How to store a stool sample

  • collect your poo (stool) sample in a completely clean (sterile) container
  • store the container in a fridge in a sealed plastic bag if you can’t hand it in straight away

Collecting a stool sample

Your GP or another healthcare professional, such as a nurse, should explain how to collect the sample. It should be collected in a clean, dry screw-top container.

Your doctor or a member of staff at the hospital will give you a plastic (specimen) container to use, although you can use any clean container as long as you can seal it.

Try not to collect pee (urine) or water from the toilet along with the poo, but don’t worry if you do. If you need to pee, do this first before collecting the poo.

To collect the sample:

  • label a clean, screw-top container with your name, date of birth and the date
  • place something in the toilet to catch the poo, such as a potty or an empty plastic food container, or spread clean newspaper or plastic wrap over the rim of the toilet
  • make sure the poo doesn’t touch the inside of the toilet
  • use the spoon or spatula that comes with the container to collect the poo, then screw the lid shut
  • if you’ve been given a container, aim to fill around a third of it – that’s about the size of a walnut if you’re using your own container
  • put anything you used to collect the poo in a plastic bag, tie it up and put it the bin
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm running water

Follow any other instructions your doctor has given you.

Storing a stool sample

Your sample of poo must be fresh – if it is not, the bacteria in it can multiply. This means the levels of bacteria in the stool sample won’t be the same as the levels of bacteria in your digestive system. If the levels of bacteria don’t match, the test results may not be accurate.

Your sample should be handed in as soon as possible, as sometimes it can’t be analysed after being refrigerated – your doctor will tell you if this is the case.

If you can’t hand your sample in immediately, find out how long it can be kept in the fridge. Your GP or the healthcare professional who requested the test will be able to tell you. If you can store it in the fridge, put the container in a sealed plastic bag first.

What are stool samples used for?

Your GP or another healthcare professional may ask you for a stool sample to help them diagnose or rule out a particular health condition.

Poo contains bacteria and other substances that are in the digestive system.

By testing the levels of these substances and bacteria in your poo, it’s possible to work out what’s happening in your digestive system.

For example, the sample can be tested to help diagnose:

  • gastroenteritis – a common condition that causes diarrhoea and vomiting, and is usually the result of a bacterial or viral tummy bug
  • inflammatory bowel disease – such as Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, and ulcerative colitis, a condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed

Further information

  • How should I collect and store a pee (urine) sample?
  • Screening and testing
  • Lab Tests Online UK: stool test

Page last reviewed: 27 August 2019
Next review due: 27 August 2022

The Scoop on How to Collect Poop

There are many reasons you may need to collect a stool sample from your dog. Many vets use stool samples as part of routine, yearly check-ups. A vet may want to test your hound for harmful intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. Additionally, stool samples can be used to test for a variety of nutritional deficiencies.

How to Collect Your Dog’s Stool Sample

Collecting a stool sample is not difficult; however, it can be an unpleasant task. Fortunately, with the correct techniques you can ensure that collecting a stool sample is hygienic, effective and stress-free. Follow these simple steps in order to collect an adequate, easily-to-test stool sample for your veterinarian:

1) Collect a fresh Sample: Whenever possible, a fresh stool sample should be delivered to the vet’s office. Poop that has been sitting in the yard for days will not test well in a laboratory, and may produce false results or fail to diagnose potentially dangerous conditions adequately. You can ensure that you collect a fresh sample by being vigilant when Fido goes outside for bathroom breaks. When the dog defecates, the stool sample should be picked up as quickly as possible.

2) Measure the Sample: You do not need to take an entire stool to the veterinarian because only a small amount is needed to perform the necessary tests. Generally, vets need no more than one gram of stool in each sample. This amounts to a piece of stool roughly one inch long. In order to keep the measuring process hygienic, use a plastic knife or a pair of latex gloves to break off a small amount of stool.

3) Store the Sample: Some veterinarians will provide pet parents with a designated container in which to collect their pet’s stool sample. These containers are generally made of plastic and have screw-on tops. If your dog’s vet did not provide you with a receptacle, a Tupperware container or two small Ziploc bags will work just fine.

4) Keep the Sample Cool: It is important to keep your pet’s stool sample cool. If it’s warm outside, consider double bagging the sample container and transporting it in a small cooler. Pet parents can also store the sample in their refrigerators but should avoid freezing or leaving it in direct sunlight or warm cars.

5) Mark the Sample: Before delivering the stool sample to your vet, write your dog’s name and age, as well as your name and phone number, on the container. In addition to helping avoid any potential mix-ups at the vet’s office, this also ensures that the vet has easy access to your contact information in the event of further questions or unexpected results.

