Five Things Veterinarians Love about Poop Samples

Wouldn’t it be grand if our pets didn’t have to poop? There would be no litter boxes to clean, no carrying plastic bags laden with feces when walking the dog and no inadvertently stepping in a fresh pile of poo when walking across the lawn. Alas, poop production is simply a normal part of life. What goes in, must come out.

So, how do veterinarians put a positive spin on pet poop? No problem! Those of us in the profession deal with fecal matter day in and day out—either testing it or cleaning it up. If we didn’t figure out ways to get along well with pet poop, we might just go crazy! Here are five examples of how veterinarians manage to have some fun with their patients’ poop:

1. Egg hunts
This is an Easter egg hunt done veterinary medicine style. Screening a pet for intestinal worms involves mixing a poop sample with a special liquid, spinning it in a centrifuge and then looking at the concoction under the microscope. One peers through the lens, adjusts the focus, scans around, and then, bingo! One might just find some parasite eggs! Finding eggs is always exciting, and when there’s more than one type of egg present, it’s like winning the fecal lottery!

Click here to learn more about intestinal parasites in dogs.

2. Getting the stool sample without it getting you
Clients come up with some pretty creative containers in which to deliver their pets’ poop samples. Imagine a plastic grocery bag, or one of those long plastic bags that your newspaper is packaged in on a rainy day. Now imagine a soft, mushy stool sample or some “Kitty Roca” at the very bottom of one of those bags. How are you going to get to the poop without fecalizing your forearm? Trust me when I tell you that it’s a challenge. I would tell you how, but it’s a trade secret.

  • Any blood?
  • Any mucus?
  • Any straining?
  • Any urgency?
  • How large are they?
  • How many bowel movements per day?

The answers to these questions help pinpoint if the cause of the diarrhea is within the small intestine, the large intestine or both. This is critical information in my world, and when my client knows the answers to all of my questions, it makes my day!

4. Retrieval of valuable objects
Imagine this scenario. “Bad dog” ate his human’s diamond engagement ring. X-rays tell me that the ring has made it all the way down to “bad dog’s” colon (the very end of the intestinal tract). We keep “bad dog” in the hospital and watch him like a hawk. The minute he produces a poop sample we attack it with a tongue depressor, hoping to strike gold (and diamonds). After 12 hours in the hospital, the third turd is the charm. The ring is found, thoroughly washed, and delivered back to his human. “Bad dog” goes home with hopes that he will become a “good dog” and that his human will find a more secure system to safeguard her jewelry.

5. Responding to poopy emails
When I receive an email from a client containing a photo attachment of their pet’s poop, I enjoy the mental exercise of crafting a response. I allow myself a few moments of unadulterated enjoyment, fantasizing about what I would say if I were lacking inhibitory neurons. I then move on to crafting an email response that is both tactful and appreciative of my client’s good intentions. I gently explain that a photo can’t possibly take the place of viewing the poop (and the animal) up close and personal. How do I respond to client emails with logs (pun intended) of poop data such as turd weight and diameter? I advise these folks to do whatever makes them happy, but no need to include me in the process.

Next, click here to see what your veterinarian can learn from a poop sample.

After Your Pet Gets Care

What to do after your pet’s appointment depends on their health. After a routine exam, you might only need to schedule the next checkup. If they have a health condition or has had an emergency, your vet can tell you what signs to watch for and when to call with any changes or symptoms. Your vet will also show you how to give any medications your pal needs. Make sure you return for any recommended follow-up appointments.

If you’re worried about something, don’t be afraid to call and ask. The office staff can either tell you to come back in or give you some peace of mind.


New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association: “Getting the Most Out of Your Pet’s Veterinary Visits.”

Robert A. Monaco, DVM, Old Country Animal Clinic, Plainview, NY.

Parker’s Paws Animal Hospital: “How to Prepare for Your Vet Visit.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine: “What to Expect During Your First Visit.”

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine: “Your Visit.”

American Animal Hospital Association: “When Is It an Emergency?”

Fast Fecal Facts & Stool Sample Steps

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Did you know that dogs in the U.S. poop 10 million TONS each year*? That's a lot of doo-doo! Being a responsible dog owner like you are, you already know that it’s not just good manners to scoop the poop, it’s also better for the environment, and saves people and their shoes from potentially embarrassing and stinky situations!

