HAPPY TUM OR A RUMBLE DOWNUNDER? THE FULL SCOOP ON PET POOP.
A pet’s toilet troubles can send the most stoic owner into a tail-spin. Not just because of the discomfort and distress these cause our fur-babies, but because it means someone has to manage the … er… fallout. Twisted Whiskers has put together a handy guide to the most common causes of upset tummies and the best ever cleaning tip.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what various toilet troubles might mean for your pet, it’s worth mentioning a factor that doesn’t stem from the gastrointestinal tract itself: anxiety. Anxiety often manifests in dogs as tummy upsets (vomiting and diarrhoea) and in cats, as disturbances of the urinary tract. Hills Pet Nutrition has come up with two new products in their veterinary prescription diet range that, in addition to targeting the respective GI or urinary symptoms, add L-tryptophan to the pet’s diet to naturally reduce stress levels. Check out Hills i/d Stress Mini, for dogs and Hills c/d Stress for cats. These products are available exclusively from Twisted Whiskers or your veterinary clinic and have proven highly effective for anxious pets or those who are regularly exposed to stressful situations like multi-pet homes, travel, shows or grooming visits.
Now, for a conversation best avoided at the dinner table…
IT SHOULD BE BROWN, NEVER BLOODY
Blood is a substance that should stay in the body and ideally not come out of it, so whenever you see blood in your pet’s stool, it’s something to be taken seriously.
Bright red blood usually indicates damage to the colon. It could happen as a result of something fairly innocuous like a small tear in the rectum or anus due to a hard stool. This would show up as a small amount of fresh blood on the surface of the stool of an otherwise happy pet. A more serious injury to the colon could result from something sharp (eg. piece of bone or stick) that has been swallowed and made its way down the GI tract, got stuck and is causing irritation or injury. In this case, the pet would be straining and showing discomfort.
If rectal bleeding is extensive or recurring, take your pet for a vet visit immediately, as something more sinister might be behind it.
You may think that only dogs are guilty of swallowing foreign objects, but occasionally cats are affected by an anxiety-induced condition called pica, where they, too, may chew and swallow non-food items.
Bleeding from the stomach or small intestine will result in a black, tarry stool. This can be a warning sign of an ulcer or a reaction to certain pain medications. If your pet has suffered a blood nose and swallowed a lot of blood, this may also make his stool very dark.
Any number of factors may cause diarrhoea and it’s important to bear in mind that, aside from a potentially serious underlying problem, the mere fact that diarrhoea drains the body of water and electrolytes means that it should be treated as serious. Young pups or kittens and older animals, or those with compromised immune systems, are particularly vulnerable and should be taken to the vet for the appropriate treatment at the very onset of diarrhoea.
Dietary indiscretions (fondly known as “garbage disease”) can cause a nasty diarrhoea and possibly vomiting too, particularly if whatever the pet ate was rotten. Keep refuse bins in designated areas that pets cannot access, check your garden after storms for dead baby birds that may have been blown from nests and keep an eye out for “tasty morsels” that your dog might swoop on when out for a walk. The command “Leave!” is a very useful one to have mastered before setting off on excursions which may yield “delights” like discarded chicken bones, human faeces, etc.
Internal parasites like hookworm, protozoa like trichomonas, giardia and coccidia, as well as bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella or viruses like parvo virus, distemper and others may be the cause of a runny tummy. Don’t be tempted to consult Dr. Google regarding diarrhoea. If your pet is listless, off his food, the diarrhoea has lasted for more than a day, or he’s vomiting and unable to keep fluids down, getting him to the vet for a professional diagnosis straight away could mean the difference between life and death. Ensuring that pets are regularly dewormed and vaccinated helps guard against some of the more sinister causes of diarrhoea.
Haemorrhagic Gastroenteritis, or HGE, is a particularly severe and life-threatening form of diarrhoea in dogs. Cats are fortunately not affected. Characterised by a stool ranging from a “strawberry jam” consistency (due to the fresh blood in it) to a watery bloody diarrhoea, it’s usually accompanied by vomiting and the dog is depressed and not eating. The lining of the entire intestine is damaged with HGE, which leads to rapid and severe dehydration, nausea, pain, electrolyte imbalance, shock and the risk of septicaemia. Time is of the essence in getting your dog to the vet and he will need to be admitted for life-saving treatment. HGE is most prevalent amongst smaller breeds and highly anxious dogs.
A common cause of tummy upsets is an abrupt change of food. Whenever a dietary change is indicated, whether you’ve decided to change pet food brands, have taken on a rescue pet with an unknown dietary history, or if your vet has recommended a change of food for medical reasons, always introduce the new food gradually, to allow the pet’s gut fauna and flora to adapt to the new ingredients. To start with, split the recommended daily allowance so that it’s made up 3/4 of the previous diet to 1/4 of the new product. Feed this mixture for 2-3 days. If your pet’s stool remains normal on this mix, go 50:50 and feed this mix for another 2-3 days. By this stage your pet should be getting used the new food nicely and you can taper the old diet to 1/4 of the food fed for another couple of days and then stop the previous diet altogether. Stop the process immediately if your pet shows signs of discomfort on the new brand. Speak to your vet or one of the helpful staff at a Twisted Whiskers Deli for advice on a suitable alternative.
