Lets Talk About Poo!
I love talking about poo. I’m not sure if that’s a cause or consequence of my profession (maybe I really was born to be a vet) but either way it’s a good thing because I spend a LOT of time discussing it.
This isn’t simply for my enjoyment. you understand. An animal’s faeces can tell us an awful lot about how they are and, if they are poorly, give us clues as to why.
“So Mrs Smith, you say Boo Boo’s doo doos are soft. Are we talking pure water, runny gravy, thick gravy, thick custard, Mr Whippy ice cream (a good one that, I wonder if Mr W knows how often his frozen dessert is compared to excreta) or cow pat?”
“And what colour is it? Light brown, like milk chocolate? Yellow like a Caramac? Creamy like a cremé caramel? Or is it darker? Bournville? Black forest gateaux? (You may have noticed a confectionary theme here, purely coincidental I assure you, nothing AT ALL to do with the volumes and variety of sweets consumed on veterinary premises – ahem).
Occasionally faeces is something other than brown, like grey or white, but this is unusual and indicative of specific diseases.
Or is it black as tar? If the answer to this is yes, it’s not good news. If a pet is bleeding into their guts, that blood gets digested and goes black. If your pet ever produces black poo, get to your vet pronto.
And is there blood? Spots (not too bad) or pools (bad)? Mucous? Is Boo Boo straining or passing it without problems? Can he hold himself or is it more a case of ‘when you gotta go, you gotta go!’? Have you seen anything in it? Worms? Undigested food? The remains of the toy that went missing a couple of days ago? And, finally, how does it smell?
Obviously (obviously!) I don’t ask these questions just for fun, they really can help.
Lighter faeces generally indicates the food is passing quickly through the bowels and the body is trying to get rid of something. The classic ‘yesterday Boo Boo ate a rotting kebab he found under a bush and now he is regretting it’ senario. Often this sort of poo is quite soft, as the faster food goes though the system, the less time the body has to extract the water.
If the constancy is just sloppy, Mr Whippy or custard territory, your pet’s body can probably cope with the fluid loss. However, if it is very watery, especially if they are young, there is a risk they could dehydrate and they may need to go on a drip.
Blood isn’t necessarily too bad, provided it’s not a lot. When a pet has diarrhoea it’s because the guts are inflamed and inflamed tissue bleeds very easily, especially if they are straining and popping little blood vessels. However, if they are producing large volumes of blood, that is very serious and needs prompt, intensive treatment.
I could go on, get to the bottom of the issue, really scrape out the litter tray, fill the poo bag of knowledge (OK, I’ll stop now) but you would be here all day. So I will leave you with some of the technical terms we vets use. Then next time you visit your vet with a squitty kitty or Shi Tzu, you can dazzle them with your proficiency in poo-speak!
Melena – Really disgusting black tarry faeces. (I am sure there must be girls out there with this as a name, I honestly hope they never find out!)
Haematochezia – The presence of fresh blood in or around faeces, with or without diarrhoea.
Tenesmus – Straining to pass faeces. If this is accompanied by blood and only small amounts of poo, your poor pet has Colitis. Which is a bit like cystitis, only the rectum is inflamed rather than the bladder.
Steatorrheoa – pale grey, fatty, smelly faeces. Thankfully this is unusual and often indicates some sort of digestive insufficency.
Dietary Indiscretion – The polite way of describing the ‘kebab under a bush’ type incidents.
Borborigmy – The posh way of describing a rumbling tummy!
If you liked this blog, you might like ‘So You Think You Are A Good Pet Owner?’