It may dumbfound you, but “dog poop” is a very popular search term on the internet. A simple mouse click pulls in 84,900,000 results to choose from! You may be asking, “Why would anyone want to look this up?” I thought the same thing at one point in time. That was BEFORE I owned a dog. I have quickly learned that puppies bring on a whole new world of adventure, and yes, even messy, stinky, poop-filled ones.
As a dog owner, it is very common to wonder whether or not your furry friend is healthy. Did you know that one of the simplest dog health indicators is the pattern of their bowel movements? Nobody adopts a puppy thinking that they’ll be standing in the yard, hovering over a pile of cah-cah, and taking pictures to google search with… but, SURPRISE and welcome to the club. I care about your time and sanity, so I have put together a little guide to save both. It might not be my cleanest work (wink, wink), but it tops the charts for “most helpful.”
If your dog is in good health, then poop should have a reasonably similar color, size, and consistency at each elimination. Veterinarians have developed a protocol to evaluate your pup’s potty performance.
That system is known as the 4 C’s – consistency, coating, color, and content.
The first time my kids reported that our dog’s poop looked “strange” was because of its consistency. None of us are experts, but my kids at least knew (from their own toilet experiences) that liquidation was not desirable. Chances are, you will easily notice if the form of your dog’s poop is different, but how do you know what it all means? There are generally 5 “states of matter” when it comes to dog poop. Here’s the breakdown:
Liquid – This can mean your dog’s organs are not properly digesting food. Reasons could point to a particular ingredient allergy or intolerance. Sometimes it can also hint at a severe infection (like a parasite, bacterial infection, or inflammatory bowel disease). Click here for more info on dog diarrhea.
Mushy Blobs – This means that the poop has texture but no defined shape. If you’ve changed your dog’s regular food recently, keep an eye out for soft and loose stools. This is typical, but you may have to alter the diet if it doesn’t improve. “Cow patty” poop also brings the possibility that your pup has been eating things he shouldn’t! Whether it’s too many table scraps or leaves and mushrooms from around the yard, your pup’s sensitive tummy lining may react negatively. By keeping a closer eye on his munching shenanigans, you should see improved potty patterns.
Water Logs – These would be poops that are oblong shaped and somewhat solid but may not stay together when picked up. Generally speaking, these poops are normal, but if you notice anything in addition to “extra squish” (such as mucous or strange colors), you should monitor the situation. Poops that are over-soft regularly may also indicate a diet that is too high in fat content.
Swiss Rolls – I liken this form to the tasty snack treat by Little Debbie because it’s your ideal dog poop! I realize that you may never want to eat those again, sorry (or maybe you’re welcome?). The aim for healthy dog poop is a well-formed log, slightly wet, sized proportionately to your dog, and leaves no trace behind upon cleanup. These desired defecations mean your dog’s diet, fluid intake, and digestion are working together harmoniously.
Pebbles – Stools that come out too dry or hard are signs of dehydration or sluggish intestinal function. Dogs with overly dry, ball-shaped stools are at increased risk of persistent constipation and discomfort with elimination. Chronic dry or extremely firm poops warrant a veterinary evaluation. The vet will most likely recommend a gradual diet change to improve gut motility and absorption. You can learn more about safely transitioning your pup’s nutritional intake here.
There should be no coating or casing on your dog’s poop if he is physically healthy. Small traces of clear or white mucous can be expected based on a number of factors, but significant amounts or traces of blood signals a problem. You might be wondering how you will KNOW that mucous is present. Fear not, it is very obvious. Whether slimy, globby, or enveloping, the substance will stand out. If you notice this, and it goes on for more than a day or two, don’t ignore it. It could be roundworm, giardia, or other bacterial infection that requires vet attention.
