Dog Poop 101: Find Out How Healthy Your Dog Really Is
Written by Ellen Barber, Holly Ganz, PhD, and Dawn Kingsbury, DVM, PhD, DACVIM
Published on April 21, 2022
Poop can tell you a lot about your dog’s overall health. By being alert to certain qualities of your dog’s poop, you may be able to identify problems early or even prevent health issues from arising down the road.
What Is Your Dog's Poop Telling You?
Next time you pick up your dog’s poop, take the opportunity to gather a few clues. The shape, size, color, consistency, and even the smell of that poop can tell you a lot about your dog’s overall health.
Every dog is an individual, and what’s “normal” varies with an animal’s diet, age, and other factors. But once you’re in the habit of paying attention to your dog’s poop, you’ll know what’s normal for your own dog, and you’ll notice if anything changes. If it does, consult your veterinarian: any change in your dog’s feces can be a clue that something’s going on with their health.
In general, here’s what you can expect from a healthy dog’s poop:
- The color should be chocolate brown.
- It should be log-shaped.
- The consistency should be firm enough that the dog’s poo holds its shape when picked up, solid but not dry.
- The volume of poop should be appropriate to the volume of food the dog usually eats.
Why Is Poop Brown?
The fat in your dog’s diet is broken down by a substance called bile, which is a yellow-green liquid produced by the gallbladder. As bile passes through the digestive system, enzymes and bacteria alter its chemistry, causing it to turn brown. So brown poop is a good sign.
What If It's Not Brown?
If your dog’s food contains added coloring, those colors might show up in their poop. But “funny” colors—such as purple, gray, or green stool—could also indicate other serious health issues or even ingestion of poison. (See the infographic below.) Consult your veterinarian right away if you see any of these signs:
- Red streaks in the stool can indicate fresh blood, which may be coming from the anus or the colon. Constipation can cause bleeding, but red blood in the stool may also indicate parasites, ulcers, or even tumors.
- Black, tarry stool indicates digested blood, which may be a result of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
- Orange or yellow poop could be caused by food coloring (or a lot of carrots) in your dog’s diet, but it can also indicate liver disease or a biliary (bile-related) problem.
- Green poop could be the result of eating grass, or it may indicate a gallbladder problem.
- Very pale or gray poop could indicate too much fat or calcium in the diet, disease of the pancreas, or a problem with the biliary system (liver, gallbladder and bile ducts).
Dog Poop Color Chart
How’s the Consistency?
Too dry? Small, hard droppings could mean your dog is constipated. An inappropriate diet can lead to constipation. Or your dog may not be drinking enough water. Constipation is often a result of reduced motility in the colon, meaning that material is moving through the colon too slowly. Slowed colonic motility can be caused by certain medications (such as opioid pain relief therapies) or by muscle weakness in the colon, which in dogs is most commonly associated with hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) and hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood). Colorectal disease and colonic blockage (e.g., due to a foreign object) are also possible causes of small, hard poops.
Too wet? Stool that’s wetter than normal is classified as diarrhea, which could mean mushy piles, loose puddles, runny poop, or watery squirts. When stools aren’t well-formed, it means your dog’s food isn’t being properly digested, often because material is passing too quickly through the GI tract. Loose stools can be due to a lot of different issues, such as a new food or treat, parasites (like roundworms), food sensitivities or allergies, stress, infection (for example, Salmonella, E. coli, or parvo), a gut microbiome imbalance, intestinal disease, or other problems.
If your dog’s poop doesn’t firm up over the next two or three bowel movements, see your veterinarian.
Diarrhea in puppies may be temporary, but because their immune systems are still immature, it might also be a sign of bacterial or viral infection, so consult your veterinarian.
Soft Dog Poop?
What about poop that’s soft—think soft-serve ice cream or the poop emoji—without being wet enough to count as diarrhea? Stool that looks like the poop emoji isn’t normal, but it might not be a serious problem either.
Often, soft poop is just a sign that a dog’s diet doesn’t contain enough fiber. Brown rice, apples, carrots, and cooked sweet potato are some of the fiber-rich foods that are good for dogs.
