Dog stool sample tests are one of the most common tests for checking their health. Anyone who owns a dog will usually have to give at least one stool test to their vets. They are are a routine test for when your dog has an upset stomach or feels unwell. They are also able to diagnose many parasites that your dog may have contracted.
We have compared and explained the different test types, stool types and even how to self evaluate a dog stool sampling. Here are all the answers you may need to understand your dog’s feces.
What is a Dog Stool Sample
A stool sample is a small piece of your dog’s feces, cleanly and safely stored. This is given to your vet for biological testing to evaluate your dog’s health. There are a variety of different tests that can be performed on a fresh stool sample to identify different health problems your dog may be experiencing. This can include an observational test, a floating test, and a smear test to name a few. We also have to be aware of how to collect and store the sample appropriately as otherwise, the sample may not effectively show the illness your dog has.
Of course, this is not something any of us want to do, the smell is enough to put us off! However, we need to know how to do it quickly and effectively, as if it is collected or stored wrong, you may have to do it again.
Be prepared so that the condition of the stool won’t prevent you from collecting the sample. The solidity of the stool along with the smell and color can all be identifiers that something is wrong. Therefore, the more abnormal your dog’s stool is, the more likely a sample will need to be collected.
Types of Dog Stool Sample Tests
Your vet may perform one of three tests on your dog’s stool sample to check for different parasites and bacteria. This includes a smear test, a flotation test, and a centrifuge test.
The smear test is the easiest out of the three tests to perform and the results can usually come back the same day. It involves smearing some of your dog’s sample onto a glass slide and placing this under the microscope. There, your vet will be able to view any parasites, worms or other harmful pathogens within the sample. This can identify both live pathogens and evidence of those living in your dog’s digestive tract.
The examination can take a while because they will need to note the pathogens present, any healthy bacteria, the obvious problems with the sample such as loose discharge, and the frequency of the pathogen. This will show if your dog is mildly or severely affected.
During this test, the stool sample is mixed with a specific liquid that causes all parasitic eggs to float. When an intestinal parasite is living inside your dog, they will lay eggs to multiply and to spread to new hosts through your dog’s poo. Therefore, this test allows the detection of the specific parasite.
The eggs will be gathered up and placed on a glass slide to put under a microscope. Here, your vet can identify the type of parasite and have the correct medication prescribed for your dog.
In this test, your dog’s stool sample will be collected and placed into a glass test tube with a specific liquid. The test tube is then placed into the centrifuge. This is a machine that holds test tubes and spins the contents, causing separation of heavier materials and lighter materials.
In this case, the eggs of the parasites will float to the surface. The remainder of the fecal matter will sink. These eggs can be collected, placed under a glass slide and examined under a microscope to identify what parasite the eggs came from.
The centrifuge is a more expensive method but is more effective than the flotation method, some claim.
This is where the sample is analyzed for unusual proteins that may have come from parasites. You can identify the protein type through microscope examination and the antigen testing itself. Proteins that are not expected to be in the stool are examined and if they come back positive for pathogenic origins, vets will prescribe treatment.
How to Collect a Dog Stool Sample
From collecting the sample to storage and providing it to the vet, there are ways to make things easier for you and for them.
In order to provide your vet with the most current bacteria or parasites your dog has, the sample should be fresh. This means it should be from stool passed in the last twenty-four hours and no later. Furthermore, your vet will be better able to detect the severity of the parasites. You don’t want your dog to be treated for mild parasites when they need a stronger treatment, as the parasite will not be treated. Similarly, if your dog was treated for a severe case of the parasites or bacteria, they may be affected by severe side effects.
After you have booked an appointment, then attempt to collect a sample. Make sure this is after your dog has defecated and is not an old pile of poo. Do be sure the stool is not too hot though, as this can steam up the container, create humidity and alter the consistency of the sample.
You only need to collect a sample about the size of a teaspoon, about an inch by inch in diameter. There is no point in collecting a whole pile of your dog’s poo as a very small amount needs to be used for testing. Therefore it will just be more unpleasant for you and the vet. Note that you do not need to actually measure the sample. Just roughly judge the amount so it is not too small so the vet cannot use it, or too large and unnecessary to bring.
