Dog poop is not a glamorous topic to talk about. It is not even fun. In fact, it is stinky and more often than not, it can be gross. However, if you are a responsible dog parent, chances are you will have to deal with many stinky situations on a daily basis.
Jokes aside, the dog’s poop can give us a tremendous number of clues and tell us a lot about the dog’s digestive health. Additionally, dog poop is an amazing indicator for the dog’s overall health.
Keeping an eye on the appearance of the dog poop can be quite helpful. That does not mean that you need to become a ‘’poop patrol’’ and run around and poke in your dog’s poop every time it does it business. However, make sure you visually inspect your dog’s poop at least once a day or once in two days.
6 Things to look for when examining your dog’s poop
As funny as it may sound, even dog poop examination and evaluation comes with rules and criteria. Dog poop is evaluated using 6 criteria. Those criteria include:
Normal Dog Poop Colour
The normal dog poop is chocolate-brown in colour. The colour is due to the presence of bilirubin (a chemical compound produced in the liver). The bilirubin is further degraded into urobilinogen and then stercobilin. In fact, it is the stercobilin that gives poop its usual colour.
However, there are slight colour variations from one dog’s poop to another dog’s poop. The colour deviations can be due to:
- Diet – what the dog eats influences the overall appearance of its poop. As for the colour, if a dog eats raw diet rich with bones, its poop will have white or grey shade.
- Dyes and colours in the food – artificially added colours and dyes cannot be digested and are passed with the stool. If they are strong enough they can change the overall coloration of the poop.
- Level of hydration – if the dog is well hydrated its poop may be paler. On the flip side, if the dog is dehydrated its poop will be darker.
Some medications (such as Pepto Bismol) can influence the colour of the poop. If your dog recently started taking some new medications the colour alterations are most likely die to active substances in the drug.
Although the above mentioned factors can influence the colour of the poop, the changes are usually not very dramatic.
Common abnormal dog poop colour patterns include:
- Yellow poop – usually indicates increased intestinal motility. Because of the increased passage pace, the stercobilin does not have enough time to pass its distinctive colour to the poo. This is common in digestive disorders like exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
- Bright yellow poop – associated with liver problems, pancreatic problems and gall-bladder problems.
- Bright orange poop – suggestive of gall bladder and liver issues.
- Green poo – usually indicates that your god eats a lot of grass. Keep in mind that dogs tend to eat grass when troubles by gastrointestinal problems.
- Grey poop – indicates either a liver problem or disturbed nutrient absorption.
- Raspberry-jam poop – is associated with severe inflammations that lead to sloughing of the intestinal lining. The poo is not only changed in colour, but also contains small chunks of tissue. This type of stool is characteristic for hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.
- Red streaks – the presence of bright red streaks or drops are indicative of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract.
- Dark black poop – indicates the presence of digested blood. This condition is known as melena. Melena is most common in dogs with gastro-intestinal bleedings from ulcers in the upper intestinal tract.
Calling the vet: If the abnormal colour persists for more than two stools or two days in row (depending on how frequently your dog poops), it is recommended to call your veterinarian and have your dog thoroughly checked.
Dog Poop Colour chart and shapes
In some literature, the consistency is described through the poop’s shape. Shape and consistency can be regarded as same because they are mutually dependant. Normal dog poop comes in one universal shape. The size may vary but the normally accepted shape or consistency is universal. A normal dog poop should be cylindrical, log-like and when picked up it should leave no mess. In a nutshell the perfect poop should have a Play-Doh consistency and hold its form without melting into the surrounding surface.
Changes in the consistency of the poop are indicative of health issues. For example, small and round stools are a sign of constipation. That may be due to dehydration, lack of exercise or other more serious health problems. Poops that look like stripes are associated with narrowing of the rectum. For example, intact male dogs, suffering from prostate enlargement usually have pencil-thin poop.
In order to be objective and make more accurate classification, veterinarians use a numerical system to score dog poop’s consistency. That scoring system is called Bristol stool chart. The Bristol stool chart was designed as a diagnostic aid tool in human medicine. Then it was borrowed and adapted for veterinary use. According to the chart, each type of poop is assigned with a value from 1 to 7, where 1 represents hard and sturdy pellets and 7 represents a poop puddle.
