Veterinary advice: Why healthy pets have healthy poo

veterinary advice - fox valley animal hospital sydney

Exercise plays a big role in helping keep your pets regular.
Photo by Jamie King

Want some unusual veterinary advice? Ok then.

You can tell a lot about an animal by their poo. That doesn’t mean you’ll see a lot of Sydney vets running around parks collecting samples. Or that we’ll be asking you to bring in your pet’s leavings the next time you have a consultation at Fox Valley Animal Hospital.

But it does mean that you can see if your family pet is in need of medical attention if you pay attention to changes in their toilet habits.

Yes, as weird as it sounds, you can protect your pet’s health better if you pay attention to the way they poo.

Here’s a rundown about why paying chose attention to your pet’s leavings is sound veterinary advice

Put the right things and good stuff comes out

Humans, canine, feline, bovine, equine, reptile and all animals defecate- we all prefer to have a healthy digestive system. And one of the best indicators of this is how we poo.Veterinary advice centres around diet for this very reason.

The gut is full of flora that is balanced by putting the right food and liquids in to help stay healthy and strong. But if your family pet or average farm animal gets the wrong kind of food, not enough liquid or not enough exercise to stimulate the right reactions in the gut and intestine, things become problematic.

Contrary to urban myths about pets having garbage guts, your pet’s stomach is a delicate thing. For example, despite dog’s having a reputation as garbage guts, if they get the wrong fuel in their systems it upsets a delicate balance of gut flora and intestinal chemistry.

Badly made food, too many treats, too much food, not enough water, not enough exercise to get the internal fluids working, food meant for human consumption- all these things tip the balance out of your family pet’s digestive favour. It’s always better to get veterinary advice on diet rather than accept a pet’s judgement.

To ensure your pet is eating the right thing, buy the right food and follow vet approved diets. And make sure they have access to fresh water, the right kind of exercise and proper amounts of rest.

Having a place to toilet is essential

Another piece of often overlooked veterinary advice is pay attention to where you pet does and does not want to toilet. Never under estimate the value of a clean yard for your dog to poo, fresh kitty litter for your cat, or a hot rock for your reptile to aid with the pet poo process.

Any Sydney vet worth their salt will tell you that depriving your pet of the ability to poo in a safe, clean and inviting environment can encourage your pet to hold on instead of go to the toilet. And while that holding on may be beneficial for us regarding clean up, a lack of access to a bathroom can have consequences. Like us, our pets want a clean, safe and pleasant place to go to the bathroom.

First of all, holding faeces and urine in for extended periods on a regular basis can do internal damage.

Second of all, not cleaning up after a pet or allowing them to over-use a space for toileting invites bacteria, infections, insect problems and is extremely bad for their lungs- and yours.

So always make sure your pet has access to the bathroom- and that it’s the kind of bathroom they’ll use!

A failure to poo or pee is serious

When it’s not happening, things can be going wrong!

Constipation and not being able to urinate are all fairly serious problems. Always seek veterinary advice if you see your pet struggling or things seem not quite right in the toileting department.

For example, a cat that can’t pee is a cat that may have a urethral obstruction, (a “blocked cat”). If this is your cat’s current problem, please stop reading this article and get your cat to Fox Valley Animal Hospital right now. A cat that has an obstruction like this can die if veterinary help is not sought. It can be caused by stress, infection of a foreign body stuck in one of the pipes. This can cause the bladder to expand and if no relief is given, the bladder can actually explode.

If your dog or cat is continuously straining but not able to do a poo (you know the position- the bent over, post poo circle or litter box inspection “here comes the business!” pose) but is not passing a poo, you have a constipated pet on your hands. And if they remain that way for extended period, they can develop MEGACOLON and even die if no attention is sought.

Many things can happen with a constipated pet that puts their life in danger. It may be that whatever they are trying to pass has perforated (or opened) the bowel. It may be that a foreign object such as a toy or rock is lodged in their digestive system, blocking the digestive process. Tumours could be present or your pet may have suffered a trauma to the pelvic area that has lead to internal damage. Even every day things like swallowing too much hair during the cleaning process or a lack of exercise can turn your pet’s usually easily flowing poo into a serious constipation problem.

If your pet is constipated, we recommend calling us straight away, after all a “stitch in time saves nine”. We would rather treat a mild case than see a patient who has been backed up for a significant period.

As is always the case, if in doubt, always give the friendly nurses at Fox Valley Animal Hospital a call for some veterinary advice.

Things are looser than they should be

Nobody likes diarrhoea. We don’t like cleaning it up and your family pet sure doesn’t like having it! Diarrhoea can show everything from a mild tummy upset through to big issues. Again, you should seek veterinary advice as diarrhoea could be a sign of an issue. It can also dehydrate your pet quite quickly. Especially if they are not eating and drinking.

As we mentioned before, the gut flora is surprisingly delicate. And much of what triggers bad responses in our own stomachs is what can trigger a pet to have diarrhoea. The problem is the average family pet can’t really determine if it’s a one off event that’ll pass or a telltale sign of a more serious issue.

Diarrhoea can be triggered by:

  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • A change in diet
  • An allergic reaction
  • From eating something foreign like a toy or rock
  • Eating off food- human, animal or otherwise
  • Viruses and infections
  • Poisoning and toxicity
  • Parasites and worms
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Cancers and tumours
  • Bowel disease and bowel inflammation
  • Stress – such as moving house or losing a pet partner

If your pet is suffering diarrhoea for longer than 2-3 days, or if there is blood in it, or if there is also vomiting, please bring your family pet in straight away.

Other warning signs where veterinary advice should be sought

If your family pet is showing blood, mucus and/or foreign objects (like chewed up toys) in what they leave behind at toilet time, you need to get to a vet immediately.

There’s no quick fix or gentle way to phrase this so here it is:

If it’s not a normal, healthy looking poo and it’s dark, bloody, slimy or featuring cameo appearances from stuff that should not go into a stomach, your pet is in serious risk without proper treatment from a vet.

No amount of “wait and see” or feeding them more water or home remedies will save their life. Blood and mucus are a sign of life threatening problems that will be killing them quickly or slowly- but the end result will be death if you don’t act.

Leave a foreign object in, and the bowel could become cut or burst open or start rotting with fermented food that’s backed up behind it. And you won’t know what is left inside and able to pass without an X-ray.

Don’t risk it. Get your pet to a vet immediately and get your veterinary advice first hand.

The final word on toilet time and animal health

Scientists are now putting a lot of stock in bowel and gut health because it influences mental as well as the physical health. This applies to human and animals. So we owe it to ourselves and to our pets to take the messages sent by our digestive system seriously. You don’t have to be a Sydney vet to understand that changes in one of the most basic yet necessary functions of health and survival means there could be a serious issue at hand.

So if your pet is having a hard time getting the poo factor right, remember- everything does come down to poo. And the sooner you get them to Fox Valley Animal Hospital to get toilet time on track again, the better your pet’s health outcome will be.

About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.