Scooping the Poop. How to Collect a Dog Diarrhea Stool Sample

Introduction

Collecting a stool sample from your dog when they have diarrhea is an important part of diagnosing the underlying cause. Diarrhea can be caused by a variety of issues like intestinal parasites, viral or bacterial infections, food intolerance, ingestion of toxins, or other gastrointestinal problems.

Having a diarrhea stool sample tested allows your veterinarian to check for the presence of parasites like giardia, coccidia, worms, or overgrowth of bacteria. Identifying the specific cause of diarrhea through a stool sample analysis informs the proper treatment plan. Treating the root cause, rather than just the symptoms, helps resolve diarrhea more quickly and prevent recurring issues.

This guide covers everything you need to know about collecting a stool sample from your dog when they have diarrhea. Properly gathering and storing the specimen is key for obtaining accurate test results. Understanding when and why to have diarrhea stool samples tested will help keep your dog happy and healthy.

When to Collect a Sample

It’s important to collect a stool sample from your dog right after an episode of diarrhea. Diarrhea can flush infectious organisms and other evidence out of the intestines, so collecting a sample immediately after diarrhea occurs gives the best chance of identifying the cause.

Ideally, the sample should be collected within 24 hours of the onset of diarrhea. The sooner the sample is obtained and tested after the onset of clinical signs, the more likely it is to reveal the infectious agent responsible.

Most vets recommend collecting a fresh sample that is less than 24 hours old for accurate test results. The sample needs to be as fresh as possible because the composition of the stool changes over time as the bacteria in it continue to grow and multiply.

According to veterinary recommendations, a delay of just a few hours can allow overgrowth of bacteria and make the sample unfit for analysis and culture. A fresh sample gives the vet the best chance of diagnosing any infection or other cause of the diarrhea. (Mallard Creek Veterinary Hospital)

Supplies Needed

To properly collect a stool sample from your dog, you will need the following supplies:

  • Non-porous container with lid – This keeps the sample contained without risk of leakage. Plastic containers like a margarine tub or plastic food container works well [1]
  • a plastic container and gloves for handling stool sample

  • Spoon or tongue depressor – Use this to scoop and transfer the stool into the container [2]
  • Gloves – Wear disposable gloves to avoid direct contact with the stool
  • Waste bags – Use a plastic bag to first pick up the stool, then transfer it to the storage container

Collection Process

To properly collect a stool sample from a dog with diarrhea, follow these steps:

Gather the necessary supplies – you’ll need non-absorbent gloves, a clean plastic bag or container, a wooden spoon or tongue depressor, and sample vials from your vet. Avoid using paper towels or other absorbent materials that may soak up the watery stool sample.

Take the dog outside at their normal potty time and wait for them to pass a diarrhea stool. As soon as they finish, use the spoon or tongue depressor to transfer 2-5 mL of the diarrhea stool directly into the sample container. Avoid getting urine, dirt, or grass mixed in. For very liquidy stool, do your best to capture enough volume in the container.

Seal the sample container tightly to avoid contamination or leaking. Place it in a sealed plastic bag for extra protection. Refrigerate the sample if you cannot deliver it to your vet within an hour. Otherwise, keep it at room temperature. The sample must remain as fresh as possible for accurate results.

using a spoon to transfer liquidy diarrhea into a collection cup

Thoroughly clean the collection spoon/depressor and wash your hands well afterward. Be careful to avoid spreading bacteria from the sample.

Bring the sealed stool sample to your vet’s office as soon as possible. Diarrhea samples should be analyzed within 24 hours for ideal results.

Storing the Sample

It’s important to properly store the fecal sample after collection so it remains viable for testing. The sample should be refrigerated or frozen to preserve it. Place the fecal sample in a sealed plastic bag or container, and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping the sample away from food and ensuring the container is properly sealed and labeled. The sample can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen for longer storage. Make sure to clearly label the container with your dog’s name, the date, and any other relevant information the vet may need. Properly storing the sample will help ensure accurate test results.

According to My Brown Newfies, “Store [the sample] in the fridge or cool area until appointment” (https://mybrownnewfies.com/2012/10/16/5-tips-for-taking-your-pets-stool-sample-to-the-vet/). MetroVet Chicago also recommends refrigerating the sample in a sealed bag or container to preserve it for testing.

refrigerating a sealed container holding a stool sample

Dropping Off the Sample

Once you have collected your dog’s diarrhea stool sample, the next step is to drop it off at your veterinarian’s office for testing. It’s important to call ahead to get your vet’s specific drop-off instructions.

