The Scoop on Poop!
Let’s face it… we need to keep track of what comes out as well as what goes into our dogs. Examining poop gives us some clues as to the health and well-being of our canine companions. Bi-annual fecals that test for parasites and bacteria can detect problems early and save suffering and money in the long run. This newsletter is dedicated to some common problems regarding poop.
Worms, Worms, Worms, and Other Yucky Things in the Intestines
In all of our years of experience with dogs, we’ve seen them all – hooks, rounds, whips, tapes as well as coccidia and giardia. Many shelter dogs and dogs that live in close proximity with other dogs have some type of intestinal parasite. We’ve learned some tricks to eradicating these pests and ways to keep the new arrivals from infecting our current residents.
We’ve also learned a great deal about medications used to treat intestinal parasites and use both broad spectrum de-wormers, such as Panacur and Strongid, as well as those targeted for specific parasites, such as praziquantel (for tapeworms) or Albion (for coccidia) when needed. Fecals, performed by our vet, are also very much a part of our protocol for the new dogs.
Typically, when a new dog arrives, we begin the transition by feeding the dog a bland diet of boiled hamburger and rice for the first couple of days. We also begin the 4 to 5 day course of Panacur and follow up with a fecal and another de-worming. Monthly doses of heartworm prevention (ivermectin) that contain pyrantel pamoate will generally help to keep any new infections of hookworms or roundworms in check.
We have a special area fenced off for the new dogs and monitor their bowel movements carefully and pick up their stools immediately. If the stools are soft or watery and hard to remove completely, we pour bleach over the spot to kill off any parasites that may have been passed in the stool. The bleach will also kill the top portion of the grass, but it will grow back quickly. We also are extremely careful when we have our dogs in public places and avoid taking our dogs in areas where other dogs have eliminated. We’ve found, unfortunately, that very few people that visit pet stores, vet hospitals and dog and human parks pick up after their dogs and this leaves the potential for the spread of parasites, especially hookworms.
A Case Study: Jetty
When Jetty came to us, he went through the normal transition and deworming cycle and his fecals were negative for parasites. Jetty was adopted and developed a full-blown hookworm infestation about 2 months later. As his owner Cindy, a vet tech, explains,
“Jetty developed diarrhea and had lost weight. A stool sample showed that Jetty was loaded with hookworm eggs. Our veterinarian said this was one of the worst cases of hookworms she had ever seen. The eggs got into his muscles and so every time we thought we had them cleared up another batch of eggs would come out and latch on to his intestinal wall with 6 sharp teeth.
We put Jetty on ProPlan High Performance formula, a high protein diet, because the hookworms were preventing him from getting the nutrients he needed. We gave him a daily vitamin and added rice and ground beet pulp to his food to bulk up his stools. We dewormed Jetty every two weeks with Strongid and did fecal checks every two weeks for three months.
It took us about three months to get Jetty healthy but today he is at a good weight and hookworm free.”
Of all the parasites we’ve dealt with, hookworms are, by far, the most common and difficult to eradicate. It’s their unique life cycle and their ability to go dormant in tissue, that make them our most dreaded pest.
Hookworms are also zoonotic, passed from dog to human. Both humans and dogs can be infected by ingesting eggs. Children that play in areas of hookworm infestation and eat infected dirt can easily ingest the eggs. Dogs that come in contact with infected stools, dirt or water, or eat rodents or rodent droppings can become infected. Humans and dogs can also be infected through the skin – cutaneous larva migrans – most likely in areas of moist soil or on sandy beaches. The juvenile hookworms can penetrate skin and travel through muscle tissue to intestines. Although hookworms are less likely to reach human intestines, they can cause itching and skin irritation. In some cases, hookworms have been found in human lungs.
Hookworms are hard to eradicate, not only because they are easily transmitted, but also because de-wormers only work on adult hookworms found in the intestines. Non-adults hookworms that are in muscle tissue are not affected by the deworming medications and can stay in those muscles for weeks or months. Stress or any number of other factors can re-active them and a dog will begin to show signs of hookworm infestation as the adult hookworms move to the intestines and attach themselves to intestinal walls and begin to reproduce.
Dogs infected with hookworms may become anemic as the worms feed on blood through the intestinal wall. Coats may look dull and gums will appear pale. These dogs may lose their appetites, lose weight and have chronic diarrhea, sometimes black and tarry or with blood. If hookworms are in lungs, dogs may cough. Dogs that lick between their toes may be itching from penetration of hookworms through their skin.