Adding a little inulin or psyllium husk powder to your dog’s food may help, since these fibers help absorb excess water in the large intestine, allowing more solid stools to form. They also act as prebiotics, meaning that they support healthy digestion by nourishing the beneficial bacteria that live in the colon. FOS is another prebiotic fiber that can help improve stool consistency. Our DoggyBiome S. boulardii + FOS Powder is a great source of this prebiotic.
If the soft poop came on suddenly, chances are it’s diet-related. Pay attention to any indiscriminate browsing your dog might be doing. Check the ingredients of any new treats: many “semi-soft” or “semi-moist” dog treats contain glycerol or glycerin, which may have a mild laxative effect, or even propylene glycol, a controversial pet food additive. Discontinue any newly added food item temporarily and see whether the stool becomes firmer. Then reintroduce that food item and note any changes in stool consistency.
If your dog’s stools are chronically soft, there are some other possible causes. If your dog has been frequenting dog parks or areas known to harbor parasites (like Giardia), then ask your veterinarian whether a fecal parasite screen might be warranted.
Dog Poop Chart
Too Much Poop?
The volume of poop should be proportionate to the amount of food your dog usually eats. A lot of fiber in the diet will result in a larger volume of poop, since fiber is a type of carbohydrate that isn’t digested by the body itself but relies on the gut microbiome for processing. But if your dog seems to be producing a lot of poop, or you notice a change in the amount of poop, it may mean your dog’s digestive system isn’t processing their food thoroughly, which means not all the nutrients are getting absorbed. Veterinarians associate poop volume with the location of GI distress: a large volume of loose stool at once is associated with small intestinal issues, while multiple loose stools of small volume are associated with issues in the large intestine.
Mucus in Your Dog's Stool?
Mucus in the stool may indicate an infection, such as colitis (inflammation of the large intestine). It could also be caused by parasites or a foreign body in the intestines. Let your veterinarian know if you see mucus in your pup’s poop over the course of more than two or three bowel movements.
Stool with a greasy sheen could mean there’s too much fat in your dog’s diet or their pancreas isn’t breaking down fat correctly. Greasy poops can also point to a bile problem.
What Are Those White Things?
White specks in fresh dog poop may be parasites. Tapeworm segments, for example, often look like grains of white rice. Take a stool sample to your veterinarian for parasite and pathogen screening.
What Else Is in There?
It isn’t unusual to see a little grass in dog poop, but if your dog is eating a lot of grass, that could be a sign of stomach upset or stress. Dog hair in their poop may be the result of excessive licking or chewing of the fur or skin.
What about the Smell?
Most dog poop is at least moderately smelly, but a serious stink can be a sign of multiple health issues. A really bad smell may mean your dog’s digestive system isn’t adequately processing their food.
Certain medications can also lead to extra stinky poop, as can some infections, such as giardiasis, which is caused by a parasite called Giardia. Other factors that can contribute to bad-smelling poop include changes in diet, food sensitivities or food allergies, and blood in the stool (as a result of parvo, for example).
Again, you know what’s normal for your own dog. If their poop suddenly smells different or stronger, it’s important to find out what caused that change.
With Microbiome Testing, Your Dog’s Poop Can Tell You Even More
Since your dog’s poop is about 50% microbes, even a small sample can provide a lot of information about your dog’s unique gut microbiome—the diverse community of trillions of tiny organisms (microbes like beneficial bacteria, virus, fungi, etc.) that live in their GI tract. The gut microbiome is involved in almost every aspect of your dog’s well-being, including digestion, immune response, longevity, and even mental health.
By sending AnimalBiome a pea-sized sample of your dog’s poop for analysis, you can get a detailed picture of your dog’s gut health, find out whether the bacteria that make up their microbiome are in the proper balance, and get personalized advice if a microbiome imbalance is causing your dog uncomfortable symptoms, like diarrhea or itchy skin.
Microbiome testing is an easy, noninvasive way to find out exactly what’s going on in your dog’s gut. Using DNA sequencing, our scientists will identify all the different types of bacteria present in a sample of your dog’s stool. Then we will compare those results to our reference set of all the beneficial bacterial groups we expect to find in a healthy dog’s gut.
Here’s what you can learn from microbiome testing:
Your Dog’s Unique Microbial Community. By identifying all the different bacteria in your dog’s stool sample, we can give you a detailed picture of their unique gut microbiome.
