Do I need to see a vet tonight about this dog's 30 hours of poop issues?
August 10, 2014 4:49 PM   Subscribe

Adult dog strained a lot and often trying to poop yesterday, and hasn't had a big poop in 30 hours - but he has managed a bit of poop recently and is behaviorally fine. When is vet time? Lots of poop within.

Him: friend's cheerful, adult (3ish years old) male, medium large mutt, usually has one big satisfying poop every day. Me: not-super-wealthy grad student and experienced caretaker of this dog.

Saturday morning he had one decent poop, followed later that morning by repeated straining accompanied rarely by a small amount of liquidy poo. This morning (20 ish hours later after the observed trouble), he managed a small amount of mostly solid poop. He didn't poop or strain again until an hour ago, when he managed a slightly larger but still smaller-than-usual amount of poop that was the same, uh, girth as usual, but smaller length. He didn't appear to strain much with this.

On Friday night while being watched by someone else he apparently got to some stuffed animals and may have eaten some stuffing or stuffed animal face that I didn't collect from the floor. But I didn't actually catch him eating it, and I'm hoping that because so much of it was strewn around the floor and that he appeared uninterested in it means he was never interested enough to care.

He's well hydrated, his appetite is great, he's not vomiting, none of the poops have had blood, and he's his usual happy bouncy self and doesn't seem to react when I probe random parts of his belly. I've replaced some of his usual dry dog food with extra moisture and cooked rice in hopes that would help. The internet tells me that straining-to-poop issues could be caused by anything ranging from a gastrointestinal obstruction to needing his anal glands expressed to clears-up-on-its-own diarrhea. FWIW, this dog hasn't experienced anal gland issues in the past.

I understand that ER vets are generally much more expensive than normal vets (a physical exam will be about $90). That said, I'm totally down for bringing him to the ER vet right this minute, but I can't tell whether the original straining problem is severe enough to warrant going immediately, whether the regular-girth poop means his system is on the mend, or whether it's safe to wait til the regular vet tomorrow (barring any severe changes in behavior, like lethargy or vomiting). His regular vet opens at 8am tomorrow, but that's getting into dangerous 48-hour-since-poop-issues-were-first-observed territory.

Should I go to the ER vet now for initial testing and peace of mind, or do I wait until I see him straining and failing to poop again on our next potty walk in a few hours, or do I just go to his normal vet tomorrow?

If you have had to make similar judgment calls about your dog/cat experiencing something like this, I'd welcome stories about it and the eventual outcome.

Thanks MeFi! This puppydog isn't technically mine but I love this pooch and would hate for him to experience illness under my care.
posted by nicodine to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If his demeanor is normal and energetic, I would not stress too much. Because my dogs are free-poopers in the yard, I don't necessarily know right away if any of them is having trouble. Dogs can be real stoic about pain but they at least tend to not move much with gut pain.

If you can get a hold of a can of pumpkin (100% pumpkin, not pie filling) and plain or vanilla yogurt (real sugar not diet, if you get vanilla), give him a big spoonful of each with his next meal and again in the morning. With my dogs, I'd do that and reassess around lunchtime, I wouldn't go in first thing.

I don't think I've ever taken a dog in for poop fluctuations unless they were vomiting, or trembling/panting without any obvious cause. Even nuclear-grade indoor accidents, we normally just watch them for a couple of days and do yogurt and pumpkin.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:03 PM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

You could call the ER vet and see what they say; our local one has been willing to do quite a bit of triage with me just over the phone. Personally, as long as he isn't distressed and continues passing non-bloody waste, I would wait for the regular vet to open. Ultimately we ended up not even taking ours in at all after he might have eaten some of his bedding because the poops continued to be normal enough and he seemed fine. I don't think anyone has ever mentioned a hard-and-fast rule about 48 hours, and in any case it seems like that'd be more relevant with diarrhea and/or a smaller dog.
posted by teremala at 5:07 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

