The scoop on dog poop
Anyone who owns a dog will tell you how frequently and extensively dog parents obsess over their precious pets’ poop. They do so with good reason — a dog’s poop can clue you into their health as little else can! You can spot signs of internal bleeding, stomach distress, parasitic infections and more before the symptoms appear elsewhere and promptly take your dog to the vet. Another reason to always walk your dog yourself and pick up after them!
Here’s what to look out for when you observe your dog’s poop:
Frequency & Volume:
An ideal range of poop frequency for dogs is 1–3 times per day. Some dogs change their frequency of pooping when they move to new surroundings. They may poop more frequently or may go just once every two days. Poop ties into anxiety too, so if you have an anxious dog, you may notice a change in frequency when they feel anxious. Keep an eye out for a sudden change in frequency — it can indicate changes in your dog’s behaviour and health. Notice if your dog is straining to poop, having issues with control, scooting, or exhibiting any other alarming behaviour.
The frequency can go up if they are eating more. It can also indicate issues with digestion and the gut, such as an infection, inflammation, or another serious matter. The frequency can decrease due to reduced food intake, dehydration or an obstruction in the gut. A new diet can alter the frequency of the stools — if more food is absorbed, it can go down and vice versa.
The volume of your dog’s poop varies based on how much food is getting absorbed. If everything else is the same, dogs on a kibble-based diet (where most of the ingredients pass unabsorbed) tend to have more voluminous poop than dogs on a home-cooked diet.
It’s surprising how many colours dog poop can come in! Each colour corresponds to a different issue/ cause. Regular dog poop should be chocolate brown. If your dog is getting creative with the colour of their stools, check the chart below to see what’s up:
Chocolate Brown: Ideal Colour! Light to dark brown poop is within an ideal range, provided no additional components are found and consistency is okay.
White: White, chalk-like stools may be a result of excessive calcium in a dog’s diet. Dogs on raw diets may have stools that turn white after a day — that’s okay!
Grey: Grey stools indicate a pancreas issue or excess fat in the diet. If limiting fat doesn’t resolve the issue, see a vet. Pale stools indicate liver, gallbladder and bile duct issues.
Yellow/ Orange: Associated with eating carrots / artificial food colouring, yellow- orange poop may also indicate a liver issue. Contact your vet if diet doesn’t change the colour.
Green: Green poop indicates ingestion of a lot of grass or gallbladder/ biliary issues. Contact the vet if your dog doesn’t eat a lot of grass and the issue persists.
Brown + Red streaks: The red streaks are fresh blood and indicate bleeding around the lower GI tract or anus. This may happen if your dog has very hard stools.
Black + Tarry: VET VISIT REQUIRED. Black + tar-like poop indicates bleeding in the upper GI tract. The digested blood comes out this way.
Red/ Purple/ Reddish Purple: VET VISIT REQUIRED. Bright red/ purple/ reddish-purple poop or poop with lots of blood indicates Acute Haemorrhagic Diarrhoea Syndrome (AHDS).
Blue/ Weird Colour: VET VISIT REQUIRED. Poop can have unusual colour due to the ingestion of non-food items which may be toxic. Blue poop colour is associated with pesticide ingestion.
Consistency is kind of on the same lines as volume. However, it tells you about the state of your dog’s digestive system regardless of how much your dog poops. The ideal poop should be firm and easy to pick up. Whether your dog poops more or less than usual, the consistency should remain this way.
Poop consistency can be firmer or looser than ideal. Firmer stools can mean constipation, and looser stools can mean diarrhoea. The consistency of stools can vary due to changes in diet. Dogs on a raw or meat-based diet with bone content tend to have drier, firmer stools than dogs on kibble or vegetarian diets. Even introducing new foods or a change in brand may alter the stool consistency. Check that chart below to see what your dog’s stool consistency can mean:
Pebble-like: CONSTIPATION. Hard to pass, extremely dry and pebble-like poop. Check for dehydration. Consult a vet if it persists for a long time.