Check out these other fast fecal facts:

  • Flushing is the best and most eco-friendly way to dispose of your dog's waste**. Just don't flush the bag, not even biodegradable ones, as these will clog your pipes!
  • Dog poop does not make good fertilizer or compost — it's too acidic and will most likely turn your grass yellow. And the bacteria and other nasties in the poo aren't very good for your garden either.
  • One gram of dog waste can contain up to 23 million bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli and other nastiness like Giardia, tapeworm, parvovirus, and more! Gross!
  • Routine fecal tests screen for common intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and Giardia).
  • A fecal test should be done at least once a year by your veterinarian to keep your dog (and everyone else in your home and community) safe and healthy.
    *Source: DoodyCalls
    **Source: EPA

    Scoop the poop and join us in doing the Poop Scoopin' Boogie!

    How to Collect a Fecal Sample For Your Veterinarian

    We also wanted to talk about a lesser known “doody” … the down and dirty about bringing your veterinarian a fecal sample. You might think that you just need to bag your dog’s pile and drop it off, but there are a couple things that are important to keep in mind so that your dog’s sample can be the best it can be.

    Follow these Simple Stool Sample Steps:

    • Fresh is best! Collect your dog's sample right after they do their doody and bring to your vet or refrigerate immediately.
    • A sample that's not been picked up off the ground right away could become contaminated by pollens, bugs, and other environmental contaminants — making diagnosis more difficult.
    • Double bag in a plastic bag or use a veterinarian-provided container.
    • Deliver your dog's sample to your vet within 12 hours to make sure it's the best possible sample for testing.
    • Your gift of poop doesn't need to be the whole bag (looking at you, Great Danes). Ask your veterinarian how much to collect and bring in for the test they are performing — often they only need 1–2 "turds worth."

      Help us spread the "turd" word by sharing these facts far and wide! The more we scoop the poop, the healthier our environment will be.

      Make Getting Pee And Poop Samples Stress-Free For Your Pet—And You

      Elated and relieved people all over proclaim “Good potty!” and “Good pee!” when their dogs perform these necessities during leashed walks. But when is the last time you really looked at your dog’s poop?

      And how much attention do you really pay to the clumps you scoop each day from your cat’s litter box?

      One of the best ways to be your pet’s best health ally is to know what bathroom behaviors and “deposits” are normal. That’s because they provide critical clues to your pet’s overall physical and emotional health.

      Pee And Poop Secrets

      Veterinarians often refer to urine as “liquid gold” and scrutinize the color, texture, and other factors of feces on a scale of 1 to 7. Your pet’s urine should be a shade of yellow and free of any pungent odor.

      “It is important to note the volume, color, and consistency of your pet’s urine,” says Kenneth Martin, DVM, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist who operates Veterinary Behavior Consultations with his wife, Debbie Martin, a veterinary technician behavior specialist, in Spicewood, Texas. “We evaluate the urine for infections, any signs of inflammation in the bladder, evidence of crystals, and identify the levels of glucose that may indicate diabetes.”

      As for poop, well, that matters, too. Veterinarians analyze feces for signs of parasites or diseases. Your hope is that your cat or dog scores a “3” or “4” on the poop scale for being nicely formed, brown in color, and lacking a strong odor. You don’t want your pet’s poop to score a “1” (resembling tiny, rock-hard pellets) or a “7” (a stinky poo puddle).

      Collecting Samples

      It may seem like a hassle–or impossibility–to collect fresh feces and urine samples from your pet to bring in for the annual wellness exam at the veterinary clinic. But it can and should be done at least once a year.

      Dr. Martin points out that bringing in fresh samples from your pet can be far less stressful on your pet than having a veterinary technician try to obtain samples during the veterinary exam.

      Collecting poop samples at home is easier for everyone, including pets. Wear disposable gloves and plop the fresh droppings into a plastic bag and seal it. Then immediately wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap to reduce the risk of coming into contact with possible intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, and whip worms, that may be in your pet’s feces.

      Bringing in a fresh urine sample can be a bit trickier. At the veterinary clinic, the main urine collection options are what’s known as a “free catch sample” (obtained by allowing the pet to void on her own and gathering or catching the urine into a sterile pan) or cystocentesis (a quick and relatively painless procedure that extracts urine by inserting a needle into the bladder).

