National Scoop the Poop Week (April 24–30) was originally established to highlight the importance of cleaning up after your dog. But there’s more to poop than scooping! Your cat’s or dog’s poop can tell you a lot about their overall health. Sending a sample of your pet’s poop for microbiome analysis can tell you the status of your pet’s gut health, whether the bacteria that make up your pet’s microbiome are in the proper balance, and how to support their gut health and potentially prevent health issues from arising down the road.
AnimalBiome works to improve pets’ lives through microbiome research. Our team of scientists know that a healthy inside leads to a healthy outside, which is why we develop science-backed solutions and tools to help pet parents understand and improve their pets’ gut health.
The scooping part is still important. Dog waste left in public places can spread disease and contaminate water sources. And unlike manure from herbivores, cat and dog poop does not make good compost. So always clean up after your pet. But also be curious: your pet’s poop can be a source of valuable information about their health.
What your pet’s poop is telling you
Next time you bag your dog’s poop on a walk or scoop a deposit out of the cat’s litter box, take a closer look. The color, consistency, and smell of that poop are clues to the state of your pet’s overall health.
What’s normal and what isn’t? What’s “normal” varies depending on your pet’s diet, age, and other factors. But in general, a healthy dog’s poop should be medium brown in color and should not be too hard or too soft. A healthy cat’s poop is generally dark brown, firm (but not hard), and shaped like logs or nuggets.
What color is it? In both cats and dogs, very dark or black stool may indicate digested blood, possibly from ulcers, and red blood in the stool suggests bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. In the case of dog poop, “funnier” colors—such as purple, grey, or green—could indicate other serious health issues, such as diseases of the liver or pancreas, or even ingestion of poison. If you see any of these clues in your pet’s poop, consult your veterinarian right away.
Mucus? In both cats and dogs, mucus in the stool may indicate colitis (inflammation of the large intestine). Let your veterinarian know if you often see mucus in your pet’s poop.
What are those white things? White specks in dog stool may be parasites. Cat poop may contain tapeworms, which look like shiny grains of white rice. Take a sample to your veterinarian for parasite and pathogen screening.
Is hairy poop normal? In cat poop, it’s not unusual to see a certain amount of hair. That’s totally normal. Excessive amounts of hair in the stool, however, could be a sign of overgrooming, which can result from anxiety, itchy skin, or even a neurological disorder.
What about the smell? Seriously stinky poop can be a sign of multiple health issues. For example, that really bad smell might be a clue that your cat’s or dog’s digestive system isn’t adequately processing their food. Certain medications can also lead to extra smelly poop, as can some infections, such as giardiasis, which is caused by a parasite called Giardia. Other factors that can contribute to bad-smelling poop include changes in diet, food intolerances or allergies, and blood in the stool.
Diarrhea! If your pet has diarrhea, you know something’s not right. Diarrhea in puppies may be temporary, but because their immune systems are still developing, it can also be a sign of infection, so check with your veterinarian. In both cats and dogs, diarrhea can have a variety of causes, but the best place to look for clues is the gut microbiome.
What AnimalBiome can help you learn about your pet’s health
AnimalBiome is all about paying attention to poop. With our at-home cat and dog Gut Health Tests, it’s easy for you to find out what’s really going on with your pet’s GI health. Send us a small sample of your cat’s or dog’s poop, and we’ll use DNA sequencing to identify all the types of bacteria living in your pet’s gut.
Then, by comparing your pet’s results to our database of healthy pets, we can tell you whether those bacteria are present in healthy amounts. When bacteria in the gut are out of balance or key beneficial bacteria are missing, your pet may experience distressing symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation, skin problems, or even behavioral issues.
You’ll receive a personalized report that includes actionable insights, with diet and nutrition recommendations based on your pet’s unique microbiome composition. Because microbiome testing can identify problematic groups of bacteria and detect imbalances early, you may actually be able to prevent certain health problems in your pet by making changes in their diet or adding supplements.
And if your pet suffers from chronic diarrhea, vomiting, a GI disorder, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or skin issues, our Gut Restore supplements can help. The supplement capsules provide the benefits of a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) without any surgery or anesthesia. (Watch Emmy’s story: a dog with IBD gets a new lease on life.)
Why is a balanced gut microbiome so important for your pet’s health?
Your pet’s gut microbiome is a unique collection of thousands of different types of bacteria and other microbes that live in the digestive tract. The bacteria in the microbiome are crucial for digesting food and extracting the nutrients your pet needs. But the gut microbiome is involved in numerous aspects of health beyond digestion.
A balanced gut microbiome helps your pet maintain a healthy weight, supports a strong immune system, keeps the skin and coat healthy, and promotes longevity. (Read the story of Marigold the cat.)
Different types of beneficial bacteria play different roles in the gut. So when some gut bacteria are missing or the various populations aren’t present in the right amounts, the resulting loss of function can lead to a variety of health problems. These problems can include chronic diarrhea or constipation, vomiting, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), skin diseases, allergies, pancreatitis, diabetes, and even cancer.
To keep your cat or dog healthy and happy, be sure to support their gut health:
- Feed a high-quality, appropriate diet, and avoid ingredients (in cat food and dog food) that have been shown to promote chronic inflammation.
- If your pet needs antibiotics—which kill off beneficial bacteria along with the disease-causing ones—give their gut microbiome some extra help by encouraging a healthy appetite and supplementing your pet’s diet with the probiotic yeast S. boulardii.
- And if you’re curious about your cat’s or dog’s gut health, try our easy, at-home Gut Health Test.
In honor of April’s “National Scoop the Poop Week,” let’s make a promise to keep our communities cleaner. And consider improving your pet’s gut health with AnimalBiome!
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