Segmented Log: Ideal consistency for raw-fed/ home-diet dogs. Segmented but not extremely hard. Well-formed stools.
Firm Log: Ideal consistency. Firm, well-formed and easy to pick up poop. Moist, holds form when picked and leaves no residue on the ground.
Soft Log: Log-shaped but soggy — loses shape and leaves residue on the ground when picked. Adding vegetable fibre and probiotics may help.
Soft Pile: Soft pile instead of log shape. May progress into further diarrhoea if not treated with diet. Consult vet if this doesn’t resolve with diet changes.
Mushy Piles: EARLY DIARRHOEA. Some texture but no shape. Consult a vet if this continues for more than a couple of days.
Liquid Puddle: DIARRHOEA. Watery stools (mostly accompanied by fould odour), might be an infection. Keep your dog hydrated and see a vet if this repeats frequently.
You may say, “Poop is poop; what else will I find there?” However, if you monitor your dog’s stools regularly, you’ll be surprised at the range of things that come out with poop! From fur/ hair to worms, plastic/ cloth/ foreign objects, grass, mucus, fat and blood, there’s a lot you may observe apart from poop in your dog’s stools, and these are almost always a cause for alarm. This is why you must pay attention to the contents of your dog’s stools, especially to any special appearances by non-poop contents!
Check the chart below to see what different contents in your dog’s poop can mean:
Worms: VET VISIT REQUIRED. Tiny, rice-like white specks in the poop are tapeworms. Adult round worms look like spaghetti. Visit a vet for emergency deworming.
Hair: Some hair is okay but a lot of hair in poop is a sign of overgrooming, so you should look for any skin or behavioural issues. Hair in poop can lead to constipation.
Grass/ Plants: Many dogs cannot digest fibres in grass and other plants. These may come out intact in the poop. Ensure they don’t eat toxic plants. Blend veggies so they absorb better.
Blood: VET VISIT REQUIRED. Bright red streaks may not be as dangerous but digested blood (tar-like black poop) and bloody diarrhoea require a vet visit to control bleeding.
Mucus: The dog’s digestive tract produces some mucus to move things along but excessive mucus means a digestive/ large bowel infection causing intestinal inflammation.
Fat: Greyish, slimy, shiny poop with offensive odour. Fat in the poop indicates malabsorption of nutrients — a small bowel issue. Consult a vet or change the diet.
Foreign Objects: If you notice plastic, cloth, wood, etc., in your dog’s poop, visit the vet to rule out intestinal blockage, internal injury and poisoning. Feeding fibre may help pass it.
When to worry:
Now that you know what ‘ideal’ dog poop should look like, make a note of what your dog’s usual poop is. Your dog’s particular poop may vary based on diet, health, level of exercise, etc.
Watch out for any sudden changes in the quality of your dog’s poop, especially when the diet remains the same. Sudden changes in odour (it should be mild but noticeable; you get used to it), frequency, volume, consistency or colour of the stools may indicate issues. If this happens just once and your dog moves back to regular poop afterwards, it may have been due to something they ate on a walk or elsewhere. Monitor the next few stools closely.
Consistency can vary based on the diet but very firm or loose stools for a prolonged time are a cause for concern. As mentioned above, if you notice your dog straining to defecate, scooting, or having issues with control, there may be an issue.
Scooting can just be a post-poop bum-wiping thing. It can also happen because of parasitic infestations, a low-fibre diet, anal gland issues or just general discomfort around the anus. Your dog may scoot when they merely need to go poop. Straining can happen because of gut issues (especially inflammation in the gut or constipation), hip/back/joint pain, or even neurological issues. Anal gland issues can also cause a dog to strain. In female dogs, straining may be associated with peeing instead of pooping — you should get that checked too. Causes for diarrhoea include gut infections, inflammation of the pancreas, issues with the sphincter, and food hypersensitivity.
