This post is about gastroenteritis. I find that the best way to explain symptoms is to post some pictures. Yep. poop pictures.
I am surprised it is so difficult to find actual pictures of poop anomalies. Isn’t dog poop one of those fundamental ‘health barometers’?
The Progression of Gastroenteritis
I had an inkling that something was awry when Phoebe pooped a pile of black “stuff” (mid-stride) at obedience class. Ever since I got her, she has only gone to the bathroom in public one time. It was enough to raise my radar, but not enough to raise any alarms (this is where I toss out my ignorance card).
The following day her stool was a mixture of black and tan. While soft, it was not diarrhea. Over the next three days, the color just got lighter. On Saturday, during my daily “poop pick up mission,” I noticed a few streaks of bright red blood, and a coating of mucus. There were only two little streaks of blood, but they jumped right out at me. Dang! It was Saturday and my vet would not be in until Tuesday.
Phoebe was not vomiting; her appetite was normal, and she did not have any signs of dehydration. The only behavior out of the norm was that she slept like a rock, day and night. All things considered; I opted to keep an eye on things and ride it out until the vet was in the office.
Obviously, in cases like these we must let common sense dictates. If Phoebe appeared to be in pain, was bloated, showed signs of distress, continued to produce bright red blood in her stool, had blood in or around her rectum, or if she showed signs of dehydration I would have taken her to the emergency clinic
Throughout the weekend, the mucus got worse, and then on Monday night the black stool returned. I called the vet first thing Tuesday morning and got an appointment for that afternoon.
The vet suspected gastroenteritis, so we ordered comprehensive blood and stool workups. She explained that when a dog has intestinal problems, the symptoms can help narrow it down:
Dark / black feces typically indicates bleeding in the upper intestine and/or swallowing blood from a non-intestinal issue. By the time the blood makes it all the way through the digestive track it becomes dark (black). Issues with the colon often manifest as excrement covered with lots of mucus. Bright red streaks of blood usually means the blood is undigested, so the lower intestine (most likely the colon or rectum) is suspected
Lucky us; Phoebe had symptoms end-to-end.
The lab work we ordered indicated that Phoebe had acquired clostridium perfringens A Toxin. Clostridium perfringens is one of the strains of bacteria that causes food poisoning in humans. Dogs usually acquire it from eating spoiled vegetation or improperly stored food. Food storage is not an issue; she must have found something out in the yard.
Healthy dogs may fight the bacteria it on their own. A dog with a weak immune symptom (Phoebe) is more susceptible, simply because their immunity do not have the umph to fight it off. That sounds about right. In light of all the issues Phoebe has had, digestive issues are the most common.
This this little episode was the tipping point that led me to drive three hours to meet with a nutritionist and get a custom diet. More on that another day.