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Dog Poop 101: Essential Guide of Healthy and Unhealthy Dog Poop

What can your dog’s poop tell you? It turns out, quite a lot!

Paying attention to the color, consistency, coating, and contents of your dog’s poop can provide you with valuable insight into your dog’s health. While abnormal color or consistency might simply be related to a change in diet, it can also be a sign of a serious health concern.

Read our essential guide to learn what healthy dog and puppy poop should look like and save this healthy vs unhealthy dog poop explanation for easy reference anytime your dog’s poop looks abnormal. 

What Should Healthy Dog Poop Look Like?

Healthy dog poop should be light to dark brown in color. It should have a firm consistency and be formed and segmented when passed. When picked up, there should be little to no evidence left behind. The amount of stool should be proportionate to how much your dog eats.

Dog Poop Color Meanings

A sudden change in the color of your dog’s poop isn’t always cause for panic, but it’s definitely something to monitor. Take a moment to think about what your dog has eaten recently. Brightly colored foods, like carrots or broccoli, can easily affect dog poop color. If you decide to call the vet, they’ll want to know what your dog has eaten recently, so it’s worth noting.

  • Brown Dog Poop: Brown is considered an acceptable and normal color for dog poop.

  • Green Dog Poop: Eating green foods or grass can lead to green dog poop. If your dog has been eating grass, it may indicate gastrointestinal troubles, often related to stress or a diet change. Green dog poop can also be a sign of intestinal parasites, infection, or something more serious, such as gallbladder disease. If you don’t believe diet is the cause, collect a stool sample and reach out to your vet for advice.

  • Yellow or Orange Dog Poop: A slightly yellowish tint to healthy brown dog poop is likely normal, but poop that’s truly yellow or orange is cause for concern. Yellow and orange dog poop can be a sign of liver issues, infection, or digestive problems. If you’ve ruled out a food-related color change, it’s time to consult your vet..

  • Pink or Magenta Dog Poop: Richly colored foods or dyes in your pet’s food or treats could temporarily turn portions of your dog’s poop a pink or magenta color. However,  stool that looks almost uniformly like raspberry jam can indicate hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, a serious and potentially fatal condition if left untreated. If you don’t believe food is the culprit, collect a stool sample and call the vet.

  • Red Dog Poop: If it’s not food-related, seeing red or red streaks in your dog’s poop indicates the presence of blood. This can be related to an infection, parasites, trauma to the rectum, bleeding polyps, or any number of intestinal conditions. Red poop is always cause for concern and warrants a visit to the vet.

  • Black Dog Poop: Black stool is concerning because it typically indicates digested blood caused by bleeding in the stomach or upper gastrointestinal tract. Dogs with black poop may have an undiagnosed medical condition, so they should see the vet right away

  • Grey Dog Poop: Gray dog poop can indicate pancreatic or liver issues. If the stool is also greasy, it’s possible your dog has eaten too much fatty food or has a pancreatic condition. Consult with your vet to determine the best course of action.

  • White Dog Poop: White stools are typically a sign of constipation or too much calcium in the diet. This can be common in dogs who eat a raw diet or are fed bones. If your dog is exhibiting signs of illness or the abnormal poop color persists for more than 24 hours, it’s time to call the vet to rule out potential health concerns.

Healthy vs Unhealthy Dog Poop Consistency

When it comes to dog poop consistency, firm and tubular are the goal. Many veterinarians score dog poop on a scale of 1-7. Ideal poop scores a two on the fecal scoring chart. Slightly softer, less formed poop scores a three and is also considered normal. 

Anything else should be monitored closely and reported to your vet if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms. Here’s what to know about poop consistency outside the normal numbers.

  • Hard Dog Poop: A hard poop consistency often indicates constipation, dehydration, or a lack of fiber in the diet. If hard dog poop is also white in color, it’s likely due to too much calcium in the dog’s diet. However, hard stools can also indicate underlying conditions like kidney disease or digestive disorders, so they should be reported to the vet if they’re recurring.

  • Runny or Watery Dog Poop: Runny or watery dog poop is diarrhea, which can be caused by a sudden change in diet or stress. However, it could also indicate giardia, parasites, infection, viruses, or in rare cases, even cancer.  