Collecting a stool sample can be unpleasant, but it is an important part of being a responsible pet parent. Fortunately, these simple steps help make collecting your dog’s stool sample quick, easy, hygienic and effective.

Content reviewed by a veterinarian.

How to store a stool sample

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Having a stool sample tested can be life saving in some cases. With an important medical test, you want to make sure you properly prepare the sample. When collecting a stool specimen at home the night before you deliver it to a medical office, there are some important rules to follow.

Place the sample into a container. The medical facility requesting the sample should have provided you with a container to collect the sample. If this is the case, limit the stool sample to the “fill” line indicated on the container. Be careful not to go over the line. If your doctor has not ordered the sample and you are collecting it on your own, you may want to request a container so it is properly stored.

Seal the container and identify the sample. Screw on the cap tightly. Write your name, date, and the time the sample was collected on the outside of the container.

Store the sample. If the sample is fresh, it must be refrigerated and taken to the doctor or lab within two hours. If a preservative is included with the container you have been given, store it at room temperature for up to 48 hours.

If your test container does not include a preservative, it is not recommended you store the stool specimen overnight. If the sample is not fresh, this may affect the test results.

In this Article

  • Why Do You Need It?
  • How Is a Stool Culture Done?
  • When Do You Get the Results?
  • What Do the Results Mean?

If you’ve been having stomach problems, your doctor might order a stool culture or ask for a stool sample. This test can look in your poop for bacteria, a virus, or other germs that might be making you sick.

Why Do You Need It?

Your doctor could order this test if you show any of these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea that lasts more than a few days
  • Poop that contains blood or mucus
  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • Nausea
  • Throwing up
  • Fever

Your doctor may be more concerned if:

  • You’re very young or elderly
  • You have a weakened immune system
  • You’ve traveled outside the United States
  • You’ve eaten contaminated food or water
  • Your symptoms are severe

You may need antibiotics to get rid of the infection or prevent other health problems, like dehydration (losing too much fluid).

How Is a Stool Culture Done?

You’ll need to give your doctor a sample of your poop. You won’t need to do this at the doctor’s office. Instead, you’ll be given a special container with a lid to take home. This may have your name and birthdate on it. If not, you can write it on the label.

Continued

Your doctor will go over how to collect the sample and any special instructions. In most cases, you’ll follow these steps:

Place something in your toilet to catch your poop. Your doctor may give you a small container or you could use a clean, empty plastic one that you have. If your stool isn’t loose or watery, you could also spread newspaper or plastic wrap over the toilet rim.

Make sure your poop doesn’t touch the inside of your toilet. It could pick up germs that aren’t yours.

Place the sample into the container. Don’t use your hands. Your doctor should give you a small spoon or spatula you can throw away after you use it.

Don’t overfill the container. For the test, you’ll only need to provide a sample that’s about the size of a walnut. Make sure to include any pieces that are bloody, slimy, or watery.

Continued

Avoid getting urine mixed up with your stool. If you need to pee, do so before starting.

Put the container in a sealed plastic bag and wash your hands well with soap and water. Flush any leftover poop down your toilet.

Return the sample to your doctor’s office as soon as you can. It can be kept in your refrigerator until then, but for no more than 24 hours.

Tell your doctor about any medicines you’re taking, since these can affect your test results. They should also know if you’re taking any herbs, supplements, vitamins, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs.

When Do You Get the Results?

Once your sample gets to the lab, it will be smeared inside a special sterile plate that helps bacteria to grow. Any that does is looked at more closely under a microscope.

Most of the time, you should get results back within 1 or 2 days.

What Do the Results Mean?

If your test results are negative, that means that they’re normal. No germs were found in your poop and you don’t have an infection.

A positive test result means that your poop was infected with a germ, virus, or other type of bacteria. The lab will tell your doctor which type it is and which medicines will fight against it. That can help them decide how to treat it.

Sources

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Stool Culture.”

NHS Choices: “How should I collect and store a stool (faeces) sample?”

Labtestsonline.org/American Association for Clinical Chemistry: “Stool Culture.”

Kids Health from Nemours: “Stool Test: Bacteria Culture.”
Health Protection Scotland: “How to collect a faecal specimen at home.”

Article Translations: (Spanish)

Why does my child need a stool sample tested?

Children can have diarrhea (increase in the number and looseness of stools or bowel movements) from many causes. If diarrhea lasts for more than 10 days to 2 weeks, a stool sample may need to be tested for bacteria (germs) or parasites.

What should I do?