ALL “BACKED UP?”
This can happen when a pet has either too little healthy fibre or too much indigestible fibre in their diet – check with your vet or Twisted Whiskers team member whether the diet you’ve chosen for your fur-baby is complete and balanced and supports gut health.
Other possible causes of constipation may be eating foreign objects like stones, bones, toys, fabric, etc. These can all cause nasty blockages which may end up having to be removed by your vet using enemas or even surgery.
Increasing your pet’s exercise, adding some cooked pumpkin to the diet or treating with an over the counter product like Laxapet may help for the occasional hard stool. However, chronic constipation results from underlying medical conditions that will need additional treatment.
GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT
The amount of poop can tell as many stories as its consistency, particularly about the quality of the diet you’ve chosen for your pet. High quality, animal-protein based diets are absorbed well by the body and, consequently, there is less to land on the lawn. If you’re spending most of your weekend disposing of poop, it’s time to look at the diet you’re feeding your pets. In addition to well-known super-premium imported pet foods, there are also high-quality locally produced options available. Ask a Twisted Whiskers nutrition advisor to calculate the costs per day of a couple of products – you may be pleasantly surprised at how cost-effective and affordable veterinary premium diets are.
As utterly gross as this habit is to us, eating poop, or coprophagia as it’s formally termed, is a perfectly normal behaviour for dogs. Your dog won’t be able to keep this little habit a secret from you, especially when he gets up close and personal for a smooch, eeeek! Many people worry that it’s a sign of a nutrient deficiency, but this is seldom the case. Most often it has a behavioural cause.
Cats generally aren’t poop-eaters, although kitty-poop is particularly flavoursome to canines, due to the high levels of proteins and fats excreted.
Regardless of how normal this habit is in canines, chances are it’s not something you wish to live with, so steps need to be taken. Copronat, available from Twisted Whiskers, can be sprayed onto the food of the pet whose poop is being snacked on. Copronat does not affect the palatability of the food being eaten, but it luckily makes the pet’s poop very unpalatable. Continuous use for a few months should be able to create an aversion to poop eating in a foul-mouthed canine.
Or you could try an old wives’ tale that, by all accounts, works well. A small amount of raw baby marrow (courgette) or pineapple, grated over the pet’s food, will undergo enzymatic changes in the gut that makes the end product super-unappetising. Or so the legend goes. You have nothing to lose by trying it – dogs enjoy some vegetable matter in their diet and find the sweet flavours pleasant; this will also not affect the overall nutrient balance of their diet.
And if you have a serial poop-eater on your hands, ensure that the garden is kept clean of waste at all times and that kitty litter trays are out of reach of anyone who has no business near them….
POOPING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Talking of kitties, they may also use their poop habits as a way of communicating with us, even though we’d prefer a more polite method. A common complaint by people owned by cats, is that their feline poops outside the designated litter tray. Unless the stool is abnormal in consistency, this usually has more to do with kitt’s state of mind, than his physical health. A simple change of toilet arrangements may be all that’s required to settle his nerves.
He may be too big for his tray and consequently ends up “going” over the edge. Or he may be stressed by the location of the tray, particularly in a multi-cat household where he feels he may be ambushed by another cat, while attending to his toilette and will choose a more private location. Always have one litter tray available per cat in the home, plus one extra. Place them in quiet, private places away from the daily hustle and bustle. Cats are rather particular about the type of litter they prefer, so if your feline is studiously avoiding his litter tray, try changing the litter medium and it might well have kitty happily scritching away within the confines of the tray.
If your cat is pooping in strange places like your shoe, your baby’s cot or your new boyfriend’s briefcase, it’s probably a good idea to enlist the help of a qualified pet behaviourist who specialises in cat behaviour to help you decode your moggy’s messages. Twisted Whiskers can give you details for our recommended consultant feline behaviourist.
DETERGENT ISN’T A DETERRENT!
So what if the proverbial has hit the fan and you’re left with a mess to clean up? Don’t be tempted to use detergent and a liberal dose of perfumed spray – it may appear clean to a human but our pets won’t be fooled. Their superior ability to smell will detect any remnants and they will return to the same site again and again. The ONLY sure-fire way to remove every trace of faeces, urine, vomit or other organic material from any fabric or surface is by using a product specifically formulated to break down the molecular structure of the stains and odours. Twisted Whiskers highly recommends and stocks the Simple Solutions range, which includes products that can safely be used on upholstery, laminate floors, carpets and can even be added to washing cycles for clothing, pet bedding and linen. By breaking down the molecules of the offending material, not only are the stains and smells removed at source, but pets won’t be attracted back to the same areas again at a later stage.
Who knew there was this much to say about poop? No wonder it’s a topic we spend much of our time discussing in the veterinary pet-care industry. Twisted Whiskers staff are always ready to talk poop with you, so please don’t be embarrassed – we’ve heard it all before and will do our best to help you get to the bottom of your pet’s bothersome bowel movements.
© Written By Twisted Whiskers