Taking a Stool Sample to the Vet

Pet Care & Safety
Cocker spaniel with green poop bag

Normally, I do as my vet asks and bring in a stool sample for my dog’s annual check-up so they can check it for parasites and worms. But I thought I knew what I was doing and that I’d see worms in my dog’s poop when I’m cleaning it up. Why would I bother taking a stinky poo sample in when I already know what to look for, right? 

Wrong.

A few months after waiving my dog’s stool check, he had to be put under sedation. While taking his doggie nap, he pooped on the exam table and it was absolutely loaded with worms. Like, more worms than poop. 

I was mortified when they told me. This was totally avoidable had I just taken in a stool sample for the vet. This is why stool samples are necessary.

What do vets look for in stool samples?

Vets use a very small amount of feces to check for intestinal parasites including hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia. These parasites can cause a host of health issues and discomfort and can be transmitted to other pets and humans. When your vet examines the poop, they’ll check a small amount under a microscope, or “float” it in a special solution to find eggs or larvae.

How do I collect a stool sample for the vet?

There’s nothing fancy about it. I recommend taking a small, sealable bag when you take your dog for a walk or scoop the cat box just before the vet appointment. Using the bag like a glove, pick up a small piece. You might also want to use a plastic spoon to collect a small amount to put in the bag.

A fresher sample is ideal for finding eggs and larvae, so if you can get a sample within six hours before the appointment, you’re in luck. If it’s going to be longer than a couple of hours, double bag it and refrigerate it until you’re ready to go.

If your pet doesn’t poop the morning or afternoon of the appointment, your vet will gladly accept a fresh sample whenever it’s convenient. So, no worries if you need to drop it off another time. 

If you have multiple pets using the same litter box or toileting area, it’s a good idea to bring in three separate samples to be safe.

How much poop is necessary for a stool sample?

Your vet needs less than a teaspoon for the test, so you don’t need to hand over the whole pile. Just get a small amount in the bag, seal it well, and dispose of the rest normally. If you’re feeling cautious, double bag the sample and you’ll be set for transport.

Roughly one-third of pets have worms or intestinal parasites at some point, so don’t beat yourself up if something comes up on your pet’s fecal test. And remember, if you’re taking your pet for their annual exam or to be seen for diarrhea, vomiting, or lethargy, it’s best to come prepared with a stool sample just in case. Getting your pet’s stool checked yearly is important for their health – and everyone in your home.