Poo… it is something you get used to dealing with if you’re a dog owner! But did you know that our dog’s poo can tell us an awful lot about their health? Understanding whether your dog’s poop is normal, can help you assess how healthy your four-legged friend is. Read on to find out whether your dog’s poop is normal and the steps you should take if things aren’t quite right…
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Is my dog’s poop normal?
Most healthy dogs should be producing stools once or twice a day, depending on their diet and exercise regime. This stool should be a uniform chocolate brown colour with no blood or noticeable mucus. It should also be well-formed with some segmentation, and have a firm (but not hard) consistency. When you pick the poo up, it should not leave much residue behind.
Some vets will refer to a faecal scoring chart when discussing your dog’s stools. This allows the vet to grade the consistency of your dog’s poo from 1 to 7, with 1 being a very firm, hard and constipated type of poo and 7 being watery, diarrhoea. A grade 2 is the ideal poo, that we described previously, and should be what you are aiming for with your dog.
Is your pooch not peeing like they used to? Take a look at our Expert Guidance on Urinary Incontinence! It can be easy to miss, but disastrous in the long run.
What if your Dog’s Poo is Hard and Dry?
If your dog has very hard poo which he is struggling to pass, then he may well be constipated. This poo is usually small and often forms hard balls or nuggets. Dogs that are constipated will pass stools much less frequently than normal too, and could have other symptoms such as loss of appetite or vomiting. Constipation can be caused by reduced moisture and fibre content in the diet, or by a physical obstruction. Some of the reasons why your dog may be constipated include –
This can be caused by not drinking enough or through illness, which can make your dog’s stools harder than normal and more difficult to pass. Ensure your pup always has access to clean, fresh drinking water. A really simple measure that can have substantial effects on a pooch’s health.
A diet that is lacking in fibre may cause your dog to become constipated, or eating a diet that contains a high proportion of bones can cause some dogs to struggle with passing stools
Lack of exercise
Exercise helps to keep the digestive system in good working order and so inactivity can lead to constipation
Eating things he shouldn’t do (pica)
Foreign material like stones or bedding material in your dog’s digestive tract could make stools tricky to pass.
An obstruction near the anus
A tumour, growth or a stricture (narrowing) in your dog’s back passage could make it tricky for your pet to pass stools.
Some animals with painful conditions may find it tricky to get into the right position to pass faeces and could become constipated.
You should always consult your vet if your dog is constipated, but you can help your dog generally by providing plenty of fresh water, feeding a diet that is well-balanced and discouraging him from eating non-digestible items.
Loose stools and Watery Diarrhoea in Dogs
Diarrhoea is usually used to describe poo which is very loose and watery. It’s a common problem in veterinary practice, making up around 3% of dog consultations. Your dog may be going to the toilet more frequently than normal and have other accompanying symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy and abdominal discomfort.
Your dog may be going to the toilet more frequently than normal and have other accompanying symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy and abdominal discomfort. This is commonly caused, what we call “dietary indiscretion.” In other words, your dog has been eating something it shouldn’t, like compost or discarded waste food. In other cases, it could be caused by sensitivities to certain foods or allergies.
However, loose stools in dogs is a very non-specific sign and in some cases could be caused by an array of different conditions, including:
- Parasite infections
- Bacterial and viral infections
- Endocrine conditions such as Addison’s Disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Various cancers
- Side effects of some medication
If your dog is experiencing prolonged loose stools, do go and see your vet.
Blood in dog stool
Fresh blood in dog stool can be seen as red streaks or droplets. This usually indicates that there is inflammation going on in the lower digestive tract or rectum (back passage). There could be several causes for this inflammation, so it’s best to get your pet checked out if you have seen blood in their poo.
Mucus in dog poo
A small amount of mucus from time to time is normal, as this is what helps lubricate the poo as it passes through the digestive tract. But large amounts of mucus could appear as a slimy jelly-like coating over the surface of the stool, sometimes even looking like a casing or skin over it. This is usually caused by inflammation in the colon (‘colitis’) of which there are many underlying triggers. Mucus can sometimes be accompanied by other symptoms too, such as soft, loose stools or blood.
What Colour Should my Dog’s Poop Be?
When your dog’s poop is normal, it should be a chocolatey brown colour, but varies depending on their diet. You’ll quickly learn what’s normal for your dog, but if there are any changes to the colour of your dog’s poo, you should investigate. Dog poo colour change could indicate possible health concerns, as highlighted below.
White dog poop
White dog poo can sometimes be seen where there are high levels of calcium in the diet, for example when dogs eat a lot of bones. Small white flecks in the poo, however, could indicate tapeworm.
Black dog poop
If you see a stool that is black with a sticky, tar-like appearance, then it could indicate digested blood in the faeces. This is called melaena and is a serious sign that there is something untoward going on. A bleed in the upper digestive tract from a stomach ulcer, coagulation disorder or tumour could cause melaena. Make sure you take your dog to the vet urgently for an examination.
Orange/yellow dog poop
Stools this colour could indicate that food has passed too quickly along the digestive tract and hasn’t been processed properly. Underlying liver issues could contribute to this.
Smelly dog poop
Dog poo doesn’t smell amazing at the best of times, but if you are noticing a fouler odour than normal or your dog also has an accompanying smelly wind, it could be a sign that their digestive tract is struggling. Sometimes other symptoms are seen like loose stools or vomiting. If your dog’s poo is otherwise normal, you could try him on a different brand of food to see if this helps.
Is my dog’s poop normal? Final thoughts…
Poo can tell us a lot about our dog’s health status. Now you know a little bit about if your dog’s poop is normal, you should be able to spot a dodgy poo, and therefore spot any health issues that may be lurking. If they aren’t producing the optimum stool or if there is a change in how frequently they are passing faeces, then you should consider seeking advice.
Providing a good quality complete diet is a great measure you can take to ensure your pooch has the best chance at a healthy life. Always make sure your pup has access to plenty of fresh water and are having routine preventative treatments like worming and vaccinations. All these simple measures can go a long way in preventing problems. If you have any concerns that your dog is unwell, call your vet for advice, as many conditions do better with early intervention.
Take a look at our Vaccinations & Preventative Healthcare for Puppies Guide. You’ll find all the basic healthcare info you’ll need to nurture a healthy pup.
By Dr Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed MRCVS