Diarrhea Disclosures

A conversation earlier this week with one of my clients prompted this blog.  Jeanette, my client, and I debated whether or not her elderly and adorable shepherd mix named Jack had diarrhea.  I felt that Jack’s once daily, unformed bowel movement qualified as diarrhea (sorry if I am grossing you out here).  Jeanette’s thinking was that the term diarrhea should be reserved only for situations with increased frequency and urgency.  This got me to thinking about how many times I might be receiving inaccurate feedback to my standard question, “Have you observed any diarrhea?” I remember going round and round with one client who repeatedly answered “No” to this question.  When we discovered that, yes, her cat truly did have chronic diarrhea, she defended her responses by saying that it was her husband who always cleaned the litterbox (in truth, she had never “observed” any diarrhea!).

So, folks, here’s the scoop (no pun intended).  When a veterinarian asks if your dog or cat has been having diarrhea, please disclose any and all information about how his or her bowel movements appear abnormal.  Believe it or not, your description of stool appearance, number of bowel movements per day, urgency, and the presence or absence of blood, mucous, straining, and gassiness can provide your veterinarian with a wealth of useful information including whether the diarrhea is originating from the small (upper) or large (lower) intestine.

Boy oh boy is your veterinarian gonna get an earful next time he or she asks about your pet’s bowel movements! Please note, I purposefully refrained from including a photo with this blog.

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

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3 Responses to “Diarrhea Disclosures”

  1. Robin Says:

    Not grossing me out — it’s why I read you. Thanks for the information!

  2. Michelle Douglas Says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for writing this one. My dog, Maggie dies in 2003 from lymphosarcoma. Her only symptom up until four days before she died was diarrhea. I didn’t recognize this as a problem, because she stayed on her normal “BM” schedule, it was just runny when she went. I actually blamed this on an antibiotic she had been on for an ear infection when it started, a month before her passing. Of course, the diarrhea continued after she finished the antibiotic, and this was my only clue…and I missed it! Four days before she died (on a Friday, of course) she stopped eating. We waited until Monday and brought her to the vet. She was dehydrated and jaundice and they kept her overnight on an IV and to investigate…she died some time during the early morning on Tuesday…Later on Tuesday, her bloodwork revealed clues, but out diagnosis came in tissue samples from necropsy…

    If your pet’s stool is abnormal, in any way, tell your vet!

  3. Mary-Jo Says:

    What a great article! Poop is quite a hot topic in our home, with three of our four canines experiencing stomach issues, inclding diarrhea. We have a scale — watery, to toothpaste consistency, to rock hard. Just today I had to hose off my Aussie’s rear end because he was just covered with poop on his feathering. Sorry, that is gross, I know!
    Anyway, this is important info for your vet to know.

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