Most vets will ask that you keep the sample refrigerated until it can be delivered. The sample should be kept as fresh as possible for accurate test results. Bacteria and parasites begin to die off quickly at room temperature, which can lead to false negatives in fecal testing. Keeping the sample cold in the refrigerator will help preserve it.

Some vet offices may allow you to simply walk in and hand over the sample. Others may ask that you call when you arrive so staff can meet you at the door. Be sure to follow your vet’s specific protocols for dropping off fecal samples.

Ideally, the sample should be delivered to the vet’s office within 24 hours of collection. The sooner the sample is tested, the more reliable the results will be. Don’t wait more than 2 days to bring in your dog’s stool sample after collecting it.

Be sure to label the sample with your name, your dog’s name, date of collection, and any other info your vet requests. This ensures proper identification and faster processing.

person handing a labeled sample container to a vet tech

Follow your vet’s instructions carefully for dropping off the diarrhea stool sample. Proper handling and transport to the clinic is key for accurate fecal testing and diagnosis of the cause.

Cost of Testing

The average cost of a basic fecal analysis for a dog ranges from $40-$75 according to sources1. This will check for intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, coccidia and giardia. The basic fecal test usually includes an egg count and estimation of worm burden. Additional tests will cost more. For example, a comprehensive parasitology exam to identify specific worm species is around $100-150. Testing for specific parasites like giardia may add $20-30 extra. Prices also vary based on your location and the veterinary clinic or lab performing the test.

Understanding the Results

After dropping off the stool sample at your vet’s office, it typically takes 1-2 days to get the results back. The vet will first check the sample under a microscope to look for intestinal parasites like giardia, roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms. They will also look for overgrowth of bacteria or yeast that could be causing diarrhea.

If parasites, bacteria, or other causes are identified, the vet will prescribe appropriate treatment. If the initial microscope exam is inconclusive, the vet may recommend further testing like an ELISA test, which detects antigens from giardia and cryptosporidium. They may also culture the stool to identify bacterial infections. Additional blood work may also be recommended if there are concerns about possible systemic illnesses causing the diarrhea.

Treating Diarrhea

When a dog has diarrhea, a vet may recommend certain medications to help treat the issue. Some common medications vets prescribe include anti-diarrheal agents like the oral gel Pepto-Bismol and antibiotics if there is an infection causing the diarrhea (https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/doggie-diarrhea/). Vets may also give dewormer medications if the diarrhea is caused by intestinal parasites (https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/diarrhea-in-dogs).

Making dietary changes is another important part of treating diarrhea in dogs. The vet may recommend switching to a bland, easily digestible diet like boiled chicken and rice for a few days. Feeding the dog smaller, more frequent meals can also help give the digestive system a break (https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/riney-canine-health-center/health-info/diarrhea).

It’s crucial to keep the dog hydrated when they have diarrhea, as fluid loss can quickly become dangerous. Providing extra fresh water and even unflavored Pedialyte can help replenish lost electrolytes and prevent dehydration.

Preventing Future Diarrhea

There are several steps you can take to help prevent your dog from getting diarrhea again in the future:

Proper Diet – Feed your dog a high-quality dog food and avoid sudden changes in diet. Make sure to gradually transition to a new food over the course of 5-7 days. Keep your dog hydrated by providing fresh, clean water at all times.

Exercise – Make sure your dog gets adequate exercise every day to stimulate digestion and keep the GI tract moving. Take your dog for walks and playtime.

Regular Vet Checkups – Bring your dog to the vet for annual checkups and vaccinations. Your vet can monitor your dog’s health and watch for any underlying issues that could cause diarrhea.

Vaccinations – Keep your dog up to date on core vaccines like parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus, and rabies. These illnesses can cause severe gastrointestinal issues. Discuss other optional vaccines with your vet as well.

In addition, keep a close eye on what your dog is eating when outside or on walks. Avoid letting them eat questionable foods, garbage, or other items that could irritate their stomach. With proper care and precautions, you can help prevent future bouts of diarrhea.

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