Warning: Bodily Functions are Disgusting
So, the client brings in a ziploc bag with a few leaves just as bright green as these. "I think that my dog has diarrhea from eating these plants." "Have you seen him eating some like these?" "Not like these, these plants right here. See how wet they are? They must have gone right through him." "Trust me, lady, I’m a professional. If these plants had gone all the way through your dog’s digestive tract, they wouldn’t be this bright green." Of course, the dog had eaten the weeds and vomited them up. I’m not kidding about that different color thing. I’m not kidding about being a professional, either.
I advise you not to click on this picture to blow it up. The title "Fecal Scoring System" could also be "Know your s__t". I never use this chart with clients, though maybe I should. Typically, when the client says the pet has diarrhea, I ask if the consistency is watery, or like paint, or applesauce. Sometimes this works… sometimes they swear off applesauce. In livestock country, you can ask if it’s "cow-pie" consistency, but few of our clients have been up close to a cow, much less a cow-pie.
We always ask clients to bring a stool specimen as part of the pet’s examination. People think I have some kind of poop fetish, because I always ask if they’ve brought it. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, a microscopic exam of the stool is best way to check for most intestinal parasites. Color and consistency can also give you clues about some other types of digestive ailments.
People are reluctant to even talk about the excrement, much less pick it up. If they do bring a specimen, it’s "his job", "a present for you", "his homework" [my favorite]. Many clients (in fact, most clients) would rather not bring in the specimen. Sure, I could fish some out, but you get a pretty tiny sample that way, and you can miss things just because your sample is so small. With just a smear, you have the equivalent of pulling a handful off a truck-load — maybe that truck is full of soybeans… maybe it’s full of motorcycles. You don’t know. Really, we need about a tablespoonful, and we need it the same day it’s passed — within 12 hours; it doesn’t have to be steaming (thank goodness).
It’s always interesting to note the different responses to my request for the specimen. Virtually nobody brings in a tablespoon-full. You might get a smear on a Kleenex or a coffee-can full. There are people who just forget (and I understand that: it’s the kind of thing you’d be happy to forget). "The secretary didn’t tell me to bring one." [Yes, she did.] Then there are other people who just tell you flat out that they are not going to pick up poop and bring it in. Fair enough, though it may handicap me a little. And then there are the folks who are sure not going to bring you a sample, but they feel bad about it, because they love their pet and they know they really should. These are the folks who slap their forehead and say, "Oh, I had one, but I left it sitting on the kitchen table." In the butter dish, no doubt.
My favorite is the client who lets me fish a specimen out of the dog’s exhaust pipe and go through the whole exam. As we finish, I say, "Now, if you can bring me a bigger specimen, we can do a more accurate check for intestinal parasites." "Oh… I’ve got one." He’s had it in his pocket the whole time. What if I hadn’t asked for it? How long would he have saved it? Why? We know how I lost my capacity to feel dirty, but what happened to this guy?