To make things simple and easy for you, we have listed the numbers of the Bristol Stool chart and explained what they represent.
Dog’s Stool scoring system
Stool score 1 indicates constipation. A poop that is assigned with a value of 1 is extremely hard and dry and usually expelled in the form of round, individual pellets. Its expulsion from the body requires significant effort. When picked up it does not leave any residue on the ground.
Stool score 2 is commonly known as ‘’Tootsie Roll Stool’’ and it means the poop is firm but not hard. It is pliable with segmented appearance. When picked up the poop leaves little or no residue on the ground. The consistency of the score 2 poop is ideal for expressing the anal glands. Some veterinarian consider stool score 2 to be indicative of semi-constipation. However, most veterinarians consider this score 2 as the ideal and healthy dog poo.
Stool score 3 has a log-like appearance with little or no visible segmentation and moist surface. When picked up it holds and remains firm but leaves a visible residue on the ground. This is considered a healthy poo and it in a healthy dog it should be seen more often than score 2. However, both scores are considered to be normal.
Stool score 4 defines a poop that is very moist and soggy. It still has a distinctive log shape while on the ground, but when picked up it loses its form and leaves a visible residue on the ground. This type of poop may be due to eating fruit or other human foods. This is considered normal as long as it happens now and then. If it occurs regularly, then it requires veterinary attention.
Stool score 5 indicate a very moist poop but has a distinct shape. It presents in piles rather than in distinctive logs. When picked up it loses form and leaves residue. In otherwise healthy dogs, this poo can resolve quickly.
Stool score 6 represent feces with defined texture but without defined shape. It can occur in piles or in distinctive spots. Picking this poop up is hard and once picked it definitely leaves substantial residues. This type of poop, especially if present for more than a day is an indicator that something wrong is going on.
Stool score 7 means flat and watery poop with no shape and no texture. It occurs in puddles. Picking this poo up is impossible – it needs to be wiped. This type of poop, especially if present for more than a day is an indicator that something wrong is going on.
We promised this topic will not be glamorous and fun and this is exactly where things become stinky and gross. The third factor considered when evaluating poop is its content. The only way to examine the content and see what is inside the poop is to dissect it.
Usually this is something vet techs do when you bring them a stool sample. However, if you are determined dog parent and want to know what your dog’s poop looks on the inside… well…we cannot stop you. Keep in mind that the inside of the poop should look exactly like the outside. Parts that do not resemble the outside surface are considered abnormalities. Simply put, the normal poop should be only poop and nothing extra.
Generally, the content of the poop is inspected and examined for three things:
- Foreign materials – they can only be seen if the dog ate something it cannot digest. The list of foreign materials goes as far as your imagination, or better said your dog’s imagination – grass, rocks, plastic, socks… Even certain foods can be considered foreign matters if they cannot be broken down. These foods usually include pieces of carrots (especially if not shredded) and chunks of corn.
- Blood – the presence of blood in the stool always indicates an abnormality. If your dog has diarrhea it may be accompanied with few spots of blood due to inflammation of the bowels. If your dog is constipated it also may be accompanied with few drops of blood due to straining and irritation of the bowels. If the presence of blood is consistent or in copious amount you need to bring your dog to the vet’s as soon as possible.
- Fur – dogs that tend to over-groom themselves can have big clumps of fur in their poop. It should be noted that over-grooming usually occurs secondary, as a sign of stress, boredom, allergies or certain skin issues. Another reason for excessive grooming is seasonal shedding. However, whatever the reason have your dog checked by a veterinarian. Hair clumps can be dangerous because they can cause intestinal blockage.
- Worms – you can find long, spaghetti-like strands (roundworms) or little rice-shaped tapeworm fragments.
Useful tip: When checking for worms, make sure the stool sample is fresh. If the poop has been outside for hours, chances are you will find a variety of bugs having a feast on it.
The dog’s lower intestinal tract is rich with glands that produce a clear and jelly-like slime or mucus. The purpose of that slime is to lubricate the colon and help the stool’s passage. Sometimes that mucus can coat the dog’s poo or accumulate at the end of the poop. The normal dog poo should not have a coating film over it. When you pick up your dog’s poop of the grass it should not leave any trace behind.