Use something disposable to collect the sample, using reusable objects is not very clean unless they are bleached. Even then, the object is then contaminated with bleach. You can use a wooden or plastic spoon to get the correct sized stool sample or even just use the container you are going to place the sample into. However, you can have difficulty scooping the sample into the container and you may contaminate it by pushing it or dropping it. Grab a disposable spoon and cut and scoop it into the container.
Firstly and most conveniently, after your vet has requested a dog stool sample, ask them if they provide fecal containers. These are usually small plastic tubes with screw-on tops that you can easily place the sample into. If they do, ask at your vet appointment for one. These are normally free as they are returned, so do not be worried about extra costs. Often, you can just return the container with the sample to the front desk, or some clinics may have a box you can place the sample and container into as long as it is labeled with your details. Check with your vet for their submission procedure.
If your vets do not provide containers, you can use a dog poop bag or a plastic bag. Collect the small portion of the sample like you would normally pick up your dog’s feces. Double knot this so nothing could fall out. Simply give this to the receptionist and she will detail what are the next steps to follow.
You will want to make sure the sample is stored correctly, as bacteria, consistency, and a variety of other things can change. You do not want this to happen as it will invalidate the sample or at minimum make it more difficult for the vet to examine your dog’s feces. The best way to store dog stool samples once you have contained it properly is to store it somewhere cool. For example, consider leaving the sample outside if you live in a cool area.
If you live somewhere hot or do not have a cool area to place the sample in, you may have to consider your fridge. For sanitary reasons, make sure the initial container is also in a container or in a sealed plastic bag. Then this can be kept in the fridge until the time you take it to the vets.
How to Evaluate Your Dog's Stool Yourself
We recommend taking a dog sample to the vets if you ever have any concerns. However, you may be able to gain a rough understanding at home, even without the stool being tested. Sometimes you may even be able to identify and treat the problem but only do so if you are trained or experienced. The wrong treatment can cause your dog to feel iller.
A good article to refer to when looking at your dog’s stool sample can be found here by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang.
The color of your dog’s stool sample can not only indicate that something is wrong with your dog’s health. Depending on the color, it’s intensity and brightness, it can often hint what the problem may be. The different colors you will see include black, red, yellow, gray and green. Other dog fecal colors may occur, but usually this is due to a large amount of food with that coloring being eaten. These are the recommended color changes to be aware of.
- Black: Black indicates old blood in the dog stool sample, which can be presumed to have come from higher up the digestive system internally. Take your dog to the vet immediately.
- Red: Red feces or red streaks can show bleeding from the lower digestive system or bleeding from tears of the anus. Still visit the vet, but this may mean your dog just requires higher levels of fiber.
- Yellow or gray: This usually shows dogs that are having difficulty digesting fats. This comes from problems with the gallbladder, pancreas, and liver, which will require a vet visit.
- Green: Green poop can indicate either gallbladder problems or too much-consumed grass.
The ideal consistency of your dog’s stool sample should be like play-doh. Easily pushed through your dog’s digestive tract but can stay intact. Any consistency less than this can be a sign of diarrhea. If the stool is not intact, is runny or all of the stool is liquid, this is definitely diarrhea. Collecting the sample, in this case, will be more difficult. Attempt to scoop a 1 inch by 1 inch amount into your chosen container.
If your dog’s stool is too hard, this is a sign of constipation. This can mean your dog is defecating less regularly and it may be more difficult to get a sample. When your dog finally passes stool, be prepared for it to be a much harder consistency. Therefore, cutting off an inch by inch portion can be difficult. You can tell it is harder in appearance from smaller more ridged portions of poop.
When examining your dog’s stool, you may see foreign objects inside. This can indicate current parasites, a one-off eating mishap or perhaps a bad habit that requires training. If you find worms in your dog’s stool, this will require vet treatment. As your dog will have to be given a full course of medication. This is to make sure all the worms are dead and are no longer reproducing. If there is grass present in your dog’s stool, this can show a habit of grass consumption. Which can be a combative measure by your dog for a different health problem. Some argue it can be a bad habit that can be prevented with positive reinforcement and clicker training.