For More Information on Intestinal Parasites:
Causes and Treatment of Diarrhea in Dogs
By: Amy Wolfgang, DVM
Diarrhea is one of the most common ailments in dogs that we see at our clinic on a daily basis and most dog owners have probably dealt with this happening to their pet at some point in time. Most of the time, the cause is not serious and may be self-limiting, but if the diarrhea is lasting more than 24 hours, it is best to take you dog to the vet as he/she can become dehydrated and there may be a more serious underlying cause that could be contagious or life-threatening. Many Greyhounds are particularly prone to diarrhea and food sensitivities.
The most common cause of diarrhea is dietary indiscretion, meaning your dog ingested something that irritated or introduced pathogenic bacteria into his digestive system. This could be anything including a new food or treat, garbage, yard waste, or animal feces or carcasses. Sometimes we can diagnose this based on your history of witnessing your pet eating something like this but other times the dog will do this while you are not looking and we need to run further tests to make sure it is nothing more serious. This type of diarrhea may resolve on its own, but it is best to feed your dog a bland diet of boiled chicken or hamburger and rice for a few days and consult with your vet if things are not improving within 24 hours as other medications such as antibiotics, probiotics, or anti-diarrhea medicine may become necessary.
Another common cause of diarrhea in dogs is intestinal parasites. These are worms or other types of organisms that live in the intestinal tract of animals and shed eggs in the feces. If your dog ingests the feces from an infected animal, he or she will contract the parasite. Parasites can be diagnosed from a microscopic examination of a fecal sample from your dog. Most parasites are very easy to treat but can be very contagious to other pets and people so it is very important to have a stool sample checked at least twice a year even if your dog is not having diarrhea. Most monthly heartworm preventives will also protect the dog from intestinal parasites so this is another incentive to give heartworm prevention all year round since these intestinal parasites do not always die in the winter.
Stress from boarding, holidays, moving to a new environment or separation anxiety can also lead to diarrhea in dogs. Just like dietary indiscretion, this is usually diagnosed from the history and may resolve on its own, but it is good to feed the dog a bland diet and use probiotics during times when you know he or she may be stressed. Your vet may also need to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication if the dog is having severe anxiety on a regular basis.
Some dogs have or may develop an allergy to certain ingredients in their food which will lead to chronic diarrhea. Just as some people are lactose intolerant, dogs can have problems digesting certain foods as well. Some Greyhounds experience many food changes as they move from one situation to another, and they may be more prone to developing food allergies later in life. Unfortunately, there is no reliable test available to diagnose food allergies in animals. If your vet suspects this is the cause of the diarrhea, he or she will most likely put your dog on a food trial with a hypoallergenic diet. There are two types of hypoallergenic diets, those that have limited ingredients that your dog has not been exposed to such as venison, lamb, or duck with potatoes and rice or those that have a hydrolyzed protein source that is so small that the immune system cannot recognize it and cause an allergic reaction. The important point of a food trial is that your dog must be strictly on this particular food for a few months without eating anything else so that your vet can properly assess his or her response to the new food. It may take trials with several different types of foods before an answer is found, so do not become discouraged if the initial food trial fails to work.
A Case Study: Uly
Uly was a recent retiree. Like many newly retired racing greyhounds, he had soft stools when he first arrived. The stress from the move often causes less than desirable stools.
Uly started his transition onto the boiled hamburger and rice and Panacur and was doing well. As soon as we started him on the ProPlan Chicken and Rice, we noticed that he had soft, sometimes watery stools. His fecals were negative, so we suspected a food allergy. We slowly switched him to a total of 9 different foods over a period of many weeks, but found that he could not tolerate anything but the boiled hamburger and rice. Continued fecals were still negative, so it seemed that we were dealing with some major food allergies. Finally, we hit on a formula that he could tolerate – a limited ingredient food made from only 5 ingredients, including lamb, rice and tomatoes. He is doing remarkably well now and is settling in his new home.
Uly is allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, bison, potatoes, and oatmeal!