However, an occasional coating film is either normal or a self-resolving issue. If the coating film becomes a regular thing, you should probably have your dog checked by a veterinarian. Thick and visible mucus coating is usually associated with inflammation of the large bowels. When the bowels are inflamed they produce more lubricating jelly. Another condition associated with excessive production of lubricating jelly is food intolerance.
It is important to know your dog’s average poop size. Keep in mind that the poop size depends on the diet. If the dog eats food with high percentage of fillers, its poop will be bulkier because most of the nutrients are not absorbable. On the other hand, if it eats high-quality food, without fillers, its poop will be substantially smaller.
Another factor that determines the size of the poop is the size of the dog itself. It is more than obvious that a Teacup Chihuahua and a Great Dane cannot produce the same amount of poop.
Useful tip: Observe your dog’s poop size over the course of several days and determine its average size. Once you get acquainted with the poop’s average size, you will be prepared to recognize any signs of trouble.
If your dog does not eat much but the output’s volume is high that might signalize an absorption or digestion issue. Common condition that results with producing voluminous poop is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
Calling the vet Other signs of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency besides voluminous stool, include dull coat and sudden weight loss. If you notice these signs call your vet immediately.
Most dogs normally poop once or twice a day depending on their feeding regimen. If all of a sudden your dog starts eliminating more often, it is a sign of diarrhea. On the flip side, if your dog stops eliminating or tries to eliminate but without success, it is a sign of constipation.
If the above stated situations occur, observe your dog for other signs and symptoms and pay attention to what else is going on. Certain factors (diet changes, surgeries, anesthesia and stress) can influence your dog’s pooping frequency. If you are unable to identify an obvious cause and your dog’s bathroom behavior does not resolve within a day or two, take it to the vet.
MORE THAN WHAT MEETS THE EYE
The dog poop appearance is just the tip of the iceberg. The naked eye is not capable of registering certain things. For example, many dog owners do not use de-wormers because they believe their furry babies do not have worms. Even if you cannot see worms in your dog’s poop it is possible for your dog to be infected.
Simply stated, the worms may be in a developmental stage where their size is still not visible with the naked eye. That is why it is important to run fecal tests. The frequency of the fecal tests depends on the area you live and the worms that are common for that area. In some cases yearly tests are enough and in some cases you will have to do several tests per year.
In addition, worms are not the only parasites that can be found in a dog poop. Other pesky parasites include microscopic organisms such as protozoans, Coccidia and Giardia.
ARE CHANGES IN THE POOP’S APPEARANCE SOMETIMES NORMAL?
Yes. Under certain circumstances it is normal for the dog’s poop to look differently. If your dog’s poop is always nice-looking and then one day it looks different, do not be instantly alarmed. Pay attention to the poo and think whether something happened that could have triggered the issue.
For example, have you made a change in your dog’s diet; or has it recently been treated with de-wormers or has it been under stress and pressure. If you cannot find an obvious reason, watch your dog carefully for other signs and symptoms. If in doubt, bring a sample to your vet’s and have him examine your dog – if only to put your mind at ease.
Get your Dog’s Poop Healthy
Now that you have learned how to examine your dog’s poop and what changes to look for, it is time to discuss the right approach to keeping your dog’s poop healthy. Unfortunately there is no universal, one-approach-fits-all method for maintaining a perfectly healthy poop. Every dog is different and because of that every dog needs a tailored approach.
The factors that may influence your dog’s poop health and vary from one dog to another include:
- Eating habits – every dog has different eating habits. For example, some dogs are voracious eaters and some are picky eaters. If your dog eats too much and too quickly, the food with come out without being completely digested. That poop will contain chunks of food and smell like the food itself. In those cases it is not uncommon for the dog to eat its poop…well, why waste it?
- Diet – the type of dog poo produces depends mainly on its diet. Kibbles promote a harder stool, while moisture diets promote softer stool. Well balanced home-cooked meals are somewhere in between when it comes to the consistency of the poop they promote.
- Sensitivities and food intolerances – lately many dogs are becoming sensitive or intolerant to certain ingredients in the food. Some dogs are sensitive to lactose, some to gluten and some to added artificial additives, preservatives or colors in the food.
