One of the most important diagnostic test veterinarians perform on dogs and cats is the microscopic examination of stool samples for the presence of parasites and/or their eggs. Intestinal parasites may not only cause varying degrees of digestive symptoms from vomiting to diarrhea, but also may pose a risk to humans in some cases. That is why it is critical to have periodic stool samples checked at the veterinarian. The fresher the stool sample, the more likely your veterinarian will be able to accurately diagnose parasitic conditions.
If a stool sample is obtained at a time of day or night when veterinary evaluation is not available, it is important to store the stool sample in a cool dry place, such as inside a plastic bag in the refrigerator. I usually don’t recommend holding stool samples more than 24 hours, in order to accurately diagnose many parasitic infections. Clients often bring us huge amounts of stool when requested to bring in a sample. Veterinarians actually only need a pea-sized sample of stool to run a fecal flotation test to look for parasites or eggs.
Many veterinarians will often dispense small plastic collecting cups known as fecalizers, which make stool collection and storage much easier. For feline guardians it is fine to obtain the sample directly from the litterbox, even if there is litter attached to the stool. Finally, if you are unsuccessful in obtaining a stool sample from your pet, most veterinarians will have fecal loops available, which allows us to collect stool samples painlessly at the time of a physical examination.