Is My Dog’s Poop Normal? Dog Poop Problems Explained · The Wildest

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Is My Dog’s Poop Normal?

From bloody poop to diarrhea—all your dog’s poop problems explained.

by Dr. Shea Cox, DVM, CVPP, CHPV
Updated December 14, 2023
A black dog ​​with a tilted head looks attentively at the camera while sitting in grass.
Nikita / Adobe Stock

Nothing really fazes dog parents. We wake up the second we hear our pup make a sound like they’re going to throw up. When they’re puppies, we stick our hands in their mouths to fish out that piece of trash they’ve decided is a snack. We take them outside in the rain and snow. And when they poop, we examine it to make sure it looks OK and deal with dog poop disposal. That’s just part of the deal, but it’s important to know the signs of unhealthy dog feces. 

Your dog’s poop can give you and their veterinarian insights into their overall health. That’s why your vet’s office may ask for a stool sample every time you make your dog’s annual appointment. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your dog’s poop and notice any changes in color, content, and consistency that could indicate a leather health issue. 

How do I know if my dog’s poop is normal?

Wondering what healthy dog poop looks like? Consistency is the number-one thing you should see. Dog stool should generally have the same color, size, and texture every time. Abnormalities in your dog’s poop color and consistency may indicate an underlying health problem. 

What does healthy dog poop look like?

So, what is normal dog poop? Health dog poop should be light to dark brown and have a firm consistency. The stool should look the same inside as it does outside — that means no worms or visible parasites — and when you pick up the stool, it shouldn’t leave a trail or any sort of mucus behind. As for how much your dog poops in a single trip outside, the amount should be proportionate to how much your dog ate for their most recent meal. 

What are the causes of variation in dog poop?

There are many causes of changes in bowel movements. There are even times when we vets don’t know what causes a significant poop change. Some of the more common causes are:

  • A poor diet or general dietary changes

  • Stress (known as stress colitis)

  • Infectious disease

  • Inflammatory conditions

  • Obstructive issues

Keep in mind that every dog’s poop is a little different. You should pay attention to your dog’s stools and know what their normal poop looks like so you can more easily detect a change in color, size, or consistency. 

How to decode your dog’s poop

There are all different types of dog poop, and different colors and consistencies can indicate potential underlying health problems. Or a strange-colored stool can just mean that your dog ate brightly colored or dyed food. Here are some signs and changes to note when checking your dog’s stool. 

1. Streaks of bright red blood and/or mucus

When red mucus discoloration appears on the surface of a mostly normal, formed dog stool, it’s generally caused by inflammation in the large intestine, where mucus on the dog poop is secreted to help protect the intestinal lining. While bloody mucus in dog poop does not necessarily indicate an emergency, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye out for further changes in their behavior and stool. 

2. Soft-formed-to-liquid brown diarrhea

Soft bowel movements in dogs may or may not feature streaks of blood. This type of stool is often referred to as a “cow patty” or “soft-serve ice cream.” This type of poop is slightly more concerning than the last because the stool is softer; however, it’s generally not life-threatening as long as improvement happens within 24 to 48 hours and there are no other causes for concern. If your dog is acting normally otherwise — eating well, not vomiting, good attitude — you can take a wait-and-see approach. However, if you notice any changes in their behavior, take your dog to the vet to rule out any underlying infection or health issue.

3. A large volume of bloody, watery diarrhea

“Why is my dog pooping blood?” is definitely a question that should cause concern and requires immediate veterinary attention. This is especially critical in smaller dogs because bloody, watery stools can be an indicator of a common condition called hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or HGE. In this disease, the bloody poop is characterized by red tissue-like chunks often described as “raspberry jam” or jelly-like. If you notice your dog pooping blood, visit your vet immediately. 

4. Tarry black stools

Black dog poop generally indicates bleeding somewhere higher up in the GI tract, such as the stomach or small intestine, which requires an urgent trip to the vet. More specifically, it can signal a bleeding ulcer (often caused by steroid or NSAID use) or more generalized bleeding (from rat poison, heatstroke, or an immune-mediated disease). The stool is black due to the presence of digested blood and can indicate that a large amount of blood is being lost. In these cases, I usually recommend blood work and an ultrasound to better assess the lining of the intestinal tract. 

