Five Things Veterinarians Love About Poop Samples

Quinn playing with Tupi

Five Things Veterinarians Love About Poop Samples

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Wouldn’t it be grand if our pets didn’t have to poop? There would be no litter boxes to clean, no carrying plastic bags laden with feces when walking the dog, and no inadvertently stepping in a fresh pile of poo when walking across the lawn. Alas, poop production is simply a normal part of life. What goes in must come out.

So, how do veterinarians put a positive spin on pet poop? No problem! Those of us in the profession deal with fecal matter day in and day out- either testing it or cleaning it up. If we didn’t figure out ways to get along well with pet poop, we might just go crazy! Here are five examples of how veterinarians manage to have some fun with their patients’ poop:

1. Egg hunts

This is an Easter egg hunt done veterinary medicine style. Screening a pet for intestinal worms involves mixing a poop sample with a special liquid, spinning it in a centrifuge, and then looking at the concoction under the microscope. One peers through the lens, adjusts the focus, scans around, and then, bingo! One might just find some parasite eggs! Finding eggs is always exciting, and when there’s more than one type of egg present, it’s like winning the fecal lottery!

2. Getting the stool sample without it getting you

Clients come up with some pretty creative containers in which to deliver their pets’ poop samples. Imagine a plastic grocery bag, or one of those long plastic bags that your newspaper is packaged in on a rainy day. Now imagine a soft, mushy stool sample or some “Kitty Roca” at the very bottom of one of those bags. How are you gonna get to the poop without fecalizing your forearm? Trust me when I tell you that it’s a challenge. I would tell you how, but it’s a trade secret.

3. Poop interrogations

When a client tells me that their pet has diarrhea, my exam room morphs into an interrogation room and I ask questions as if I’m a police detective investigating a crime.

-Any blood?

-Any mucous?

-Any straining?

-Any urgency?

-How large are they?

-How many bowel movements per day?

The answers to these questions help pinpoint if the cause of the diarrhea is within the small intestine, the large intestine, or both. This is critical information in my world, and when my client knows the answers to all of my questions, it makes my day!

4. Retrieval of valuable objects

Imagine this scenario. “Bad dog” ate his human’s diamond engagement ring. X-rays tell me that the ring has made it all the way down to “bad dog’s” colon (the very end of the intestinal tract). We keep “bad dog” in the hospital and watch him like a hawk. The minute he produces a poop sample we attack it with a tongue depressor hoping to strike gold (and diamonds). After 12 hours in the hospital, the third turd is the charm. The ring is found, thoroughly washed, and delivered back to his human. “Bad dog” goes home with hopes that he will become a “good dog” and that his human will find a more secure system to safeguard her jewelry.

5. Responding to poopy emails

When I receive an email from a client containing a photo attachment of their pet’s poop, I enjoy the mental exercise of crafting a response. I allow myself a few moments of unadulterated enjoyment, fantasizing about what I would say if I were lacking inhibitory neurons. I then move on to crafting an email response that is both tactful and appreciative of my client’s good intentions. I gently explain that a photo can’t possibly take the place of viewing the poop (and the animal) up close and personal. How do I respond to client emails with logs (pun intended) of poop data such as turd weight and diameter? I advise these folks to do whatever makes them happy, but no need to include me in the process.

How often does your veterinarian examine your pet’s stool sample?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.



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6 Comments on “Five Things Veterinarians Love About Poop Samples

  1. After the many “SpeakingForSpots” that are very informative yet distressing, this was both a “breath of fresh air” and an enjoyable little “nugget.”

    Thank you!

  2. LMAO !! Now that – while providing interesting/reflective info – was quite humorous. An nice read, to begin one’s week ! Thanks for the giggles.

  3. And then there’s the vet at the ER we went to last week after our sweet 10-pound-pup Pigeon managed to get the carefully-hidden dark chocolate. In order to see how far the chocolate had gone through his system, she used her (glove-covered) finger to extract a stool sample. There was DEFINITELY a bit of enjoyment on her part as she went through the sample quite diligently for the full benefit of my shocked 10-year-old son. (Pup’s good now and no more dark chocolate in the house!)

  4. Item #5 made both my husband and I laugh until the tears were running down our faces! OH, my!

  5. As a vet tech for over 25 years, I can really relate to everything you wrote about. Sick as it is, I loved reading fecal samples. So exciting to find coccidia in a very sick kitten or puppy and being able to treat it and make the pet well. Love it!

  6. A stool sample is requested at annual exam, and if there is a significant change I bring sample in with the dog. With multiple dogs it is a detective job to captulre the correct sample.