Mucus in Dog Poop
As pet parents, we often find ourselves in the less glamorous role of scrutinising our furry friend's bathroom habits. While it might not be the most pleasant task, observing your dog's stool can be a window into their overall health.
One such indicator that often causes concern is the presence of mucus in dog poop. Although it might seem alarming at first, mucus plays a crucial role in your dog's digestive system. However, changes in its appearance or amount can be a sign that something's amiss.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the slippery subject of mucus in dog poop - decoding what's normal, what's not, and when it's time to ring the vet. From dietary misadventures to underlying health conditions, we'll explore the various causes, provide practical solutions, and arm you with the knowledge to ensure your pup's wellbeing.
In this article, we'll explore:
• Understanding Mucus in Dog Poo
• Common Causes of Increased Mucus in Dog Poo
• Diagnosing the Cause of Mucus in Dog Poop
• Treatment Options
• When to Seek Veterinary Help
• Preventing Mucus in Poo
Understanding Mucus in Dog Poo
Your dog's digestive system is lined with a layer called the mucosa. This layer contains goblet cells which manufacture and secrete mucus - a slimy substance that is predominantly water but also contains proteins which give it its gel-like consistency.
Mucus has many roles to play in the digestive system which include:
- Protecting the body from pathogens
- Stopping the enzymes that are secreted into the digestive system from breaking it down
- Forming a home for the good bacteria in the colon
Small amounts of mucus in dogs' stools are quite normal and these are usually not noticeable. Faeces covered with a skin or jelly like coating of mucus are not normal, nor are large "blobs" of mucus in or around the faeces.
Common Causes of Increased Mucus in Dog Poo
Anything that causes inflammation in the intestines will trigger an increase in mucus production in the gut to bolster its protective role.
Breaking into the treat container or finding someone's discarded cheese and pickle sandwich while out on a walk generally lead to some degree of inflammation in the digestive system.
Food allergies and intolerances
The symptoms of these afflictions are caused by the immune system reacting to substances (usually proteins) in foods and causing inflammation.
Whipworm is the intestinal worm most likely to cause mucus in adult dogs' faeces. They live in dogs' caecum and large intestines and feed by burrowing their heads into the intestinal mucosa. This causes severe irritation leading to diarrhoea with mucus and/or blood. Whipworm eggs are very resistant to heat and drying and can remain alive in soil for up to five years. Diagnosis of whipworm infection is made by examining specially prepared stool samples under the microscope to look for whipworm eggs. It can take up to 3 months after whipworm first infect a dog for them to lay eggs, so faecal testing soon after infection is often negative.
Coccidia and giardia are some of the protozoan (single celled) organisms that can cause intestinal disease in dogs. Coccidiosis is a common cause of diarrhoea with mucus and/or blood in puppies. Dogs become infected by ingesting oocysts which can survive for many months in the environment and are resistant to most commonly used disinfectants. Examination of faeces under the microscope will reveal oocysts in infected dogs.
Feeding raw food or treats that have been incorrectly stored or unhygienically handled can lead to dogs being infected with potentially harmful bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E.coli and Listeria. Dogs can carry these types of bacteria in their intestines and not show any signs of disease and thus serve as a source of infection for other animals and humans. Campylobacter spp. infections can cause watery diarrhoea with large amounts of mucus which may continue for months. Testing blood and faeces will determine which species of bacteria are causing the infection and allow an appropriate antibiotic to be chosen for treatment.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD is thought to be caused by an interaction between a number of factors including parasites, bacteria, specific proteins in foods and environmental factors. Chronic irritation of the intestinal tract causes the lining to become invaded by inflammatory cells which decreases the intestinal tract's ability to digest and absorb nutrients from food. Symptoms of IBD include mucus and/or blood in stools,vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased appetite and weight loss. Treatment of IBD involves feeding either a diet that contains a novel protein (one which the dog has not been exposed to before) or a hypoallergenic diet containing hydrolysed protein. Hydrolysed proteins have been broken down into pieces that are so small that the body's immune system does not react to them. Novel protein diets available in dog food include venison, rabbit, bison, kangaroo, and fish.
Sudden Dietary Changes
Dogs are prone to diarrhoea and vomiting when their diet changes, especially if they've been on one food for a while. This can be due to the protein, fat or carbohydrate level being markedly different between the two foods or to disruptions in your dog's gut microbiome. It is recommended to introduce new foods gradually to your dog's diet i.e.:
• Day 1-2: Mix 25% of the new food with 75% of the old food
• Day 3-4: Mix 50% of the new food with 50% of the old food
• Day 5-6: Mix 75% of the new food with 25% of the old food
• Day 7 onwards: 100% new food
Stress colitis (inflammation of the large intestine) is one of the leading causes of large bowel diarrhoea in dogs. Any sort of physical or psychological stress such as a visit to the vet can cause changes in the immune system and, as the majority of the immune system is located in the digestive tract, digestive upsets are a common sign of stress.
There are many treatment options available to help calm pets and alleviate stress and anxiety, such as prescription medication, supplements, pheromones and calming treats. The addition of soothing music, training and occupying toys and long-lasting treats can all help to calm and relax.
Diagnosing the Cause of Mucus in Dog Poop
As there are so many causes of abnormal mucus in dog poo, it is important to get a diagnosis from your vet before treatment.
The tests your vet may perform include:
- Faecal smear - Faeces are smeared on a microscope slide to look for fat and cellular material.
- Faecal floats - This involves mixing the faeces with a special solution so that the parasite eggs and protozoa float to the top. They are trapped on a microscope slide for examination under a microscope.
- Faecal PCR - This tests for the DNA of viruses, bacteria, and parasites in faeces. It is a much more sensitive test than a faecal float.
- Dysbiosis test - This lab test is used to work out if the bacteria in the dog's intestine (microbiome) are normal or abnormal.
If your dog only has one or two episodes of mucus in their stool followed by normal faeces, then this generally doesn't need treatment. Mucus caused by a dietary indiscretion or recent diet change will often respond to fasting for 24 hours or feeding a bland diet like boiled chicken and rice. Probiotics are also helpful for restoring the correct balance of microbes in the gut. Dietary and non-infectious causes of mucus in the stool can be treated with products like Peptosyl.
Treatment for chronic conditions like IBD and allergies is focused on therapeutic diets that contain specific proteins which are highly digestible along with other beneficial hypoallergenic ingredients.
When to Seek Veterinary Help
You should seek veterinary attention if:
- The mucus in the stool has persisted for more than 2 days
- The stool is watery
- There is any blood in the stool
- Your dog is lethargic, off their food, or vomiting
- Your dog is a puppy
Preventing Mucus in Poo
You can help to prevent mucus in your dog's poo by:
• Make sure your puppy has their full course of puppy vaccinations and your dog is up to date with their vaccinations for their whole life.
• Stick to an effective intestinal parasite control program that is tailored to your dog's age and lifestyle.
• Pick up faeces in your yard daily and never hose them into the ground.
• Be vigilant when out and about and don't let your dog eat anything from the ground or drink dirty water. You may need to consider using a muzzle if your dog is a scavenger, particularly if they spend time off lead.
• Make any dietary changes slowly over the course of one week.
• Consider a sensitive digestion diet if the problem persists. Great options include Pro Plan Sensitive Digestion Lamb for adults, or Pro Plan Puppy Sensitie Skin & Stomach for puppies - either of these can be fed long term.
• Follow strict hygiene practices when feeding raw food or treats.
• Try a probiotic or digestive supplement like Paw Blackmores Digesticare as this can help create a healthy microbiome and reduce digestive abnormalities.
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