These things are often caused by gut flora being out of whack. We've had two dogs that have exhibited these exact same symptoms. The first one was prescribed Proviable KP, a probiotic that comes with a syringe of the paste and some pills of the dry form. The second one had it when we couldn't get to the vet (weekend), so we got some probiotic paste at a feed store. In both cases the probiotic paste stopped these symptoms cold. The stuff we got was ProBios; it was labeled for horses but it was the same formulation the company sells for dogs, and it was about $8. If it works, the dog may not poop for a day or two as the system recovers. This paste should be pretty harmless (it's bacterial cultures, like what you'd find in yogurt, which also isn't a bad thing) but if you have any misgivings ask a vet.
posted by azpenguin at 5:24 PM on August 10, 2014

Best answer: Seconding that you should call the ER vet's office. Give them all of the info, then follow their recommendation.
posted by Boogiechild at 6:47 PM on August 10, 2014

This is just an anecdote, but my dog has had episodes like this several times when she's eaten something she's not supposed to (like cloth stuffings) and there is a piece of it stuck in the rectum. It's pretty freaky but eventually she gets a piece of it out and then we can, well… disimpact her. Never had to go to vet for it, item has always eventually been removable. Certainly this may not be what's going on with your dog but it sounds reminiscent.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:58 PM on August 10, 2014

If it was my dog I would stay home.

ER vet would want blood and x-rays to go with the exam to rule out blockage. You're not leaving for under $300.

If the dog was lethargic, vomiting, or dehydrated along with the poop issue I would consider ER vet. A happy dog that's eating and drinking with only poop as a symptom falls squarely into wait and see.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:22 PM on August 10, 2014

If he had a poop an hour ago, he is fine for now. I'd be worried if he goes a day and a half with nothing, is sick, is straining with nothing at all coming out, has a lumpy gut. Not sure about the rice, I give it to my dog when he needs something simple and soothing, especially when he is having diarrhea. I suppose it probably won't hurt. The pumpkin mentioned above is a great fiber booster to keep dogs regular.

My dog once swallowed a huge wad of dead rodent soaked moss. A day later, he tried pooping it out and it was like trying to poop out a whole sponge. I had to bag my hand and help. Ugh, the memory of him poop walking down a whole block with a terrarium hanging out of his back end. It came out just as green as it was going in. Stupid dog. I guess I am telling you this because dogs eat terrible things and survive to eat other terrible things their entire lives.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:11 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: If this were my dog, I wouldn't worry too much about it unless it lasted more than a few days as long as there were no other symptoms. 2nd'ing the yogurt/pumpkin advice.

I'd also keep an eye on his gums to make sure they stay looking pink and healthy. If the gums change, then you'll want to take him in. If they turn grey.

I mean, if you were having weird poop issues, you wouldn't make a doctor's appointment unless it went on for a week or something right? As long as there are no other symptoms, it will go away on it's own, maybe faster with some of the suggestions here.

Now that this crisis is past, I believe that it is tradition here on to include a photo for any dog questions...
posted by VTX at 5:45 AM on August 11, 2014

Another dog owner with a dog that can get stuffed up fairly often. Every time I see that our companion is having issues, a couple of raw carrots in her bowl do wonders.
posted by liquado at 10:06 AM on August 11, 2014

The rice may be causing some of this (at least at this point). A rice and ground beef or plain meat combo are usually given as a bland diet to solve diarrhea. It binds them up and is easy on an upset stomach so it's probably counter intuitive for this situation.

Definitely try pumpkin and adding water or chicken broth to food. You can spike his water with a little chicken broth to promote extra drinking too.
posted by rawralphadawg at 10:34 AM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: Pooch is perfectly healthy and fine! The added-pumpkin thing really does work. I did some phone triage with his regular vet and decided to go for an appointment today because I had made the mistake of reading the internet about straining-without-poop incidents. Vet listened to his stomach and heard gurgling all throughout, consistent with no obstruction.

To fellow pet-lovers: don't google your pet's symptoms, ugh

Thanks again! All of these were best answers and were very reassuring on the wait-and-see front. This is the pooch you've helped out. He's enjoyed our car rides to go hiking to indulge in his favorite activity. Sometimes we make one-dog blanket forts.
posted by nicodine at 2:43 PM on August 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

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