By Mary Pat Parkhill
With contributions by Ellen McCracken and Medical Facts by Dr. Peter Betz
It was a beautiful afternoon for a tea with my friends. They brought over their greyhounds to play in my large yard with my two. We sat on the deck with tea and homemade butter cookies watching the dogs romp around. I looked over at Yvonne and asked, “So what do you think? Is an orange color something I should be worried about?” Kay chirped in, “But you are feeding them pumpkin and sweet potato, aren’t you?” After taking a dainty bite of cookie and sip of tea, Yvonne spoke up, “But still, should it be THAT orange?” I shook my head and said, “Maybe we should post that on the Bulletin Board. After all, it is the favorite topic there.”
Excrement and feces, or the less technical terms of poop, stool, turds, BMs, and the ever-popular poopsicle found in winter, is a common topic for dog owners. It can be an emotional issue because of our cultural embarrassment with the subject. But it’s a strong indication of the health of your greyhound. According to Dr. Peter Betz of Flemington, New Jersey, there are three specifics that should be watched: form, color, and content. Some changes mean nothing. Other indicators should have you calling the vet’s office immediately.
Posters on one greyhound bulletin board have developed a descriptive “potato scale” for poop form, ranging from potato soup to mashed potatoes to Tater Tots® to Idaho bakers. The most common cause for concern is “the Big D,” diarrhea: A very popular topic amongst the greyhound community because it is so common in dogs. Runny stool can be caused by many different things in addition to disease or parasites, including excitement, running like crazy when normally quiet, new food, and sitting in the back of a truck riding around on a cold day. If a dog is bright and alert, showing no other symptoms, there is no need to rush off to the vet’s. A simple bland diet of white rice with boiled chicken or chopped beef will suffice: 1 part meat to 2 parts rice. The dog should go four to six hours without food then begin very small portions, smaller than a golf ball, more like a Swedish Meatball, fed in half-hour increments. The food warmed to body temperature. Cold food is added stress on an already upset stomach. Keep it small, simple, and frequent. Remember that after a greyhound has had a bout with diarrhea, its bowels are empty, so do not expect output too soon. Many people swear by pumpkin, but because it contains fiber, there can be a corresponding increase in room-clearing, wallpaper peeling, greyhound gas. Stay away from sugar and preservatives, as they tend to cause more diarrhea and upset as well.
Chew toys, eating grass, or eating stool can perpetuate the “Big D”. Black tarry stool indicates blood in the small intestines. Prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Check the gums for “refill” time. Press your thumb against the gum; it should return to pink in 1.5 seconds. Longer than 2.5 means dehydration. A vet visit is in order with the black tarry stool, prolonged diarrhea, or when diarrhea is accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, or depression, to name a few. It can take three to four days before you can expect formed stool to return.
A few miscellaneous basics on form: If your greyhound shows constipation, or if it is so formed it “bounces”, Metamucil is recommended. When trying out different foods, give your dog at least 90 days on it before you switch again. A myth the more formed the stool is, the better for the anal gland is just that. There is no relation between a clogged anal gland and soft stool. There is a muscle that does the expressing, and if there is a problem, then firming up the stool will not help. If food allergies are suspect, blood tests can be used to check for foods the dog is allergic to. It is probably better to spend the money and go this route than to play around with different foods month after month. It is a most definite improvement over prolonging the odiferous atmospheric conditions or performing the mandatory mutt-mitt ballet on underformed output.
Color does not hold as much diagnostic information as form or content. Color can change from day to day. If you see bright red in the stool and you aren’t missing any red crayons, it’s “frank” blood and indicates large bowel upset. If you see it occasionally, there is no immediate cause for worry. New food, Nylabones, or constipation can cause it. If it persists, then see your vet.
Contents pose perhaps the most fascinating poop topic. Late one night I was outside with my flashlight in hand looking around when my neighbor calls over, “Is everything alright?” I nonchalantly answer, “Yes, I am just looking for Brindle’s poop.” Since I foster many greyhounds coming off the track, I have to be on constant lookout for worms. Cleaning the yard at 10:30 at night does not really fit my schedule, especially if the foot finds the treasure before the flashlight does. However, a regular clean up “scoop du jour” does keep the worm problem down. Two varieties of worms are easily seen with the naked eye: tapeworms, which resemble rice, and roundworms, which look like long spaghetti strands. Dronsit or Cestex will take care of the tapeworms while Panacur will handle the other worms. Microscopic examination will be needed for whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Strongid will work on hookworm and roundworm but not whipworms. Other parasites that will need a microscopic evaluation are Giardia and Coccidea. Most of these organisms do not pose a big threat, but should still be addressed.
Another reason to get up close and personal with contents is to look for undigested food or foreign objects. You will need to contact the vet in these two incidences in case of disease or damage. Dogs will attempt anything in their quest for the edible, ranging from television remotes to pantyhose. A gaggle of greyhounds visited one day for a playdate. One owner said that she suspected her dog ate the stuffing from a damaged toy, but she wasn’t sure. Later that day, after cleaning up the yard, I was able to definitely tell her that yes, her little girl did indeed eat the stuffy as I had just scooped up the evidence.
A clean, dry, waterproof container with a tight fitting lid is recommended to house the object of concern. An old medicine container that may have held antibiotics or some other medicine previously prescribed, cleaned and dried makes a desirable carrier. Tongue depressors or wooden popsicle sticks from the grocery store are excellent tools in transferring the poop from where it landed to inside the container. Gloves, clothespins, protective goggles, and bodysuits are all optional, as is the normal accompanying sounds of gacking, wooing, or disgust.
To get right down to the bottom of things, use good common sense, develop a sense of what is normal for the dog, and do everything in moderation.