Digestive Health and Pickupable Poos
Is your dog producing perfect poos? Holistic vet, Nick Thompson MRCVS has a simple way to examine the digestive health of your dog, and if it's in optimum shape.
The first thing to do
When a vet thinks about chronic diarrhoea, it's not just a question of changing diet. The veterinary mind will go through a whole list of common causes and eliminate them, either through examination or investigative diagnostic tests. There is difference here between the sick dog who used to form healthy poos, but now doesn't, and is losing weight and is lethargic, and the healthy dog that never forms a particularly good poo.
If it's the former, then you'll need to either phone or visit your vet, but if it's the latter camp there are things you can do to help improve their digestive health.
But what does normal look like?
'Pasty,' 'watery,' 'diarrhoea,' 'firm,' 'normal' and 'average;' words used to describe your pet's poo. The trouble is, one person's diarrhoea is another person's loose, is another person's 'normal!'
To get round this, I've come up with a simple idea - my 'poo score.' It's easy to understand and will transform conversations with vets and nutritionists to allow you to keep track of the health and diet of the pets in your life.
It's a 0-10 scale, with 'zero' being no structure at all, or soup-like. At the other end of the scale, we have the supreme stool specimen: firm, easily pickupable and healthy - a cigar or torpedo! In between, we have a blancmange consistency at 5/10 and a gradation of increasing structure from zero to nine. Here are some examples:
The Thompson Stool Score for Dogs and Cats
0 - Water
3 - Thin, but will hold together on the ground without dribbling everywhere. Uncooked thin cookie dough.
5 - Blancmange - neither liquid or solid. Scoopable, but leaves a mess.
7 - Formed but soft. Very soft sponge cake. Not pickupable, but perhaps cleanly scoopable.
10 - Perfect cigar or torpedo. Pickupable in two (covered) fingers.
It's that simple. I find food analogies are useful, if unappetising. You can add useful detail like colour, smell and uniformity (lumpiness) for added information. Beware making things too complicated.
If your pet is producing less than perfect stools, say 8/10 or below, then you may have a problem. The first thing to do is talk to your vet. If you know they have no disease issues, then it is possible they have food intolerances. A food intolerance is where the bowel is irritated (hence Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Irritable Bowel Disease) in response to a food, usually a protein, a meat.
How to up your pet's score
It can be relatively easy to bump your pet up the stool score. I usually remove all but one protein (single meat minces are great for this) for a few weeks and see the effect on the poos. Feed this with one or two types of greens only initially. If they improve, then gradually bring in other proteins, one at a time, with sufficient time between each introduction to allow you to identify problem-foods if they arise. You can bring in new veg and fruits in the same way, in time. If your dog or cat's poos don't improve within a week or two, try another protein in a trial, as above. If the loose stools continue, then you might want to consult a vet or pet nutritionist to discuss things.
Scoring a ten has a lot to do with the health of your pet's gut and the makeup of their microbiome. To nurture this environment, it's worth us looking at carminative herbs (also known as aromatic digestive tonics or aromatic bitters) - herbs which reduce intestinal gas production and associated flatulence and discomfort. Carminative herbs contain volatile oils that have local anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory and mild antimicrobial effect, and help to ease digestion.
Carminatives have the following effects on the digestive system:
Carminatives with an effect on the digestive system include:
Psyllium Husk and Slippery Elm are also useful in regulating the health of your pet's gut.
Many of the herbs you'll find in the list - garlic, fennel, thyme & cinnamon - are all to be found in the Verm-X mix of herbs included in our daily Crunchies for Dogs.
In every one of these herbs there are between 400 - 800 active elements and most of those, when it comes to acting on us, have a balancing effect such that the most potent and active ingredients are tempered with a calming effect that will temper any side effects.
I hope the Thompson Stool Score for Dogs and Cats (TSS) helps you in monitoring, and therefore improving your pet's gut health and communicating this to your friends and canine professionals.
Interested to learn More?
The inside story of our body's most underrated organ - read the article.
Why our microbes could be the key to our health - read the article.
Taking care of animal health, naturally - browse the range.