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Cancer or upset tummy? Check the poo 

Health info from an unexpected source.

click to enlarge Picking up what they’re putting down.
  • Picking up what they’re putting down.

Everybody poops, but poop is anything but ordinary. In fact, the dirty business your pet gets up up to every day can hold some of the first early warning signs about a host of ailments. Eric Carnegy, owner and senior veterinarian at the Carnegy Animal Hospital, shared some pointers about what to keep an eye out for when your pet's doing their business.

Colour and consistency
Both in dogs and cats, the perfect poo is brown in colour and firm, but not hard like a rock. The deposit should be able to be picked off the ground without leaving any residue behind.

Look out for..
Very dark or black droppings can mean blood in the digestive tract. Too hard, and your pet could be dehydrated. Too soft or a mucous coating could mean something nasty is happening in your pet's belly. "Whether it's pudding or watery or mucous-y, those are all things we don't want to see," says Carnegy.

The culprits
Diarrhea can be caused by any number of underlying conditions, from inflammatory bowels to cancer or kidney and liver issues in older dogs. A yellowish stool is caused by bile, which could mean a problem with the gall bladder. There's no particular colour that offers a direct diagnosis, says Carnegy, "but it's telling you there could be a problem to check into."

Don't assume the worst
Dogs and cats, like people, sometimes just eat something that doesn't agree with them. "It doesn't always have to be some nasty disease," says Carnegy. Even stress from loud noises or fireworks the night before can upset a dog's gastrointestinal system. Generally, Carnegy's rule of thumb is wait and see. Try no food for 24 hours, or something easy to digest, like boiled chicken or rice. If diarrhea or discoloured poops persists, contact your vet.

Watch your cat closely
Dogs and litter boxes mean owners know what their pets are expelling, but outdoor cats could have diarrhea for a few days before other symptoms become noticeable. Instead, look out for sudden weight loss, a duller coat or vomiting.

A lethargic kitty who doesn't want to go out or suddenly changes its routine is also an early warning sign of internal problems, says Carnegy. "If they break their routine, a cat, that's a huge deal. Cats are so routine-oriented. You can almost set your clock by what they're doing any particular time of the day."

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