There may be a more serious metabolic cause of your dog’s diarrhea which needs to be considered if there are no parasites found and the dog is not responding to a food trial or anti-diarrhea medications. If a dog is having a problem with one of his internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, or pancreas, he may not be able to properly digest his food and will therefore have chronic diarrhea. This is usually accompanied by weight loss, vomiting and lethargy as well and can be diagnosed with blood tests that can be performed at your vet clinic. Large breed dogs such as Greyhounds are predisposed to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) in which the pancreas fails to produce digestive enzymes. This can be diagnosed with a simple blood test and easily treated with a daily supplement of digestive enzymes.
Finally, certain types of auto-immune diseases and cancer can also attack the intestinal tract and cause diarrhea in dogs. Your vet may recommend that your dog have a biopsy taken from parts of his GI tract to look for evidence of these diseases. There are treatments available including steroids and chemotherapy if your dog is diagnosed with one of these conditions.
In conclusion, while diarrhea is very common and usually not serious, it is always best to have your dog examined by a vet if he is showing any signs of illness. If the diarrhea is lasting longer than 24 hours or recurring frequently your pet will most likely need medicine and your vet may recommend additional testing. Routine fecal exams and bloodwork can also lead to early detection and treatment of some diseases that cause diarrhea and hopefully prevent your pet from having unnecessary suffering. Also remember to use caution when handling diarrhea and keep other dogs away from it as some diseases can be contagious to both pets and people!
New Purina Program Eases Adoption Woes
Good Move™ Program targets stress diarrhea in shelter pets
NE Ohio Greyhound Rescue, Inc. is now part of a new program designed to help ease the transition from the track and into a new home, thanks to a new program in partnership with Purina Veterinary Diets®. The FortiFlora® Good Move™ Program aims to reach more than 600 Animal Welfare Organizations (AWOs) in locations across the United States this year.1 It supports shelter pets during stressful transition periods by providing the shelter with free Purina Veterinary Diets® FortiFlora® Canine and Feline Nutritional Supplements.
Veterinarians decide if a pet that has been brought into one of the designated Good Move Program shelters should be given a 30-day supply. Sprinkled on a dog’s or cat’s food, FortiFlora Canine or FortiFlora Feline Nutritional Supplement Formula promotes normal intestinal and a strong immune system. Based on individual needs, some pets moving to adoptive homes within 30 days may take the remaining supply with them. Coupons are also provided for adopted pets to make it easier for owners to continue FortiFlora as part of their pet’s transition to a forever home.
“Along with easing their transition, we hope the program also encourages new owners to consult with their veterinarian regarding GI problems and questions,” states Grace Long, DVM, MS, MBA, director of technical marketing for Purina Veterinary Diets. “Recent research tells us that the majority of owners whose pets have GI issues do not seek veterinary care, because they either assume nothing can be done or because they believe they need to wait out the problem.” Veterinary services and products are a valuable resource to all pet owners.
According to a Purina survey of 270 shelter respondents, up to 30 percent of pets experience GI distresses during their time at shelters, while a number of adoptions fail because of GI problems.2
“The Good Move Program helps bolster GI health so pets look and feel their best and are more likely to be adopted. And it supports the mission of animal welfare organizations to facilitate successful placements by managing the stress of pets going to new homes where vomiting or diarrhea can put them at risk for being returned,” said Brenda Bax, brand director, Purina Pet Acquisition.
1 Based on the responses and current recruiting efforts by the Animal Welfare Organization and Purina
2 2011 FortiFlora AWO Survey
Is Your Dog a Poo Connoisseur?
By Sherrie Yuschak, RVT, Specialized in Behavior
Better Behavior Solution, LLC, Owner-Operator
Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians
President Elect, 2011-2012
Much to the dismay of humans, stool eating is a normal behavior in which many dogs engage. The reason for their poo snacking lies in the dog’s scavenger genes whereby their wild ancestors derived nutrition by keeping poo on the menu.
Some dogs also develop a stool eating habit if they:
- Have been punished for defecating (they try to hide the evidence and prevent the punishment)
- Have been confined and must defecate where they rest (they eat the stool to stay clean)
- Are not getting enough nutrition (stool can provide calories)
- Have an illness which causes the stool to be especially fragrant or inviting
All dogs like poo of some flavor: some dogs enjoy frozen “poopsicles” and limit their snacking to wintertime, some dogs cannot resist fresh herbivore manure and partake in delight whenever they visit a barn yard, some dogs crave “kitty crunchies”, working hard to gain access to samples from the litter box, and some particularly inventive dogs prefer their poo straight from the dispenser! Yuk!
