Poop is a subject few people like to talk about, unless you’re a 6-year old boy. Whether human or pet, people are embarrassed—or maybe slightly nauseated by a conversation about poop.
But poop can tell us a lot about what’s going on in the body…ours and our pet’s.
If you’re a poop averse pet owner, you probably aren’t checking your dog’s poop regularly to be sure there are no changes. In fact, you might not even recognize changes if you don’t know what your dog’s poop usually looks like.
If you just let your dog out in the yard to do their business and don’t follow up with a poop check, you could be asking for trouble. Trouble in the form of a serious health problem that’s gone unnoticed.
What’s a normal poop?
There really is no such thing as a normal poop. Every dog is different. Some dogs poop twice a day, some four times a day. Some dogs’ poop tends to be soft while some dogs tend to have very firm poops.
What’s normal for your dog is the color, consistency, appearance, frequency, size, and odor of their poop every day. What’s not normal is when one or more of these things change.
The color of your dog’s poop
Your dog’s everyday poop is probably pretty close to a chocolate brown (excuse the food analogy…it works). Some dogs have poop that’s a little lighter, some a little darker.
But here’s what it shouldn’t be…
Green, orange, yellow, black, white, grey, or red—none of these are a good sign.
Black tarry poop is a sign that your dog is bleeding in their upper GI tract and is ingesting it. This can be very serious and requires a visit to the vet.
Green, orange or yellow poop is not a problem if it only lasts one or two bowel movements. In that case, it’s likely your dog ate something, like a crayon, that caused the discoloration.
But if these colorful poops continue or are accompanied by a change in eating behavior or activity level, it could mean a gall bladder problem or other serious issue.
Ingesting rat bait can also cause green poops. So call your vet and be sure to tell them if your dog could have gotten into any kind of rodent poison.
Poop that comes out white, as opposed to turning white when it dries out, means your dog is consuming too much calcium. This can be a problem if you feed a raw diet that consists of a lot of bone, and can result in chronic constipation too. Talk to your vet about how much calcium is too much.
Grey greasy poop can be a sign of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). The pancreas isn’t functioning as it should and nutrients can’t be properly absorbed. This is a condition that can be managed if you catch it. So get to the vet.
If your dog’s poop is red, and after close inspection you realize the red is fresh blood, this may be nothing more than straining from constipation or diarrhea that caused some broken blood vessels. If it’s gone after one or two poops and your dog’s behavior is unchanged, it’s probably nothing.
But if there’s a lot of blood, it continues more than 24 hours, or is accompanied by changes in behavior, call the vet. This can be a perforation, an ulcer, or possibly cancer.
A puppy with bloody stool, vomiting, lethargy and horribly stinky poop, may have parvovirus. This is definite cause for concern and a reason to get to the vet.
The consistency of your dog’s poop
More often than not, your dog’s poop will be formed and the consistency of Play-Doh. But all dogs get diarrhea from time to time.
If your dog’s like mine, they’re continually eating things they shouldn’t like grass, mulch, and sticks. These things can cause stomach distress and often result in vomiting and/or diarrhea.
If your dog’s behavior is unchanged, it’s likely the diarrhea will pass in a day or two. But if it’s accompanied by vomiting, a change in appetite, or lethargy, you’ll want to call your vet.
And recurrent bouts of diarrhea should be checked out too, whether or not there’s a change in behavior.
Diarrhea can also be a symptom of an intestinal parasite. Sometimes a parasite, like tapeworm, is visible in the poop. Small white pieces that look like grains of rice in the stool, near the tush, or on your dog’s bed are a sign that something is amiss.
Your vet can easily test for and treat worms and other parasites, so don’t wait to make an appointment if you suspect something’s up.
When you notice mucus on your dog’s poop, whether the poop is formed or watery, it usually indicates there’s an irritation or inflammation of the intestines. The intestines will produce mucus to protect sensitive cells.
Again, if this only lasts a few poops, your dog probably ate something they shouldn’t have. But if it continues, see your vet.
Most dog owners get worried when their dog has diarrhea. But what happens when the poop is rock-hard?
This can happen when your dog eats too many bones or rawhides, they don’t drink enough water, their nutrition is inadequate, or they’re constipated and the stool is retained in the colon or rectum for too long.
Chronic constipation can cause serious problems so be sure to address this with your vet as soon as you detect a problem.
The appearance of your dog’s poop
If you find things in your dog’s poop that don’t belong there, take note.
It can be a red flag that they are eating something that might be causing diarrhea. Lots of grass or leaves in the poop can be the cause of stomach distress.
And it can be a signal that there are other health issues going on, even with no diarrhea.
Clumps of hair in the poop means excessive grooming…the result of allergies, stress and other medical conditions.
Undigested food in the poop, other than corn or other grains, might indicate an allergy or digestive disorder.
So be alert to not only diarrhea, but other changes in appearance too.
The frequency and volume of your dog’s poop
If your dog normally poops a lot, this is caused by the food they eat.
Dogs who eat kibble will produce larger poops than dogs on wet food because there is a higher fiber content in kibble.
Lower quality food will also produce larger poops because what the body doesn’t use gets eliminated. And lower quality foods will have more fillers with little nutritional value.
If you feel like you’re picking up after an elephant rather than a dog, consider a higher quality food, like Husse.
When it comes to the frequency of poops, all dogs are different. I have a Lab that poops once maybe twice a day, but my Greyhound pooped at least 4 times a day—consistently.
We always used to joke that he never missed an opportunity to poop. If he went out in the yard, he pooped. But that was normal for him. He did it every day.
If your dog starts pooping more or less frequently, and you haven’t changed their food, something’s up. Talk to your vet.
The smell of your dog’s poop
I saved the best for last. Although your dog’s poop probably doesn’t smell like a fresh bouquet of peonies, the smell should be pretty consistent.
Dogs on a “grain-free” food will often have stinkier poop because of the higher amounts of potatoes, peas and other ingredients that aren’t natural in a dog’s diet. Their bodies may not be able to absorb some of the nutrients in these foods, and they’ll be more highly concentrated in the poop.
If suddenly the smell of your dog’s poop is unusually offensive, this can be the sign of a problem. But a onetime smelly poop isn’t cause for alarm. Sometimes our doggies decide to eat things they shouldn’t and that can mean stinky poop. If the smell persists, that’s when you need to talk to the vet.
Decoding your dog’s poop is mostly about detecting change that lasts for more than a few poops. And noticing if your dog’s behavior or disposition seems different too.
Listen to your instincts and call the vet if you are concerned.
If you are disgusted by the poop conversation, I should warn you that the vet will likely want you to bring a stool sample to your appointment. And whether that sample is watery or solid, it will need to be fresh—less than an hour old.
What’s the strangest looking poop your dog’s left for you? Share your experiences in the comment section above.