When it comes to the art of elimination, your dog may have a tendency to “taste the rainbow.” Well, hopefully, he doesn’t TASTE it (though some dogs do display that disgusting habit), but ejecting rainbows from their wiggle butt isn’t far-fetched. It’s typical for a dog’s poop to be different colors from time to time, and the specific color can clue you into what’s happening inside your pup. As a baseline, the ideal poo will be a light to medium chocolate brown color. That’s the goal, but don’t be shocked if you see something else. I’ve outlined some common changes in poop pigmentation that owners may notice throughout their pup’s lifespan.
Black – If your dog’s poop looks black or maroon colored, it could be due to the stomach’s digestion of blood. This could happen because of intestinal or stomach ulcers. A few of the other common reasons are cancer, foreign bodies, parasites, and viral or bacterial pathogens. Black poop with a tarry or jelly-like consistency is also indicative of Melena, a serious upper gastrointestinal tract condition that causes bleeding. As you can see, black poop can be a big deal and should therefore be brought to your vet’s attention as soon as possible.
White / Grey – Sometimes, dogs fed a raw-foods diet can produce stools that turn white within 24 hours. However, it is NOT normal for your pup’s stools to be initially released with a white, chalk-like consistency. This can be caused by too much calcium (excess bones) in their diet. White or grey poop can also be a cue that maldigestion is occurring. The liver and pancreas produce essential digestive enzymes, such as bile and insulin, which aid in turning poop brown. If those components are not functioning together correctly, the result will be pale poop. Additionally, if you see white or grey specks in otherwise brown stool, your pup may have worms. This scenario would require a deworming medication from your vet.
Green / Yellow – Greenish pigment in the stool, while alarming visually, is not always a cause for concern. If your dog eats a large amount of grass, other plant material, or even Greenies treats, it could tint his poop green. If you’ve confidently ruled out excessive grass eating, and the color hasn’t settled after a few days, then it’s time to chat with your vet. Green and yellowish poop can also signify colitis (which is inflammation of the large intestine or colon), gall bladder issues, biliary/liver disease, or the possible ingestion of toxins such as rat poison.
Red – When your dog’s poop looks red, it’s a sure sign of blood. This could result from colon inflammation, bleeding somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract, a rectal injury, or an infection in your dog’s anus or anal glands. If you see red or signs of blood in your dog’s number two, call your vet and let them know what the symptoms are, he or she may want to examine your dog to check for other underlying issues.
Other Colors – Ever wonder why Crayola made crayons non-toxic? I’m fairly confident it wasn’t just human kids’ safety they had in mind. Crayons, as well as other colorful, crunchy items, are intoxicating to puppies. They eat them a LOT, and what goes in one end can undoubtedly affect the color that comes out the other. Technicolor poop isn’t always a major concern, but you should keep any change to normal patterns under observation.
Finding foreign items mixed into normal dog poop isn’t ideal or very enjoyable. It also isn’t out of the ordinary. I vividly remember when my son observed a strange artifact while pooper scooping. It was clearly not brown, solid yet squishy, and imprinted with tiny flamingos. Yes, it was my toddler’s missing sock. I was shocked that my puppy would eat such a thing on PURPOSE. Over the next few weeks, I observed him eat many more bizarre things and subsequently watched him strain to push them out of his tiny hiney.
Like me, you may see some interesting objects in your dog’s poop now and then – grass, leaves, rocks, parts of toys, and even fur… but you shouldn’t see worms. Parasitic worms are not only gross but pose a big health risk. These will appear long and skinny or rice-shaped. It’s key to examine a fresh stool sample since healthy poop that’s been outside for a while might attract worms. If you see any unwelcome wigglers in your pup’s stool, be sure to clean it up immediately, thoroughly wash your hands, and schedule a vet visit for deworming.
It’s a little nauseating to inspect your pup’s dirty business, but since you’re already cleaning up after Fido (may I suggest using eco-friendly poop bags), you might as well take a peek. It’s responsible as a dog owner to be proactive with their health! You may even find out where all those micro-machines have disappeared to. If you would like to go above and beyond, this downloadable doggy doo diary by Big Dog Pet Foods is a great tool. Remember, if you have more questions, Google image search is more than happy to help answer them… though your friendly veterinarian may be a more reliable source.