5. Yellow-orange or pasty, light stools

This type of stool may indicate the development of liver or biliary disease, or a stool’s too-rapid transit through the small intestine. A more thorough examination and diagnostic tests are in order. 

6. Greasy gray stools

A possible indicator of inadequate digestion and malabsorption of nutrients from the small intestine, this type of stool is typical of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), also called maldigestion, a disease in which the pancreas no longer functions as it should. The pancreas is responsible for producing digestive enzymes, and without them, nutrients cannot be properly absorbed. Both German Shepherds and Rough-Coated Collies are commonly afflicted with EPI.

7. Green stools

In the ER, I’ve seen dogs with green stools, and upon examination of the fecal contents, have discovered the cause to be undigested rat bait mixed in with normal stool. This condition also calls for emergency care. Although relatively uncommon, rat poison can also cause bright, bloody, and dark tarry stool, so whether or not you think your dog accessed it, please let your veterinarian know of any possible rodenticide exposure. 

8. Worms

Most of the time, you will not actually see worms in dog poop. We typically diagnose worms by looking for their eggs under the microscope — we can tell what type of parasite is present by the shape of the eggs. Occasionally, however, you may see white spaghetti-like shapes in the stool — particularly with puppies — which are typically roundworms. You may also see small flat worms on the outside of a dog’s stool or rectum, or “dried rice” in their sleeping areas. This typically indicates tapeworms, which take over when fleas flourish. Although seeing worms in the stool is not an emergency, an appointment with your vet is in order so you can get the appropriate medication. “Scooting” after pooping is another sign that your dog may have worms.

An important note: After a bout of diarrhea, a dog may not have a bowel movement for 24 to 48 hours. As long as the dog is doing well otherwise, this can be considered normal.  

9. Constipation

Constipation can result from any number of causes, such as a diet lacking in fiber or eating things that aren’t food, like hair, toys, bones, and cat litter. If your dog struggles to defecate, you can try to help them out with these ideas for how to make a constipated dog poop quickly:

  • Massage the abdominal area.

  • Add a small amount of mineral oil (generally, one teaspoon for 10 pounds of body weight) to your dog’s food.

  • Take them for a walk or outside to play.

Constipation can also be a symptom of a more serious issue, like digestive tract tumors, anal gland issues, or metabolic disease. If your dog’s constipation persists for more than a few days, contact your vet. 

What are the home remedies for abnormal dog poop?

If you notice your dog’s stool looks abnormal — and you’re not concerned about a potential illness — there are some ways you can help your dog properly digest their food at home and return their bowel movements to normal. 

Implement a bland diet.

Many people think that when a dog is suffering from diarrhea, food should be withheld for 24 hours. That’s not really the case. Food actually helps the gut heal by stimulating cells in the intestinal tract lining. To treat diarrhea in dogs, simply introduce small and frequent feedings of a bland diet (lean protein, such as boiled chicken or ground meat, mixed with boiled pasta, cooked rice, and low-fat cottage cheese or scrambled eggs) over the course of two or three days, and then slowly reintroduce your dog’s regular diet in small amounts. 

You can try probiotics.

Many probiotics are available for dogs, and your veterinarian is best suited to give you a recommendation. Some probiotics are available as a palatable powder that can be sprinkled over a meal once daily. A dollop or two of yogurt can also be given with each meal to help restore normal GI flora. 

Consider slippery elm.

An easy-to-find Western herb, slippery elm is one of my favorite natural remedies. It contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water, and works by coating the stomach and intestines. Slippery elm also has antioxidants that help relieve inflammation. Provided as a loose powder or in capsule form, the usual dose is 400 milligrams per 20 to 30 pounds of body weight every eight to 12 hours. Slippery elm should be given with water, after your dog takes a drink. 

Please note that, because slippery elm coats the digestive tract, it will slow down the absorption of other drugs. Therefore, it must be given two hours before or after other medications. 

Avoid anti-diarrheal meds.

