8 Zany Stories About Collecting Stool Samples

Why would anyone hand their veterinarian a fecal sample in a container labeled “SOUP” in permanent marker — and then ask for the container back later?

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It always amazes me how different people react when it comes to their pets’ bathroom habits.

“A man walks into a bar and says to the bartender…”

Oh, wait. I bet you’ve heard that one. Let’s try the veterinary version: “A man walks into a veterinary hospital and hands a woman a bag of poop.”

Lets’s face it: Poop, people dealing with poop, folks describing poop, caretakers’ obsession with their pet’s poop, is all pretty funny stuff. Some days, my life is just a crap shoot — at least when it comes to stool samples.

Now, stool samples are very important. It’s how we routinely find out whether or not your pet has intestinal parasites. More esoteric testing on feces can also be done as part of gastrointestinal (GI) workups. So understand that this article is not meant to de-emphasize the importance of the stool sample — just to add a little levity to an otherwise, well, crappy situation.

In the beginning, when God created man and animals, God did not tell the man how to get the poop off the ground, into a receptacle and into the vet’s office. Any veterinarian can tell you there’s more than 1 way to scoop the poop.

Never a Dull Day

At my clinic, we ask for stool samples all the time.

“What do I put it in?” clients often ask. Or, “I don’t know where he does it.” How can you never see your dog poop?

It always amazes me how different pet families react when it comes to their pets’ bathroom habits. Some people just let the wild beasties out to find their own outhouse. Others seem to be so in tune with their pet’s poo that they send me emails and videos. A video, they figure, can really capture the different phases of a dog’s bowel movement. Fecal Attraction — watch for it at Sundance next year.

There are clean little plastic containers you can obtain from your vet to collect your cat’s or dog’s fecal sample, but most people are catching it on the run.

Here are 8 memorable stool sample stories I can recall:

1. A Gift Just for the Vet

Do you always wrap your dog feces in a plastic bag, then a paper bag, and a ribbon? Some folks do. They seem to be treating it more like a baby shower present than a stool spec.

2. No Soup for You!

Plastic containers seem like a good idea. But when the container has “chicken soup” written on it with a Sharpie and the person asks for the container back, I don’t think my next soup and sandwich is going to be at that house.

3. Some Caviar With That Stool?

A client once brought a stool sample in an empty caviar jar. My technician tried to inject some humor into the situation: “That caviar you just brought me tasted kind of funny.” The client was not amused. “Oh, that Emily,” I said. “Always fishing for a laugh. What a great recycling idea for that caviar jar!”

4. Unmarked Container

A gentleman handed me a mason jar when he brought his dog in for his annual appointment and I said, “Oh, is that Jake’s stool sample?” Dejected, he said, “No, I told you I was bringing you some of my homemade mole sauce.”

5. Where’s My Read-a-Poop Scanner?

Once, we were a little late on lawn duty, so a client brought me 3 poop samples she found out in my field and asked me if I could tell her which was her dog’s. Just when you need that Read-a-Poop Scanner, I can never find it.

6. Poop Hunt

Clients often walk their dog in my field and sometimes ask us to go out and retrieve the poop. So this is a poop hunt now. “Is the poop in the back 40 or the front 40, ma’am? Color, texture, identifying birth marks on the poop? To the right of the barn? Near the day lilies or more toward the lilacs? Any help might help us narrow down the search. The first 24 hours is most important for abducted poop recovery.”

7. What a Load of Crap!

Cat poops are fun too. A gentleman came in waving a 33-gallon black trash bag at my receptionist. “What’s in the bag, sir?” she asked, worried that this might be a sad state of affairs. “It’s a stool sample from my cat,” Mr. Clean said. He had emptied his entire litter box into the trash bag and brought us the whole kit and kadoodoo. Why just have 1 stool sample when you can have an entire week to choose from?

8. Who Needs a Container?

Last week, the caretaker of a very old dog with very hard stool simply dispensed with any receptacle whatsoever. She walked into the hospital and extended her bare hand to my technician with a poop sample in it. We were all aghast but kept our composure. Always thinking on her feet, my tech said, “Oh let me take that from you…in this handy-dandy paper towel. Here’s the bathroom to wash up!”

My favorite stool sample story, though? That would be when a good client walked in with self-satisfied grin on his face. His wife said to my receptionist, “He’s been waiting for this moment for a long time.”

My employee, the same caviar-jar-joking Emily, smiled an equally zany grin in response.

The man reached into his pocket and placed a little piece of doll house furniture in front of her. His grin turned into a fearless smile when he looked at the little miniature 3-legged stool on the counter.

“This is my stool sample, Emily.”

“Thank you,” Em said. “That is quite a little stool you’ve got there.”

This video from Willard Veterinary Clinic in Quincy, Massachusetts, shows 2 ways to collect a fecal sample from a cat:

What Size Stool Sample for a Dog?

Speaking of little stools, our directions to bring in a “small amount of stool” means very different things to different people.

I suppose if you have a St. Bernard, and he eliminates 6 pounds of poop, you might think a “small” amount is 1 pound. You would be mistaken. Stool samples require approximately 5 grams or, pardon the culinary reference, 1 teaspoon of number 2. That’s ALL we really need.

When the small amount of stool is finally packed, wrapped and ready for send-off, lots of clients forget to bring it. They left it on the kitchen counter next to the fruit bowl. This is a handy way to attract more fruit flies.

Or people often leave their poop in the refrigerator, next to the kids’ after-school snack. Or 30 minutes into their cat appointment on a 90-degree day, they say, “Oh, let me get that stool sample. I left it in the glove compartment.” That will give your ocean breeze car freshener a run for its money.

A Poop by Any Other Name…

What to call poop? Curse words aside, you can go with:

  • Feces
  • Fecal sample
  • Excrement
  • Bowel movement
  • Crap
  • Doo-doo
  • Number 2
  • Defecation
  • And our favorite, “what happens down there”

“Down there” is always a worrisome phrase for me. Vaginal area? Rectal area? Scrotum? Australia? If people are embarrassed by the urogenital/rectal complex, getting to the heart of the “down there” can be challenging.

After we’ve established that today’s “down there” is a problem with stool, now we’re in for the descriptions of what has come out of “down there.”

Suffice to say, it is difficult for many people to stay aware from the major food groups when describing what their pet’s poop looks like. Many of my favorite desserts have been ruined on a particular day by a client’s fascination with describing Fanny’s poop.

May the rest of your summer be free of any types of “down there” problems, and may you solidly enjoy all your chocolate desserts, frozen and otherwise.

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This pet health content was written by a veterinarian.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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