If your child has been taking antibiotics, antacids, or medicines to stop the diarrhea, tell the doctor or nurse. You may need to wait 8 to 10 days after stopping these medicines before collecting the stool sample. If your child is scheduled for otherВ tests such as X-rays, you may need to collect the stool sample first.

You will receive one or more special containers. Do not bring stool in any other container. Keep the containers out of children’s reach. Some have preservatives in them, which is poisonous.

Preparing to collect the stool

For children in diapers, line the inside of the diaper with plastic wrap, to prevent the diaper from absorbing the stool.

For older children, put plastic wrap, newspaper, or a special collection container under the toilet seat to catch the stool. Never take the sample out of the water in the toilet bowl and do not allow urine to touch it. If your child urinated at the same time, do not collect this stool. Toilet water and urine will destroy the germs or parasites.

Collecting the stool sample

  1. Take the caps off of the containers. Using the spoon in the lid of the container or wooden tongue depressor, collect stool from areas that are bloody, slimy, or watery. Collect enough fresh stool to fill the containers to theВ “Fill Here”В line. Do not overfill.
  2. Screw the cap on tightly.
  3. If the container has a preservative in it, shake well.
  4. Important: Write on the containers your child’s full name, and the date and time the sample was collected. If this is not done, the lab cannot do the test, and you will have to repeat the stool collection.
  5. Store properly and bring to the clinic as soon as possible:
    ___В Fresh samples: Keep in the refrigerator. Bring to the clinic within 2 hours.
    ___В Preserved samples: Keep at room temperature. Bring to the clinic within 48 hours.
  6. If you are delivering the stool sample to the lab, stop at patient registration first.
  7. Call the clinic for results:
    • stool cultures – call in 48 hours
    • ova and parasites – call in 24 hours

Questions?

This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the clinic.

All of Healthily’s articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

  • collect your stool (faeces) sample in a clean container
  • store the container in a fridge in a sealed plastic bag if you can’t hand it in straight away

Collecting a stool sample

Your GP or another healthcare professional, such as a nurse, should explain how to collect the stool sample. It should be collected in a clean, dry screw-top container.

Your doctor or a member of staff at the hospital will give you a plastic (specimen) container to use, although you can use any clean container as long as you can seal it.

Try not to collect urine or water from the toilet with the stool sample, but don’t worry if you do. If you need to urinate, do this first before collecting the stool sample.

To collect a stool sample:

  • label the container with your name, date of birth and the date
  • place something in the toilet to catch the stool, such as a potty or an empty plastic food container, or spread clean newspaper or plastic wrap over the rim of the toilet
  • make sure the sample doesn’t touch the inside of the toilet
  • use the spoon or spatula that comes with the container to place the sample in a clean screw-top container and screw the lid shut
  • if you’ve been given a container, aim to fill around a third of it – that’s about the size of a walnut if you’re using your own container
  • put anything you used to collect the sample in a plastic bag, tie it up and put it the bin
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm running water

Follow any other instructions a doctor gives you.

Storing a stool sample

Stool samples should be handed in as soon as possible, as some can’t be analysed if they’ve been refrigerated – your doctor will tell you if this is the case.

If you can’t hand the stool sample in immediately, you should store it in a fridge, but for no longer than 24 hours. Place the container in a sealed plastic bag first.

Stool samples must be fresh – if they aren’t, the bacteria in them can multiply. This means the levels of bacteria in the stool sample won’t be the same as the levels of bacteria in your digestive system. If the levels of bacteria don’t match, the test results may not be accurate.

If you can’t hand your stool sample in immediately, find out how long it can be kept in the fridge. Your GP or the healthcare professional who requested the test will be able to tell you.

What are stool samples used for?

A doctor or another healthcare professional may ask you for a stool sample to help them diagnose or rule out a particular health condition.

Stools contain bacteria and other substances that are present in the digestive system.

By testing the levels of these substances and bacteria in your stools, it’s possible to work out what’s happening in your digestive system.

For example, a stool sample can be tested to help diagnose:

  • gastroenteritis – a common condition that causes diarrhoea and vomiting, and is usually the result of a bacterial or viral tummy bug
  • inflammatory bowel disease – such as Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, and ulcerative colitis, a condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed

This information will teach you how to collect stool (poop) samples at home for your fecal occult blood test (FOBT).

About Your FOBT

A FOBT is a lab test used to check your stool for occult blood. Occult blood is blood that you can’t see by looking at your stool. There are many reasons you may have blood in your stool. Your healthcare provider will tell you why you’re having the test.