Often, one can manage changes in stools with diet, but it is better to err on the side of caution. If you notice any blood or worms in the stool, you should make a quick trip to the vet and have it investigated (such issues are marked in the respective charts above). Even if you notice a non-emergent change in stools, which does not resolve in a couple of days or through a change in diet, take your dog to the vet.
Ensuring healthy poop:
While you should consult a vet for long-term or emergency issues, you can do the following at home to keep your dog pooping well:
Outside the trash bin at home, the most effortless access a dog has to unsuitable and unsanitary (yet savoury by dog standards) food is on walks. Dogs get a delectable menu comprising of bird and animal carcasses, rotten fruits and vegetables, friend snack leftovers, biscuit crumbs, and the odd paper tumbler with a bit of tea or coffee at the bottom. It is horrific how easily and quickly your otherwise picky dog can eat something off the streets and the magnitude of trouble that little bit of food can cause.
It is crucial to train your dog not to eat food from the streets and keep a close eye on your dog on walks, especially if they’re younger and have not been trained yet.
Regular exercise ensures healthy gut movement, leading to healthy poop. It also keeps your dog from getting bored and reduces the chances of Coprophagia — dogs eating stools. Boredom is just one of the reasons behind this behaviour; it can also be a nutritional or medical issue or may have roots in a different behavioural problem.
Of course, do not increase exercise for a dog with diarrhoea or one that is not up for exercise. Ensure your dog is adequately hydrated (even when they have healthy stools).
This can be helpful for dogs that are dehydrated and constipated. Dogs suffering from diarrhoea should also be given extra water to make up for the fluid loss. For chronic diarrhoea, your vet may give you additional supplements or put the dog on IV fluids.
Add Probiotics and prebiotics:
Adding these to the food helps maintain healthy gut flora, leading to better poop. Read more about them here (under ‘extras’).
Add Fibre and Bones:
Fibre helps with constipation and diarrhoea. Good sources of fibre include pumpkin and green, leafy vegetables. Bones help firm up loose stools. If your dog has hard stools, controlling the quantity of bones being fed will help make them softer. As a rule, never feed your dog cooked bones. You can read more about bones and fibre here (under ‘meat’ and ‘fibre’ respectively).
While the general benefit of oil in diet is associated with skin and coat health, oil also helps dogs with constipation. Coconut or Olive oil is a good choice. While adding oil to the diet, be careful with the amount, especially for dogs that need to be on law-fat diets. Ensure it remains balanced with any extra fat in the diet like animal fat. Too much fat in the diet can lead to mucus in the stools. Read more about oils here (under ‘fats’).
If your dog has diarrhoea, it may be because of food intolerance or an allergy. Food intolerance occurs when the body has a chemical reaction to a particular substance that has been ingested, leading to discomfort. A food allergy is an immune response to certain foods that are otherwise harmless; it can be life-threatening. Your dog can have either, so it is crucial to see how certain ingredients, especially new ones, affect your dog. If you notice any intolerance or allergic reaction to an ingredient, eliminate it from the diet.
Change in diet:
If you notice your dog having poop trouble on their current diet (raw/cooked/kibble), try switching it up for a bit or give them a short break so that their digestive system is relieved from the stress. See how the change affects them. If their poop improves, it’s time for a diet change. It is good to consult a professional for this.
Sudden overhauls in diet can also wreak havoc on your dog’s gut. If you introduce any new ingredients or change their diet, always do so over a transition period of a week — 10 days.
We’re fortunate to have dog poop in our lives. It gives us early signs of issues which can then be treated and resolved before they evolve into chronic or life-threatening conditions. You can track your dog’s poop by maintaining a chart where you note the colour, consistency and contents. This will not only help you manage their health but will also help you track the effect of changes in diet and introduction to new foods. As disgusting as you may find it, your dog’s poop is often the biggest asset for you — pick it up on every walk and use it to your advantage!