Decoding Your Dog’s Poop

by Manya Vaish

Did you know that your dog’s poop can be a great indicator of their overall health issues?

Well, sometimes it’s tough to figure out if your dogs are healthy or ill. However, as a responsible dog parent, there are a few things you can do to monitor your dog’s health. And the most basic yet effective step is - to observe their stool. When talking about your dog’s health, sometimes their poop is proof. A sudden change in the poop’s consistency can be because of diarrhea. But if the poop suddenly gets into unusual color or changes in shape or size, there is a problem!

Dog Poop Consistency Chart
Photo by Greg Stump
Since your dogs cannot hop on the doctor’s examination table and tell us what ails them, you need to keep a track of what goes in their body and what comes out. And a good way to check their health is with a stool sample. Don’t worry, the work isn’t tough. When looking at your dog’s poop, you should remember the four Cs - its color, consistency, coating, and content. Also, you should know what healthy poop looks like.

Healthy Dog Poop: What Should It Look Like?

The definition of “normal” poop varies from one dog to another. However, in general, your pooch’s poop should be firm and easy to scoop. The color of healthy poop should be plain old milk chocolate brown (neither too dark nor too light) with a log-like shape and no additional fluids like - frothy saliva, mucus, or blood. Lastly, it should not consist of any foreign objects, worms, or parasites.

Anything apart from this is an indication of some abnormalities in your dog’s body.

Dog Poop Color Chart
Photo by https://pawcastle.com/

Here are some factors to decode your dog’s stool.

Color

Poops of other colors are not always a reason for concern, particularly if they reflect something your dogs might have eaten earlier. For instance, if your dog snatched some carrots the other day, you shouldn’t be alarmed to see a little orange color in their stool. However, if you see some unusual colors that you can’t explain, then there is a reason to worry!

  • Dark Brown, Black, Or Tarry Poop
  • If your dog’s poop suddenly takes on a black or tarry appearance, it indicates internal bleeding (in the stomach or intestines). Though it’s a relatively rare occurrence, it can point to several digestive conditions such as - 

    • Ulcer
    • Cancer
    • Pancreatitis
    • Kidney failure 
    • Parasites
    • Presence of foreign body in the gastrointestinal system
    • Hemorrhage
  • Red Poop
  • Red stools are a symptom of straining, gastroenteritis, colitis, or anal fissure, that will require veterinary intervention. If you notice a small amount of bright red color but everything else seems normal, it may be nothing to tense for. However, if there is a larger amount of blood or it appears more than once, it can be due to infections, gastroenteritis, or other issues.

  • Green Poop
  • Green stools indicate over-consumption of grass by your dogs or can even point to a gallbladder issue, rat bait poisoning, an internal parasite, or some other issue.

  • Orange, Yellow, Or Pale Poop
  • Often, the yellow or orange color stool is a sign of some liver or biliary problem. However, it could also mean that food has moved too quickly through your dog’s GI tract and couldn’t pick up the bile.

  • Grey, Light Tan, Or White
  • Grey or light tan stools can be an indicator of pancreatic or liver issues. Whereas the appearance of white flecks can be a symptom of worms that can be contagious for your dog’s body. If the poop is entirely white or chalky, then your pooch is consuming too much calcium.

    What if it’s your dog’s own white fur in their poop?

    If your dogs lick their fur and sometimes swallow it, they can have a furry poop. It is a symptom of allergies or other skin diseases.

    Decoding Your Dog's Poop
    Photo by https://www.freepik.com

    Consistency

    For the most part, your pup’s poop should be solid, slightly moist, easy to pick up, and firm. While a temporary change in your dog’s stool consistency might not be something to worry about (i.e. one or two loose stools because you gave your pup too many treats or transitioning their food), the following changes should be addressed with your vet.

  • Dry Stool
  • If your pup is facing the issue of dry stool (or if he’s producing small, round, pellet-shaped poops), it can be due to dehydration or constipation. You can try increasing their water intake and keep a check if that helps.

    Other reasons for constipation can be as follows-

    • Too much or too little fiber in their diet
    • Lack of exercise
    • Due to certain medications
    • Stress or emotional upset
    • Anal gland issues
    • Digestive tract tumors
    • Prostate enlargement
  • Diarrhea/Loose Stools
  • A single bout of diarrhea should not concern you. However, if it persists for too long, it might indicate some underlying health problem. You can start by determining the potential causes for diarrhea - did they have some non-approved food or did you recently switch their diet?

    If yes, then the watery stool is going to pass anomaly.

    But if it’s a chronic case, you should immediately concern your vet.

    Some of the common causes of diarrhea are-

    • Change in diet
    • Eating too much grass or garbage
    • Due to certain medications
    • Ingestion of a poisonous substance
    • Swallowing an indigestible foreign object
    • Food intolerance
    • Stress
    • Allergies or bacterial infection
    • Parasites (such as Giardia and worms) or Viruses (such as Parvovirus)
    • Kidney or liver problems
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Cancer

    Content

    The inside of your pup’s stool should be similar to the outside part. Here are some abnormalities to look for-

    • You should not find any foreign objects like - grass or toy parts etc. in your dog’s poop.
    • The presence of large clumps of fur in the poop indicates allergies, anxiety, boredom, or skin disease.
    • Long and skinny or rice-shaped worms that can be contagious for your dog’s health.

    Coating

    Your dog’s stool should not consist of any film or coating on it. After picking up the poop, if you find any kind of trail left behind, it may be an indication of bowel inflammation.

    A little mucus in the stool is normal, as it helps keep the lining of the colon lubricated and moist. However, an excessive amount of mucus in your pooch’s poop usually indicates inflammation in the bowel. It could be the result of some medical condition like - colitis or parvovirus. Other causes for excess mucus in the poop can be - intestinal infections or parasites, dietary indiscretion, rapid transition in their diet, adverse food reaction, or inflammatory disorders.

    The appearance of excess blood is also an abnormality, as it can be an indication of systemic or gastrointestinal disease.

    How To Decode Your Dog's Poop
    Image by https://www.freepik.com

    Shape and Size

    Your dog’s poop should be log-like in shape. If it is round, pellet-shaped, or abnormally hard it can be a telltale sign that your dog is dehydrated. And it appears to be too large relative to the amount of food they have been consuming, it could be a sign that their meals aren’t being properly absorbed.

    In general, if your dogs are fed with fresh food, they will produce smaller poops because the food is absorbed properly into their body. On the flip side, if their food is filled with cheap fillers, they will produce large and bulky stools.

    The Poop Is The Proof

    If your dogs are otherwise eating properly, drinking a sufficient amount of water, and behaving normally, you might not observe poop issues for more than once. However, if you notice the same problem more than once, it is better to consult your vet.

    The main thing to bear in mind when it comes to your pooch’s poop is that it is directly related to the quality of food they eat. So, to promote good digestion, focus on serving them fresh and healthy meals. Also, regular exercise and a stress-free environment will help your pup’s digestion to function smoothly and save them from any problems in the future.