I do not believe in using Imodium or other anti-diarrheal medications in dogs. If you have ever resorted to these medications yourself, you know about the painful gas cramps that can accompany them. This happens because the drug essentially forces all that waste matter to stay inside when the body is working hard to eliminate it. There are physiological reasons for diarrhea, and it is best to allow the natural process to happen. Anti-diarrheal medications do not fix the underlying problem, and while your carpet may be cleaner, your pup won’t be happier. 

When should I seek veterinary advice regarding my dog’s poop?

If your pet suffers from chronic (long-term and/or frequent) diarrhea and you don’t see improvement in an episode after 24 to 48 hours, there may be a bigger issue at hand. Common causes of chronic diarrhea include: 

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Food allergies (which can develop later in life)

  • Tumors in the intestinal tract

  • Digestive disorders 

That said, if your dog refuses food or water, vomits, or acts ill or “off” after an extended diarrhea experience, a trip to the vet is definitely necessary. As with most health issues, it’s far better to rule out problems than to ignore them.

Testing for gut abnormalities usually starts with a screen for giardia and “O and P,” specifically looking for giardia protozoa, as well as eggs and parasites. During this evaluation, the laboratory technician will also check for overgrowth of normal gastrointestinal bacteria, which we refer to as clostridial overgrowth. Depending on what is found there, other diagnostics such as blood work and radiographs may be in order.

How to collect stool samples for dogs

Upon visiting your vet, they may ask you to bring in a stool sample for analysis. A tablespoon is generally plenty. Also, freshness counts — fecal samples less than an hour old give the best results, and a stool that isn’t picked up right away could become contaminated by the surrounding environment.

Make sure you’re collecting a healthy dog stool, even if you have to get a morning sample, double (or triple!) bag it, and keep it refrigerated until your dog’s vet appointment.

Tips for maintaining healthy poop for dogs

Once you’re sure that your dog’s poop is healthy, you want to keep it that way. Here are some tips for maintaining healthy dog stools:

  • Keep an eye on your dog and what they eat.

  • Choose a high-quality dog food that meets all of your pet’s nutritional needs. 

  • Add fiber to your dog’s diet.

  • Make sure that your dog always has fresh water available.

  • Limit stress in your dog’s life as much as possible. 

FAQs (People also ask):

How often should my dog poop?

Most healthy adult dogs poop at least once a day, but two to three times a day can still be considered normal. Puppies have to go outside much more often and may poop as much as five times a day or more. 

How long should dogs hold their poop?

A healthy adult dog can hold their poop for seven to eight hours after eating, although many are able to poop just an hour after eating.

What should I look for in my dog’s poop?

Consistency is the number one thing you should see. Dog stool should generally have the same color, size, and texture every time. Any changes to your dog’s stool could be an indication of an underlying health issue, like a bacterial infection or parasites. 

How do I stop my dog from eating poop?

A dog multivitamin can be helpful if your dog has a vitamin-B deficiency, or supplements that contain papain, an enzyme that helps with digestion. You can also use taste-aversion products, which are available in the form of treats or a powder you can sprinkle on your dog’s food to make their stools less appealing

What if my dog’s poop is too hard or too soft?

A very hard or very soft stool can indicate a serious health issue. If you notice your dog’s poop is abnormally hard or soft, collect a fresh sample and visit your veterinarian. 

Should dog poop always be solid?

Is runny dog poop normal?

Runny dog poop is not normal and usually indicates an intestinal problem, so you should see your vet. 

Is it normal for my dog’s poop to have a different color? 

Healthy dog poop should be light to dark brown in color. A different color can indicate illness or that your dog has eaten something dyed or with a bright color. For example, an orange stool may result after your dog has eaten carrots. This is why it’s important to monitor your dog’s diet and consumption. 

How often should I let my dog out?

At the least, you should let your dog out to go to the bathroom after each meal, so two times a day — but three to five times a day is suggested for adult dogs. 

References:

Dr. Shea Cox, DVM, CVPP, CHPV

Dr. Shea Cox is the founder of BluePearl Pet Hospice and is a global leader in animal hospice and palliative care. With a focus on technology, innovation and education, her efforts are changing the end-of-life landscape in veterinary medicine.

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