A single episode that clears up on its own usually isn’t cause for concern, but if there’s blood in the diarrhea, it continues for multiple episodes, or the dog is showing signs of pain or illness, reach out to your vet right away.

Dog Poop Contents and When to be Concerned

The contents of your dog’s stool can be pretty gross but are the cause for concern? Here’s what to know.

  • Undigested Food: It’s not uncommon for a little bit of food to pass undigested occasionally, but if you’re noticing it repeatedly or in large amounts, it may indicate a digestive issue or abnormality. It’s worth mentioning to the vet and requires emergency attention if you’re noticing vomiting or other signs of illness.

  • Hair: A little bit of hair in the stool from time to time is perfectly normal, especially if your dog has long or thick fur. But if there’s a lot of hair, especially if it’s accompanied by vomiting or weight loss, it’s time to call the vet. In very rare cases, an intestinal blockage can occur from a build-up of hair.

  • Intestinal Parasites: White, rice-like particles or longer skinny segments in your dog or puppy’s poop often indicate worms. Worms in the stool always require diagnosis and treatment. They’re especially common in puppies, but not unusual in older dogs as well.  Some intestinal worms can be contagious to humans and other pets. Collect a stool sample and consult your vet to choose the correct dewormer for the type of worms your dog has.

  • Foreign Objects: If you find something in your dog’s poop that shouldn’t be there, such as a sock or food wrapper, examine it closely to see if the entire object has been passed. Call the vet if you suspect that there could be more of the object in your dog’s intestinal tract. Ingesting foreign objects can lead to impaction or injury of the rectum, or even a serious and potentially fatal blockage of the digestive tract.

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Should Your Dog’s Poop Have a Slimy Coating?

A slimy, mucousy, or jelly-like coating on the outside of your dog’s poop could indicate irritation in the large bowel. This may be a sign of colitis, infection, or an inflammatory condition. Consult with your vet to find the underlying cause, and be on the lookout for unexplained weight loss or vomiting.

What Should Healthy Puppy Poop Smell Like?

Let’s face it. Dog and puppy poop will never smell pleasant. But if your pet’s poop suddenly becomes more stinky than usual, it’s worth monitoring. Unusually stinky poop or excessive gas can indicate parasites or potential infection.

When to Call the Vet About Your Dog’s Poop

Anytime you’re unsure what’s causing an abnormal stool, it’s worth calling the vet for advice.

However, a single abnormal poop isn’t necessarily a reason to panic. If your dog’s behavior and energy are normal otherwise, close monitoring at home for further issues will likely suffice.

But, if the signs of unhealthy dog poop continue for more than 24 hours, even if there are no other symptoms, a trip to the vet can ease your mind and determine the potential need for treatment.

However, if your dog or puppy isn’t eating or drinking, or the abnormal stool is accompanied by other symptoms, such as behavior changes or lethargy, this could indicate an emergency situation. A trip to the vet is recommended as soon as possible. Acting quickly could vastly improve your pet’s prognosis and prevent unnecessary discomfort.

How to Collect a Stool Sample

So, you’ve called the vet and a stool sample has been requested. Now what? Is there a right way to collect a stool sample? 

Essentially, collecting a stool sample is as simple as picking up your dog’s poop with a plastic bag. However, the sample should be as fresh as possible and stored in an airtight container. In some cases, a stool sample can simply be dropped off at the front desk of your vet clinic without an appointment. 

However, if you can’t get the sample to your vet right away, it can be stored in the fridge, but check with the vet first to make sure that’s compatible with the tests they’re planning to run. If your dog’s stool is too watery for you to pick up, take photos to send to your vet.

The Takeaway

Examining your dog’s poop may not be pleasant, but it can tell you a lot about their overall health, so it’s important to pay attention. 

To recap, healthy puppy poop and dog poop should be brown, well-formed, and proportionate in size to your pet's food intake. One-time abnormalities may not be cause for alarm, but they should be monitored closely. If the issue lasts longer than 24 hours or is accompanied by signs of illness or behavioral changes, it’s time to consult your vet.

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