- Microorganism population – even though the normal microorganisms found in the gastrointestinal system of every dog are the same, their population numbers and ratios may vary between individuals. Every imbalance of the microorganisms in the gastrointestinal system results in either diarrhea or constipation.
- Presence of worms – as previously stated, worms are pesky parasites that can cause serious and even life-threatening issues in dogs.
- Systemic and metabolic diseases – unfortunately many systemic and metabolic disorders manifest with poop changes. What seems benign at first may turn out to be something dangerous.
With that being said, it is more than obvious that you cannot control everything that influences your dog’s poop. You definitely cannot control your dog’s diarrhea if it has parvovirus or control its constipation it the dog has an intestinal blockage due to a foreign body.
However, on a daily basis, the most common reasons for diarrhea and constipation are changes in the diet, inadequately formulated diets or the presence of worms. Fortunately, this issues are something you can influence on and either prevent or deal with. To help you successfully maintain your dog’s poop healthy we have compiled a list of helpful tips.
- Food changes
The most common reason for abnormal poop appearance is diet change. Luckily, this is easy to avoid. All you need to do is make the food switches gradually and over a prolonged period of time. Start by replacing one quarter of your dog’s old food with new one. After few days, start giving one half of the old food with one half of the new food. Then, you can give one quarter of the old food with three quarters of the new food. Within a week or two, you should be able to give your dog a full portion of the new food.
The diarrhea is the body’s perfect mechanism for cleansing and getting rid of toxins. If it is not accompanied by other symptoms, you can deal with it on your own, by following these 4 simple steps:
- Start a fasting period for your dog – the fast should last around 6-12 hours and during this period your dog should only be offered filtered or pre-boiled water.
- Use bland diet – this is important in order to prevent recurrence of the diarrhea.
- Use probiotics – they repopulate the digestive system with healthy bacteria and boost the immune system.
- Use prebiotics – they inhibit the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy bacterial flora.
If the diarrhea does not improve in 24 hours take your dog at the vet’s office.
The best way to deal with constipation is to keep your dog well hydrated. Adding moisture to the dog’s body usually solves constipation. To keep your dog hydrated you can add water or chicken broth to its meal. Another option is to replace its kibble with a canned version of the same feeding formula. Some human foods are also effective in resolving constipation. Those foods include green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and bran flakes.
Besides hydration, another important factor that battles constipation is physical activity. Physical activity stimulates the bowels to move. A third option is to lubricate your dog’s digestive system by adding a tablespoon of olive oil, fish oil or coconut oil in your dog’s regular food.
If the constipation does not improve in 24 hours take your dog at the vet’s office.
Worms are inevitable. Puppies are born with certain worms in them and throughout their entire lives they come in touch with new worms. Regular de-worming treatments are the best way to keep your dog worms-free, well…relatively worms free.
It should be noted that regularly used de-wormers are effective against the majority of worms. However, certain worms are not covered by those de-wormers. Therefore, insread of using regular broad spectrum de-wormers, we recommend to have your vet examine your vet examine your dog’s feces. Depending on what types of worms he will find, he will subscribe a proper de-wormer treatment. Another reason why it is recommended to always do a fecal analysis prior to de-worming is the dosing of the drug. For example, if the de-worming treatment is preventative, the de-wormer is used in a single dose. On the other hand if the de-worming treatment is therapeutic, the de-wormer should be administered for several days in a row. In addition, if your dog already has some worms and you only give a single, preventative dose, you are under-dosing your dog and stimulating the worms to become resistant to the de-wormer you use.
When using de-wormers it is important to keep the hygiene on a high level and remove your dog’s poop as soon as it comes out. This is important in order to prevent re-infestation.
Take Home Message…
Your dog’s poop can tell you a lot about its digestive system and overall health. It is a popular misconception that stool problems are always related with upset stomachs. Stool problems can indicate a plethora of more serious and even life-threatening conditions.
Therefore, it is important to observe your dog’s stool and take appropriate measures if something wrong happens. Keep in mind that when evaluating poop you always needs to take in context other health-related factors such as coat quality, healthy diet, energy and emotional stability.
If you are in doubt or cannot decide whether your dog’s poop is normal or not, do not hesitate to consult with a professional. At the end of the day, it is always better to be safe than sorry.