      Both procedures can be stressful to a dog or cat who may already be anxious and a bit frightened inside the clinic.

      Adds Debbie Martin, “When a sterile sample is not needed, we suggest allowing dogs at the clinic opportunities to eliminate on walks and provide cats with some special litter that is nonporous to collect urine from the litter box, but it is much better in terms of stress to allow the dog or cat to eliminate on their own at home than having us obtain these samples in the clinic.”

      Lisa Lippman, DVM, a house call veterinarian in New York City, knows it can be especially challenging to obtain fresh urine samples during bathroom outings, so she offers this step-by-step guide to reduce stress in you and your dog:

      1. Time sample collection after your dog has drunk a lot of water from the bowl in the house.
      2. Have a sterile urine cup handy for male dogs who hike their legs or a sterile soup ladle for female dogs who squat.
      3. Place your dog on leash in an enclosed area such as your back yard. If possible, have someone hold the leash while you calmly station yourself behind your dog.
      4. Make the urine mission pleasant for all by speaking in an upbeat and encouraging tone to your dog.
      5. Quickly and quietly place the cup or ladle under your dog–but not touching your dog–when he or she is getting into position to urinate.
      6. Reward your dog with treats and praise to reduce stress or fear.
      7. Pour urine into a sealed container encased with ice packs to keep it fresh and cool.

      To collect fresh urine samples from your cat at home, it is best to obtain one within four hours of the veterinary appointment. Using a clean litter box, fill it with a layer of non-absorbent litter that enables you to collect a urine sample using a clean syringe. Or you can purchase a cat collection urine kit (such as Kit4Cat) that features hydrophobic sand you pour into a clean litter box. You collect the urine using a pipette and vial provided in the packaging. Store the sealed urine sample in the refrigerator until it is time for the veterinary appointment.

      This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

      Other Ways To Get Free Dog Samples

      If you’re serious about finding other free samples — like dog food, pet treats, dog shampoos, poop bags, and dog toys — I have a few other tips for you.

      Here are some other ways to get samples for free:

      #1 – Visit the website of the manufacturer directly. Sometimes on the Contact page or in the side margin of the page they will mention when free samples are available. Even if it’s not specifically mentioned, you can always contact them yourself with an honest reason why you are eager to try their product. Sometimes, they will honor random requests.

      #2 – Write to the manufacturer directly. Snail mail for large corporations is typically handled by a separate office. Some companies are more likely to respond to a snail mail request that appears genuine.

      #3 – Check the store aisles and end caps in pet food stores. I’ve gotten a number of free samples from Pet Smart and from another small pet food store in my town. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. If you appear to have a serious interest in sampling a particular brand of dog food, small independent pet stores are likely to provide that for you. Don’t just get your free sample and leave though. Make it worth their while to give you that free sample… buy something. Even if it’s only a 99-cent dog chew, independent pet stores rely on your repeat business.

      #4 – Keep your eye on Craigslist and Freecycle. Occasionally, I see pet owners giving away free large bags of pet food and treats that their dog just didn’t like. You can also request such an item on Freecycle. And on Craigslist you can barter to exchange things you want for things you have.

      I like to help Dog Parents find unique ways to do things that will save time & money — so I write about “outside the box” Dog Tips and Dog Hacks that most wouldn’t think of. I’m a lifelong dog owner — currently have 2 mixed breed Golden Aussies that we found abandoned on the side of the road as puppies. I’ve always trained my own dogs and help friends train theirs, as well. Professionally, I worked at a vet and have several friends who are veterinarians — whom I consult with regularly. (And just because I love animals so much, I also worked at a Zoo for awhile!) I’ve been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started… and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). My daily motivation is to help first-time dog owners be better prepared from the first day your new puppy enters your home. I like to help dog owners understand what’s ‘normal’ and what you can expect in terms of living with and training your dog — how to get through the ups & downs of potty training, chewing, teaching commands, getting your dog to listen, and everything else that takes place during that hectic first year! When I’m not training, walking, grooming, or making homemade treats for my dogs, you will find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I’ve written over 600 articles for dog owners on this site! Many of them have upwards of 200K shares.

      Watch the video: Vet How to: Prepare u0026 Analyze a Stool Poop Sample The Scoop on Poop! (July 2021).