Don’t Let It Go Bad! How Long Can You Keep a Dog Poop Sample Refrigerated?

Introduction

Collecting and properly storing a stool sample from your dog is an important part of providing veterinary care for your pet. A stool sample allows the veterinarian to check for intestinal parasites like worms, or bacterial infections that could be making your dog sick. It also allows them to get an overall picture of your dog’s digestive health.

However, stool samples need to be handled properly after collection in order to provide useful information. Fresh samples that have been contaminated or stored incorrectly can provide inaccurate results. It’s important to understand how to properly store a stool sample if you are not able to deliver it to your vet immediately.

This article will provide dog owners with tips on how long a dog stool sample can be stored in the refrigerator and still provide viable test results. Properly storing the sample will ensure your vet gets the information they need to accurately diagnose and treat any issues.

Collecting a Stool Sample

Properly collecting a stool sample is important to get accurate test results. Here are some tips for collecting a dog stool sample:

Collect a fresh sample that is less than 24 hours old. The fresher the sample, the better. Collect at least 1-2 teaspoons worth of stool if possible. Wear disposable gloves or place a plastic bag over your hand to pick up the stool. Do not touch the stool directly as this can contaminate the sample. Scoop the stool into a clean plastic container. Make sure to collect a portion of stool from multiple areas if the stool is large. Close the container securely.

It’s best to collect the first morning stool, as this will contain more formed stool. Avoid collecting diarrhea or urine-soaked stool as this can impact testing. Refrigerate the sample after collection, but avoid freezing it. The sample should be delivered to your vet within 24 hours of collection for optimal testing.

a person collecting a stool sample from a dog using a plastic bag

Be sure to label the container with your pet’s name, date the sample was collected, your name and contact information. Follow your vet’s instructions for how much stool is needed. Proper stool sample collection is key for accurate parasite, infection and other fecal diagnostic tests.

Storing the Sample

Proper storage of the stool sample is important to maintain sample integrity for accurate test results. The general guideline is to refrigerate the sample if it cannot be delivered to the veterinarian within 2 hours after collection.

According to Metrovetchicago.com, “If you can’t get a fresh sample to your veterinarian within an hour or so, you should refrigerate it.” https://www.metrovetchicago.com/services/cats/blog/dog-and-cat-fecal-exams-top-tips-and-faqs

Refrigeration helps slow down the growth of bacteria and preserve the sample. The sample should be sealed in an airtight container or bag before refrigerating. Double bagging is recommended to prevent leakage or contamination.

Most sources recommend refrigerating the sample if it will be longer than 2 hours before testing. According to Embrace Pet Insurance, “If it’s going to be longer than a couple of hours, double bag it and refrigerate it until you’re ready to go.” https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/waterbowl/article/how-to-take-a-stool-sample-to-the-vet

a stool sample being placed in a refrigerator for storage

Sample Integrity

Refrigerating a stool sample helps preserve its integrity and prevent degradation of the sample. When a fresh stool sample is passed, it begins deteriorating as bacteria and enzymes start breaking it down. Refrigeration slows this process by lowering the sample temperature, which reduces microbial overgrowth and enzymatic degradation. According to the NHS, refrigeration can maintain sample integrity for up to 48 hours before further preservation is needed.

Freezing is the best method for long-term storage of a stool sample. Freezing stops nearly all metabolic processes, preserving the sample indefinitely. However, some facilities may not accept frozen samples. Be sure to check with the testing laboratory on proper storage techniques for the specific tests ordered.

Proper storage maintains the composition and properties of the stool sample. This allows for the most accurate test results, avoiding false negatives or positives due to sample degradation. Refrigeration or freezing prevents overgrowth of normal or pathogenic flora, preserving the original microbial contents of the stool.

Sample Viability

A dog stool sample remains viable for testing for up to 24 hours if properly stored and transported. The sample should be collected freshly, preferably within 6-8 hours before testing. According to the Kansas State Veterinary Health Center, “A stool specimen should be less than 24 hours old and be kept refrigerated (NOT FROZEN) until submitted.”

PetMD also recommends collecting the stool sample within 6-8 hours of the vet appointment if possible. They state that the “sample is good for up to 8 hours unrefrigerated, or 12-24 hours if kept in the fridge.” Keeping the sample refrigerated helps preserve it and prevent degradation.

