps the most dreaded veterinary request of dog parents everywhere. What most people view as a vet’s sick way of torturing them is actually a very useful diagnostic tool for all things digestive as well as the overall health of your dog. A dog fecal sample is not something to be feared, but rather it should be viewed as the window to your dog’s gut health.
Why Does My Vet Want A Dog Stool Sample?
A stool, or fecal, sample is pretty straight forward. It’s a sample of your dog’s poop. They are also an important indicator of your dog’s health. Stool samples are mainly used to check your pup for parasites. They can also be looked at for bacteria, especially abnormal growth of such, and for your dog’s digestive absorption abilities. Some examples? In cases of diarrhea, the bad bugs salmonella and giardia can be tested for to determine the best route for treatment. If there is a high amount of fat found in the feces, it could mean that your dog’s pancreas isn’t working properly.
Most veterinarians will request a stool sample from your dog at the time of their annual wellness check. In some areas, that frequency is increased to every six months. However, they may also want to see some feces anytime your dog isn’t feeling well.
What Are the Different Types of Stool Tests For Dogs?
There’s much more to fecal testing than just looking at poo. Actually, there are four different stool tests at a veterinarian’s disposal.
- Fecal Float: This is the most common dog stool test used in veterinary clinics. It involves mixing the feces with a special solution. The idea is that parasite eggs and protozoa then float to the top where they are trapped on a slide, ready to viewed under a microscope. This method is by no means 100% accurate as there may be error in the waiting period or mixing technique that prevents the eggs from floating. However, for severe parasitic infestations, it can work very well.
- Fecal Smear: You guessed it! A fecal smear is literally smearing feces on a microscope slide. This test is used with there isn’t enough sample for a float or when the vet is looking for things like fat and cellular material. It is fairy inaccurate for parasite detection.
- Fecal Centrifugation: This test is similar to a fecal float in that a sample of feces is mixed with a special solution. That mixture is then spun down using a centrifuge to move the heavy particles to the bottom, allowing the tiny parasite eggs to float to the top where they can be visualized on a microscope slide.
- Dysbiosis Testing: On the newer side of veterinary medicine is what’s called a dysbiosis test. You may have heard of the microbiome - it’s that secret society of microbes that lives in a dog’s (and your!) gut that are responsible for proper digestion.
A microbiome test sequences DNA of all of the microbes found in the feces, both bad and good, to see what your dog’s gut is populated with. It helps to identify pathogens and parasites that other fecal tests can’t. It can also be used to determine if those bugs are resistant to antibiotics. While more work is to be done in order to more completely decipher the microbiome test results, a dysbiosis test is a great example of how scientists are starting to translate this DNA data into actionable insights.
How Do I Collect a Dog Stool Sample?
Collecting a fecal sample may be easier than you think. Some veterinarians will provide you with a container in which to collect your sample, otherwise a couple of clean plastic bags is all you need. You don’t need the whole pile, rather just a segment or two. Place a plastic bag over your hand and pick it up. Place it in the provided container or into another plastic bag and seal it. Try to get the feces off of the top rather than the part that is touching the grass or ground.
When it comes to fecal samples, the fresher the better. We’re talking directly from the source and to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible. A few general tips:
- Don’t bring anything that’s been sitting out in the yard as it could be contaminated with environmental pollens, fungi, etc.
- If you aren’t coming directly to the veterinary clinic, store the fecal sample in your refrigerator.
- All samples should be less than 12 hours old by the time they’re in the vet’s hands.
Hopefully this has impressed upon you how important of a diagnostic tool a dog fecal sample can be. Rather than dread the bringing in a fecal, appreciate how you are helping your dog’s digestive health!