Understanding why dogs eat poo is part of the battle as it teaches us to recognize that despite the designer sweaters, gourmet kibble, and doggie day spas our fellow four legged companies are indeed canines and not humans. They do not automatically ascribe to our societal rules of conduct or understand our human meal time customs. Dogs are different from us and I for one am happy for their differences; especially that they cannot talk!
Now we know that dogs that eat poo are not defective or bad dogs we can work to change their unappealing gustatory urges. Some people have found success with folk remedies such as adding meat tenderize, pumpkin, pineapple, or various other taste deterrent to the dog’s food which thereby is supposed to make the resultant stool taste bad to the dog. Other people have tried placing hot peppers in the pile of feces and when the dog happens upon it he will get an unwelcome taste surprise. Booby traps, such as these that foul the taste of stools, are a great way for the object to “punish” a dog for an undesirable behavior because it avoids the side effects that often comes from a person applying the punishment. However, they rarely work if they are the sole method of behavior modification.
In reality, changing behavior usually needs four parts working together to be effective: Rule out a medical cause, prevent and manage the dog from gaining his own reinforcement from the undesirable behavior, provide an acceptable alternative if the drive for the undesirable behavior is innate (ex: chewing in puppies)and train a behavior which is incompatible with the undesirable behavior.
- Rule out a medical cause: such as malabsorption by having your dog and his stool examined by a veterinarian
- Prevent and manage your dog from accessing his stool by: always walking him on a leash (and a head collar if necessary) to potty, and keeping the yard free of feces, and
- Provide an alternative: give adequate nutrition, ensure opportunity (and supervision) for bowel movements after meals (biologically animals are prompted to eliminate within 5-30 minutes after eating).
- Train a new behavior:
- Recall–dog runs quickly to the house on your cue immediately after defecating because he gets a piece of steak
Some rules for recall:
- Never call your dog and then do something to them they don’t like (a bath, medication, etc.). This causes the dog to mistrust you and poisons the word “come”. If your dog already has as an aversion to “come” start over with a new cue word
- Do not use the word “come” as a threat as this will also poison the cue. Rather teach your dog that he really wants to respond to the cue “come” because it ALWAYS earns him a reward( food, play, etc., whatever the dog finds it rewarding)
- Practice frequently and in many environments
Video tutorial: http://drsophiayin.com/resources/video_full/come_when_called
- Leave It—dog turns way from stool on your cue to receive roasted chicken
- You can use the word “yes!” or a clicker as the marker for the correct behavior
- Practice teaching your dog the concept first by holding a low value item (kibble) in your closed hand, then in your open hand and lastly on the floor.
- Once your dog is successful with the concept you can then add the cue word “Leave It”
- After your dog is successful with leaving kibble on the floor, practice outside in the grass and ask you dog to leave the kibble. Then you can practice asking him to leave other objects including stool..
- Be sure your dog is on a leash so he cannot get to the stool and reward himself
Written tutorial: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/1785
Video tutorial: http://www.dogspelledforward.com/my-dog-keeps-taking-stuff/
- Flag Leave It—dog turns away from the flag and then eventually from the stool in order to receive smoked salmon (flag becomes the cue to Leave It)
Video tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNLquf-RcAw (PS: the family drama ends and training begins at the 2 minute mark)
If you feel you need help mastering the above training techniques please seek the help of a qualified, positive reinforcement based dog trainer at: http://www.apdt.com/petowners/ts/default.aspx.
Also, your dog may have other behavior problems, stress or anxiety that may be making his stool eating worse and resistant to modification. A veterinary behaviorist can help you make that determination and create an effective plan to help you and your dog. You can locate one here: http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/caab-directory
Editor’s Note: Greyhounds can be notorious for eating stool, and there are plastic stool guards available that fit inside their muzzle (See photo on right). These guards keep the dog from being able to eat poop or other undesirable things in the yard. Used alone, without training, this is probably the least desirable option for management since the dog can learn to squish poop into the muzzle thereby continuing to get reinforced. And it makes a poopy mess of the muzzle!
Top Left: Stool Guard that fit into a regular plastic basket muzzle. Right: Helmar muzzle, a lightweight, one piece muzzle that incorporates a stool guard in the design.