The key is to keep the sample fresh but cold. Freezing or letting it sit at room temperature for too long can damage the sample and impact the accuracy of the testing. As long as the stool is collected freshly and then promptly refrigerated, it should remain usable for fecal testing for up to 24 hours after collection.

a timer showing a stool sample is viable for 24 hours when refrigerated

Avoiding Contamination

It is critical to avoid contaminating the stool sample when collecting and storing it. Contamination can lead to inaccurate test results. Here are some tips for avoiding contamination:

Wear gloves when collecting the sample. This prevents transfer of bacteria from your hands onto the sample (CDC). Do not let the stool sample come into contact with the toilet bowl water, as this can introduce foreign bacteria. Use a clean, dry container like a stool hat or plastic wrap placed over the toilet seat (WikiHow).

Make sure the container has a tight sealing lid. This prevents leakage or spillage, and avoids contact with outside surfaces that could introduce contaminants. Refrigerate the sample immediately at 4°C. The cold temperature inhibits bacterial growth that could alter the sample (Quora). Keep the sample away from other foods in the refrigerator to prevent cross-contamination.

Transporting the Sample

Once you have collected the stool sample, you need to transport it to the vet for testing. It is important to properly store and transport the sample to preserve its integrity for accurate test results. The sample should be transported to the vet as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of collection.

Place the sealed sample container inside a small cooler with ice packs. This will keep the sample chilled during transport. Avoid leaving the sample container unrefrigerated or in direct sunlight, as bacteria and enzymes can start breaking down the sample.

Bring the sample with you when you take your dog to the vet appointment. Do not mail or ship the sample, as delays can compromise the sample. Call ahead to confirm your vet has availability to test the sample when you plan to arrive.

someone carrying a cooler containing a stool sample to the vet

When handing over the sample, let your vet know when it was collected. Provide any relevant details about your dog’s health and symptoms that led to needing the stool test.

According to MetroVet, transporting the stool sample to the vet on the same day it was collected provides the freshest sample for the most accurate test results.

Testing the Sample

When testing a stool sample, veterinarians look for a variety of things including:

Parasites – One of the main uses of a fecal test is to check for intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, giardia and coccidia. These parasites can cause gastrointestinal issues and in some cases spread to humans, so identifying and treating them is important.https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/waterbowl/article/how-to-take-a-stool-sample-to-the-vet

Bacteria – Stool samples allow vets to test for harmful bacteria like Clostridium, Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli that can cause diarrhea, dehydration and other problems. They can identify the specific bacteria present and determine appropriate antibiotics if needed.https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/routine-fecal-testing-faqs-for-dog-owners

Digestion issues – Examining stool gives insight into how well your dog is digesting and absorbing nutrients from their food. Vets look for the presence of fat, undigested matter and blood which could indicate conditions like exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, gastrointestinal ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease.

Toxins – Some toxin screens can be performed on feces to check for things like rat poison that could be the cause of your dog’s symptoms.

Overall health – The color, consistency and contents of your dog’s stool provide important clues about their overall digestive and systemic health.

Follow-up Testing

A single fecal test may not detect all parasites, so additional testing may be needed. According to harmonypet.com, if your dog has a positive fecal test, your veterinarian will likely prescribe medication. They will likely recommend a second fecal examination in 2-3 weeks after treatment to confirm the parasites have been eliminated. Multiple tests over time may be necessary because different parasites shed intermittently. If your dog has chronic GI issues like diarrhea or vomiting, your vet may recommend follow up testing every 6-12 months, according to petmd.com.

Sometimes dogs get reinfected after treatment if they come into contact with parasites in their environment. Annual testing can identify if this occurs, so your vet can provide additional treatment. Repeat testing at regular intervals is important for maintaining your dog’s health and preventing transmission of parasites to humans.

Conclusion

In summary, a dog stool sample for medical testing should be collected in a clean container and refrigerated as soon as possible. The sample should be kept cold but not frozen, as freezing can damage components in the stool that are needed for accurate test results. The sample is best used within 24 hours of collection, but can still provide useful information if refrigerated for up to 2-3 days. When transporting the sample, place it in a sealed container surrounded by ice packs to keep it chilled. Always be careful when handling stool samples to avoid contamination. Follow any additional instructions from your veterinarian about properly collecting and storing the sample. With some care taken during the collection, storage, and transport, a dog stool sample can provide your vet with valuable information to diagnose and treat any potential gastrointestinal or parasitic issues.

The final recommendations are to collect a fresh sample, refrigerate it right away, keep it cold but not frozen, and deliver it to your vet within 24 hours if possible and no more than 2-3 days at most. Handle the sample carefully and avoid contamination. Follow all instructions from your vet. Take these steps and the dog stool sample will be in optimal condition for testing.

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