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The Scoop on Poop


6. Grey, greasy stools. A possible indicator of inadequate digestion and malabsorption of nutrients from the small intestine, this type of stool is typical of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), also called maldigestion, a disease in which the pancreas no longer functions as it should. The pancreas is responsible for producing digestive enzymes, and without them, nutrients cannot be properly absorbed. Both German Shepherds and Rough-Coated Collies are commonly afflicted with EPI

7. Green stools. In the ER, I have seen dogs with green stool, and upon examination of the fecal contents, have discovered the cause to be undigested rat bait mixed in with normal stool. This condition also calls for an immediate trip to your veterinarian. Although relatively uncommon, rat poison can also cause both bright blood and dark, tarry stool, so—whether or not you think your dog could have had access to them—please let your veterinarian know if there is any possibility of exposure to rodenticides.

8. Worms. Most of the time, you will not actually see worms in the stool. We typically diagnose worms by looking for their eggs under the microscope; we can tell what type of parasite is present by the shape of the eggs. Occasionally, however, you may see white spaghetti-like shapes (typically, roundworms) in the stool, particularly with puppies. You may also see small flat worms on the outside of the stool or rectum, or “dried rice” in your dog’s sleeping areas. This typically indicates tapeworms, which can take over when fleas are allowed to flourish. Although seeing worms in the stool is not an emergency, an appointment with your vet is in order so you can get medication appropriate for the type of parasite present.




Veterinarian Shea Cox has enjoyed an indirect path through her professional life, initially obtaining degrees in fine arts and nursing. She later obtained her veterinary medical degree from Michigan State University in 2001 and has been practicing emergency and critical care medicine solely since that time. In 2006, she joined the ER staff at PETS Referral Center in Berkeley and cannot imagine a more rewarding and fulfilling place to spend her working hours. In her spare time, she loves to paint, wield her green thumb, cook up a storm and sail. Her days are shared with the three loves of her life: her husband Scott and their two Doberman children that curiously occupy opposite ends of the personality spectrum.

Illustration by Natalya Zahn

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Submitted by Andreea T | March 11 2014 |

My sweet 9-month old baby girl died last Tuesday most likely due to intestinal blockage. She was fully vaccinated and dewormed. I rescued her from the street when she was abandoned at 1-month old. I live in the countryside in Romania and there are no vet offices here, only in the cities.

On Saturday afternoon she was fine, playful and she ate all her regular dry dog food. Then 1-2 hours later I saw her standing on her blanket and she kept swallowing for 10-20 minutes as if there was something stuck in her throat that wouln t go down. I opened her mouth but I couldn t see anything. After a couple of minutes, she regurgitated ( or vomited) by herself all the food she had eaten, but there was no foreign body ( like buttons or pieces of her blanket - nothing I could see). She made no attempt to eat it back ( she had regurgitated 3 months ago and she had eaten it afterwards). I guess there was no food left in her stomach at that point. 2 hours later she refused her favorite - chicken broth and rice. She also did not drink any water. She hadn t vomited since then and she had no stool. She started to shiver ( her back legs mostly).

On Sunday, she was still apathic, not herself, but soon after I had given her 2 tablets of activated charcoal to relieve abdominal discomfort, she ate half of boiled chicken thigh ( without the bone) - she refused to eat more. Again, all day she did not drink any water, she had no stool ( not even diarrhea) and she did not vomit at all ( she only vomited once, when she started feeling sick). Later that Sunday she refused again bread and mash potatoes ( I read it helps in cases of intestinal obstruction) but she ate a high-fiber biscuit ( cookie).

On Monday morning she was very lethargic, no barking at all, no appetite whatsoever. No vomit, no stool ( she did not even strained to defecate)and again refused to drink water, but she did pee ( her urine was very dark, almost brown). At this point I used a syringe to give her water in the corner of her mouth, chamomile tea, vitamins B complex and C and also olive oil as lubricant( I gave her about 50 ml of pure olive oil per total on Monday). I also gave her 1 tablet of a veterinary formula for gastroenteritis ( which I gave her before and it was effective when she was 2 months old and had mild diarrhea). The tablet contained 30 mg Oxytetracycline, 10 mg Bismuth and 50 mg Metronidazol ( she was small-sized and weighed around 14 lb). On Monday I also noticed many small petechiae on her ears and tummy and her eyes were bloodshot. Her gums were however pink.

