What Cat and Dog Poop is Saying about their Health
There are many ways that your cat and dog can indicate they aren’t feeling well.
Sometimes their behavior betrays them. But one indicator—your cat or dog’s poop—is a telltale sign of their overall health. Owners always have their cat or dog’s poop at their disposal, so with a little help, it can be an insightful tool. That’s where Purina’s long time expert Gail Czarnecki-Maulden, PhD comes in.
Meet the ‘Queen of Pet Poop’
Fondly known as the “Queen of Pet Poop,” Gail Czarnecki-Maulden, PhD, Purina Senior Research Nutritionist, knows the scoop on cat and dog poop.
“I believe that the proof of a pet’s digestive health is in the poop,” says Dr. Czarnecki-Maulden, who has studied cats and dogs’ digestive health for nearly 27 years. “A healthy gut microflora balance promotes a long, healthy life.”
Pet owners know to look at their cat or dog’s poop and watch out for red flags with their cats and dogs--bloody stool, diarrhea, and straining, but Dr. Czarnecki-Maulden, takes this to a whole other level. She along with her team of scientists, use sophisticated tools of the trade, such as in-depth microflora analysis, the Fecal Score System and a texture analyzer, to search for clues about how cat and dog nutrition impacts digestive health. In other words, they investigate the composition, color, shape and consistency of cat and dog poop to discover how well pet food provides a healthy gut microflora balance.
“A pet’s fecal activity says a lot about how the animal feels,” she says. “Pets are what they eat, and their fecal scores reflect that. When the gut environment has a good balance, beneficial bacteria flourish. These bacteria produce nutrients that are absorbed and used by the body. They even produce energy for the intestinal cells that absorb nutrients.” Not to mention that the GI tract is responsible for most of cats and dogs’ overall health, since it is the largest immune organ in the body. Because digestion is so crucial for nutrition, health, and overall wellbeing, Dr. Czarnecki-Maulden and her team study four indicators of fecal health: stool form and odor, fecal density and stickiness, food digestibility and nutrient absorption, and stool bacterial levels and composition.
But the average owner can’t dissect and test cat or dog poop whenever they suspect something is off with their beloved pet. So there a few tips Dr. Czarnecki-Maulden recommends beyond looking for blood in dog poop or diarrhea in the cat litter box. There are symptoms owners can look out for and steps they can take to help promote their cat or dog’s digestive health.
While making a point to share knowledge is helpful for cat and dog owners, Dr. Czarnecki-Maulden and her team’s research have a greater impact for pet health through their nutritional and gastrointestinal breakthroughs. The research and knowledge they unlock helps create innovative new pet foods and products that aid digestion and overall health. The most recent, and possibly most exciting include Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora for cats and dogs and using a prebiotic fiber from chicory root as an ingredient in Purina Pro Plan PRIME Adult 7+ for cats. Both are huge advances. The research group’s work forwards Purina’s goal to promote overall pet health, nutrition, and of course ensures digestion (and cat and dog poop) is all that it should be.
Interested in learning more about nutrition and digestion for your cat or dog? Learn more about what your dog should be eating or see if you can make a healthy selection for your cat with Purina’s product selector tool.
Dr. Gail Czarnecki-Maulden, earned the nickname “Queen of Pet Poop,” during her 27 years in the field studying the role of digestive health in pet nutrition. She is a Purina Senior Research Nutritionist and focuses on how digestive health can help pets live long, healthy lives. In addition to her work with Purina, she is a member of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Dog and Cat Nutrient Profiles Subcommittee, which sets nutrient standards for dog and cat foods in the U.S. Her work has positioned her as an expert in the pet nutrition world and she has published more than 70 articles and abstracts in that area.