If you find objects or rocks in your dog’s feces, this may be because they have chewed a toy or something outside, and accidentally ingested it. In which case, if it has been passed fully, this should be the end of your dog’s health problems. It becomes difficult when this is either a bad habit or your dog has been unable to pass all of the blockage. A vet will have to aid you if a blockage still exists. If it is a bad habit of chewing and swallowing foreign objects, this will need monitoring and training.
Your dog’s stool should not have any kind of coating. If it has a mucous coating, this can be a sign of multiple health issues that may require vet aid. The most common reason for mucus discharge over dog stool is because of bowel inflammation. The discharge exists to help with the lubrication of the fecal matter and can be overproduced in this circumstance. Other more serious reasons include tumors. At the other end of the spectrum, it may simply be an insufficient diet. It is best to consult your vet for their advice.
Dog Parasites That Need a Stool Test for Diagnosis
Some of the most common parasites you can diagnose using a stool test include the Roundworm, Hookworm, and Whipworm:
- Roundworms can be identified through their production of eggs. Therefore any of the tests can be used to identify a Roundworm infestation. As Roundworm is not dangerous to your dog and can be treated in one to three doses of medication, your vet will initially use the least expensive method of testing. This is a smear test or a flotation test.
- The most effective test to identify hookworm eggs is the flotation test, this is the most commonly used when this parasite is suspected. Therefore, they may not be identified in a smear test. Hookworms are a much more serious parasite and can especially affect your dog is they are very young or very old.
- Whipworms can be identified through a smear test alone, however, the eggs are so small and infrequent, it is often recommended to conduct multiple tests or look into other testing methods that may be more effective. Whipworms carry the most disease out of all of these parasites and can cause serious negative effects to your dog.
Once identified, your veterinarian will be able to offer a curative treatment to remedy the issue as promptly as possible.
Dog Stool Samples – FAQs
Finally, here are the most commonly searched FAQs about your dog stool sample with in-depth answers.
What can be diagnosed with a dog stool sample?
The main thing that can be diagnosed with a dog stool sample test is parasites. However, there are many different health and behavioral problems that can be diagnosed through a stool test alone!
Digestive issues can be monitored through the appearance of the stool including the color, consistency and possible mucus coating. You can identify foreign matter ingested such as toy stuffing or grass and be aware that further health research may be needed for preventative training. Furthermore, you can identify if a diet is not appropriate for your dog and you need to give them more of one nutrient type. The spectrum is vast, so always keep an eye on what your dog is passing.
How long can I keep my dog's stool before taking it to the vet?
You will want to keep a dog stool sample for a maximum of twenty-four hours. This is because of deterioration time and accuracy in reflecting your dog’s current health. After twenty-four hours the stool may begin to change in consistency or bacteria may begin to thrive on it. It may even begin to change in color over time. This means the sample cannot be properly analyzed as elements of it will have changed.
Similarly, your dog’s condition may have improved or worsened within that time frame, therefore, the more up to date the dog stool sample, the more accurate it will be to reflecting a dog’s current health state.
How long will my dog's stool stay good in the fridge?
The maximum time you want to keep a dog’s stool in the fridge is twenty-four hours. The fridge will keep the initial bacteria away but will not prevent deterioration after time. This is because the bacteria that already exist on the stool and the fact there will still be oxygen provided means there is unavoidable deterioration.
Furthermore, a sample should not be given to the vets any later than twenty-four hours as the condition of your dog may have drastically changed by that point.
What is the price of a dog stool test?
The average cost for a stool test is between $25 and $45 for a regular smear test. The other kinds of tests can be more expensive. Generally, the centrifuge is the most expensive method of testing with the smear the cheapest. However, some vets will have a general set price for fecal testing, regardless of the procedure.
How can I take a stool sample to my vet?
Once you have collected the inch by inch sample and placed it into the container of your choice, contact your vets to let them know. Some will take the sample at reception and call you back when scans are done. Others may have a box you can place the contained sample into as long as it is labeled and they are able to contact you with results.
Some vets may request that you book an appointment so they can initially examine the fecal matter visually to gain a rough idea of how your dog has been affected and why. This may mean that they know they have to act fast, for example, if the stool is dark red and shows high digestive bleeding. Or there is not much to worry about, such as the visual of eggs and they can conduct a smear the same day.