On Tuesday morning there was still no stool, no appetite, no drinking water. She could barely stand on her feet and could not sit for too long in one spot ( she climbed on the couch, then a few minutes later she would sit in her doggybed, then on the floor). At 3 p.m. she defecated for the first time since Saturday a large pool of almost black, tarry blood ( I guess melena, it looked like coagulated blood). At this point, I could barely put in her mouth 2 tablets of charcoal to soothe her stomach( she would not open her mouth) and 2 hours later with the syringe I gave her an oral dose of a powerful antibiotic ( cephadroxil) because I thought she might have an intestinal infection and also oral vitamin C. I also administered 2 mg of vitamin K ( subcutaneously) and 0.5 ml of an injectable antihemorrhagic ( etamsilat). This is what a vet from the city told me over the phone I should do.

Tuesday evening she pooped for the second time since Saturday bloody diarrhea ( again black, tarry stools) and her gums began to turn lighter. She tried to walk, but she kept falling down on the floor. She started to cry and her abdomen became distended ( it was not distended before) and very painful when I touched her. As she sat and crawled on her tummy , she pooped for the third time black, tarry stool. She seemed to breathe normally though. Her gums were almost white and she refused to swallow the water in the syringe. Then I called again the vet who told me that she is in shock and to administer subcutaneously 0.5 ml of dexamethasone. She died at 12 a.m. later that day.

I am so devastated, I considered her my baby ( she was just a baby)and nothing helped - I just watched her die. I know that a trip to the vet could have helped her, but I live alone and I have no car to take her to the closest city ( I bought the vaccines in the city and I vaccinated her myself) to be placed on IV fluids.

I have no rat poison in the house, nor in the backyard and I have no neighbors. She was an indoor dog and had no access to drugs or other hazardous substances. Please, I would truly appreciate your honest specialist opinion - she seemed to be better on Sunday evening and then died on Tuesday. Could a potential foreign body cause hemorrhagic gastroenteritis and should I have given her more vitamin K to stop the intestinal bleeding? And do you think she might have developed Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation ( because I know that olive oil is a blood-thinning agent)?

Thank you so much in advance. Warm regards.

Submitted by Marti Tidwell | March 21 2014 |

I don't usually do this, but I just read an excellent article you wrote in 2012 on canine vestibular disorder, and wanted to ask you...very quickly, i promise...about my dog Reagan. Rea is a 13 year old shepherd mix. I got him as a rescue at 6 weeks old. Rea began having mild seizures at a year old, and had them like clockwork...1 or 2, every 3-4 months. My vet recommended holding off meds until we saw if they got any worse. They never did, and thus became a part of our life. And we had a great life! 6 months ago, I got married. Rea has always been such an easy-going dog that I didn't consider how hard it may be for him as an old man. I was gone from him 2 weeks, never been gone that long before, and then we moved into a new house and a new way of life. He has not done well. A week after we returned form the honeymoon, he had his first vestibular episode. He was put on steroids, and recovered 90%. Still a bit clumsy but good. From that point, we began having anxiety issues, peeing on the floor when we left and he spends his days in our bathtub. And he will not let me out of his sight. Crazy. So, the vet put him on amitryptaline. Two weeks ago, the vestibular thing happened again. Not as bad, another round of steroids. He has nearly fully recovered physically. He is still on the amitriptyline...it has maybe helped just a smidge after a month on it. Now, I am seeing confusion and nighttime restlessness. And often he just stands and stares...and still very anxious about where I am and wants to have his eyes on me at all times. My husband won't do. AND...absolutely not one seizure since we got married and the CVS started. Not one. Twelve solid years of seizures and now nothing. It has to be related, right?! He anxious, unhappy most of the time...I feel like I broke my dog when I got married. I'm sick about it. Do you have any thoughts at all? I'll take anything...

Submitted by 3SibesMom | May 13 2014 |

Thank-you for this very informative article. One of my dogs (who passed away last year) had an episode of HGE. I had never heard of it before and learned that dogs can die very quickly because of the rapid dehydration it can cause. She started out with one watery "raspberry jam" stool(which is a very accurate description by the way), and later that night began having explosive, bloody diarrhea. Raced to the Animal ER then, as I knew the latter was definitely a problem. Her blood count was already at a critical level when we got there. I wish I had known before we got to that point about HGE. As it was, she was at the vet on IV's for a couple days until she was recovered enough to go home. Coincidentally, my vet was treating a couple of small dogs that had presented with the same symptoms the same week. (1 of them died) Theirs was caused by eating some toxic mushrooms that had sprung up in their backyard. Never figured out the origin of ours. (By the way, this is not what Margot passed away from) Right now I have a dog who is a chronic paper-eater--after a binge--my yard is littered with what resemble "owl pellets". :P

Submitted by Jawad Ahmad | September 9 2014 |

The stool consistency and color is really helping in diagnosing different diseases in dogs. Diarrhoea and mucin in faeces is indication of "Giardia in Dogs".

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