For your FOBT, you will collect samples of your stool 3 days in a row. This increases the chance of finding blood, since the bleeding may not happen every day. If you don’t have a bowel movement on one of the 3 days, talk with your healthcare provider. They will talk with you about collecting the 3 samples over a longer period of time.

Getting Ready for Your FOBT

Ask your healthcare provider how many days before the test you should start getting ready. They may give you special instructions. It’s important to follow their instructions and the instructions below to be sure your test results are accurate.

  • Starting 3 days before you begin collecting your stool samples, avoid:
    • Red meat, such as beef, lamb, or liver
    • Raw fruits and vegetables
    • Vitamin C, such as fruit juices with vitamin C and vitamin C supplements in doses higher than 250 milligrams (mg) per day
    • Antacids (medications to relieve heartburn or stomach pain, such as Tums ® )
    • Medications to stop diarrhea (loose or watery bowel movements)
    • Iron supplements

    You can start eating these things again after your FOBT.

  • Most people will need to stop taking aspirin, other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and vitamin E before and during the 3-day collection period. These medications may cause small amounts of blood to appear in your stool.
    • Your healthcare provider will give you the resource Common Medications Containing Aspirin, Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or Vitamin E, which lists common medications that have these products in them. It also lists medications you can take instead.
    • If you take aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke, don’t stop taking it unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
  • If you have any of the following during the 3 days you’re planning to collect your stool samples, talk with your healthcare provider. They may tell you to wait to collect your samples.
    • Menstrual period
    • Bleeding hemorrhoids (swollen veins in your anus)
    • Blood in your urine (pee)

If your healthcare provider gives you special instructions, write them here.

Collecting the Sample

How to store a stool sample

Figure 1. The Hemoccult slide

Supplies

You will need the following supplies:

  • Hemoccult ® slide
  • Applicator stick
  • A clean, dry container
  • Trash can

Instructions

  1. Gather your supplies. Place them in the bathroom where you can reach them easily.
    • Remove the Hemoccult slide from its paper envelope. Set the envelope aside.
    • Don’t set the Hemoccult slide or applicator stick on the edge of the sink, bath tub, or toilet tank. They shouldn’t get wet.
    • Always keep the Hemoccult slides at room temperature, away from heat and light.
    • Make sure your name, date of birth, and Medical Record Number (MRN) are on the card. If this information isn’t on the card, write it in.
  2. Open the large front flap of the Hemoccult slide. You may notice a light blue discoloration on the paper in the squares above boxes A and B. The discoloration won’t affect the test.
  3. Sit on the toilet like you usually do to have a bowel movement (poop). Use the clean, dry container to catch your stool before it touches the water in the toilet.
  4. Take a sample of your stool with one end of an applicator stick. Apply a thin smear of stool inside the square marked “A” on the Hemoccult slide (see Figure 1).
  5. Use the stick to collect a second sample from a different part of your stool. Apply a thin smear of stool inside the square marked “B”.
  6. Throw out the stick in the trash.
  7. Close the cover of the Hemoccult slide and put it back into its paper envelope. Don’t put it in anything waterproof, such as a plastic bag. Store it at room temperature, away from light, children, and pets.
  8. Empty the container that holds the stool into the toilet. Flush the toilet.
  9. Wash your hands. Wet your hands with warm water and then rub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Rinse your hands.

Repeat these steps to collect your samples on days 2 and 3. Write the date of collection next to each sample.

After You Collect the Samples

You can store the samples on the Hemoccult slide for 5 to 7 days from the date of your first collection. Don’t mail your stool samples. Your healthcare provider will tell you where to take your stool samples.

Your results

Your healthcare provider will call you with your results, explain what they mean, and tell you what to do next.

Answering All Your Cat Questions

How to store a stool sample

What are cat stool samples used for?

Cat stools are usually used to determine if your cat has been infested by parasites and fleas. With a cat stool sample, your vet can immediately determine if there are any parasites present.

How often should I collect my cat’s stool sample?

This depends on your cats health history. If your cat frequently struggles with parasites, we recommend getting your cat’s stool tested every two months until your cat is parasite free. If your cat is generally healthy, we recommend testing his/her stool once a year.

A cat stool sample should be fresh, meaning that it is still moist and not hardened. This means that your cat stool sample should not be older than 5 hours.

How to take a cat stool sample

Taking a cat stool sample is simple. Turn a ziplock plastic bag inside out, and with your hand pick up the poop. A cat stool sample should be at least an half inch by half inch. The sample should be similar to the size of a marshmallow. Make sure that you completely seal the bag after you take the sample. You can store the stool sample in a refrigerator for a couple hours before you take the sample to the vet.