Missing Bacteria. By comparing your dog’s results with the healthy reference set, we can tell whether your dog is missing any important beneficial bacterial groups. The absence of certain groups may be a result of antibiotic use, diet, illness, or other factors.
Harmful Bacteria. Microbiome testing will also identify problematic groups of gut bacteria. These may be pathogens that don’t belong in a healthy dog’s gut or normal members of the microbiome whose populations have grown too big.
Imbalances. If important beneficial bacteria are missing, or harmful bacterial populations are too big, the gut microbiome is out of balance. As a result, your dog may experience distressing symptoms, such as diarrhea, constipation, itchy skin, or even behavioral issues. Identifying imbalances early allows you to make changes to your dog’s diet or lifestyle that can improve or even prevent symptoms.
Your Dog’s Diet. Every gut microbiome is unique. Different dogs need different dietary adjustments to support the growth of specific beneficial bacteria. Our microbiome testing report includes food recommendations based on your dog’s individual results to help you make simple changes that can improve their gut health and overall wellness.
Microbiome testing is easy with our DoggyBiome Gut Health Test kit. The kit contains everything you need to collect a small stool sample and send it to us for analysis. You’ll get your dog’s results by email within two weeks, along with personalized recommendations for diet, supplement, and/or lifestyle changes to improve your dog’s health.
A Balanced Gut Microbiome Supports Well-Formed Poop—and So Much More
When all the thousands of different kinds of dog-specific gut microbes are present in the proper amounts, your dog’s gut microbiome is in balance. A diverse, well-balanced gut microbiome does all sorts of amazing, important things for your dog, like helping digest their food, producing well-formed poop, protecting against disease, and maintaining a beautiful coat, just to name a few.
Different types of beneficial bacteria play different roles in the gut. So when certain types of bacteria are missing or the various populations aren’t present in the right proportions, some of the gut microbiome’s functions may decline. Imbalances in the microbiome have been associated with a variety of health problems, including chronic diarrhea or constipation, vomiting, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), skin diseases, allergies, pancreatitis, diabetes, and even cancer. While in many cases, we don’t yet know whether such imbalances cause these conditions or instead indicate related systemic issues, identifying an imbalance in the microbiome may yield useful insights to help guide care options.
To keep your dog healthy and happy, be sure to support their gut health:
- Feed a high-quality, appropriate diet, and avoid pet foods and ingredients that have been shown to promote chronic inflammation.
- Help your pooch get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Ask for your veterinarian’s help to minimize the use of systemic antibiotics (and steroids) when possible. See if there are any other options that they recommend, such as topical creams, cleansers, or careful monitoring for signs of infection.
- If your dog needs antibiotics—which kill off beneficial bacteria along with the disease-causing ones—give their gut microbiome some extra help by encouraging a healthy appetite and supplementing your dog’s diet with the probiotic yeast S. boulardii.
What If My Dog’s Gut Health Test Finds an Imbalance?
Our Gut Health Test includes a detailed report that explains your dog’s results. If the test indicates that your dog has a microbiome imbalance, the report will also explain whether the best solution is to add, remove, or rebalance:
- If your dog’s gut doesn’t contain a wide variety of different kinds of healthy microbes, then the solution is to add those missing groups.
- If your dog’s gut has an overgrowth of harmful microbes, then the solution is to remove those unhealthy populations.
- If your dog’s gut contains all the right microbes but not in the right proportions, then the solution is to rebalance the microbiome.
The report also gives you personalized recommendations so you’ll know exactly what to do next. Whether you need to add new microbes to your dog’s gut, remove unhealthy ones, or rebalance the existing microbial populations, we’ll give you the information you need to restore or improve your dog’s gut health, safely and naturally.
- Your dog’s poop—its shape, size, color, consistency, and smell—can tell you a lot about their overall health.
- What’s a “normal” poop depends on your dog’s age, diet, and other factors. Once you’re familiar with what’s normal for your own dog, you can be alert to any change in their poop that might indicate a health issue.
- Microbiome testing is an easy, noninvasive way to learn a lot about your dog’s gut health.
- A diverse, balanced gut microbiome is important for digestion, immune functions, skin health, and many other aspects of your dog’s well-being.
- An imbalanced gut microbiome can be restored safely and naturally by adding missing microbes, removing harmful microbes, or rebalancing the existing microbial populations.
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