Most dog owners are conscientious about picking up dog poop when taking their pet for a walk. They take care of their dog’s “business” and dispose of the bag without giving it much thought.
But did you know that stool can be a good indication of a dog’s health? You might not like to look at dog waste – and nobody would blame you if you didn’t. But taking the time to closely examine your dog’s poop could actually warn you of potential problems.
What Different Dog Poop Colors Mean
Now, the most obvious characteristic of dog poop is its color. If you notice any odd coloring when picking up dog feces, that could be a sign that something is wrong.
Black Dog Poop – Black dog poop can be a troubling warning sign about your dog’s health. It could mean your pup is having a problem with their gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract. For example, black dog poop could be a sign of an ulcer.1
Green Dog Poop – Green stool is typically not a big deal. It usually means your pet is simply eating a lot of grass. There are, however, some instances where it’s a sign of parasites.2You might want to take your dog to the vet to rule out a parasite problem.
Grey Dog Poop – In some cases, grey or greasy-looking dog poop is a sign that your dog’s pancreas isn’t doing it’s job – to produce the enzymes necessary for the digestion of fat.3 Talk to your vet and get it checked out.
Orange Dog Poop – This could be nothing more than poop moving too quickly through your dog’s digestive system. Your pup’s intestines don’t have enough time to absorb bile, the substance that makes poop brown. In some instances, however, it could mean there’s a problem affecting your dog’s liver.4
Purple Dog Poop – If you see that your dog’s stool is purple, you have every reason to be worried. This jelly-like purple poop may mean that your pet is experiencing internal bleeding. Seek medical attention as quickly as possible. As long as the issue is addressed immediately, there’s a good chance your dog will recover fully.
Red Dog Poop – We’ll get into more detail on this later, but red poop is also a sign of potentially serious internal bleeding. It may also mean your dog’s anal glands are infected.6
White Dog Poop – After your dog’s poop dries out, it might appear white. This is a sign that your dog is getting too much calcium in their diet. This is common for dogs that chew on a lot of animal bones or raw meat. This typically isn’t a cause for concern.
White Speckled Dog Poop – Often times, worms in dog feces can make it appear that the dog waste is white. This is another situation where you should get your pet to the vet’s office for a checkup.7
Yellow Dog Poop – If your dog’s diet has changed recently, that could lead to yellow poop. This usually happens because your dog’s system is having difficulty adjusting to the new food. In some cases, it could also mean there is some sort of infection in the GI tract.8
What is Normal Dog Poop?
Knowing what’s normal when it comes to dog poop may help you determine if something’s up with your dog’s stool. Normal stool is typically a chocolate brown color. But when determining what’s normal dog poop, consistency is also key.
In fact, there’s an actual scoring system assigned to dog waste, which scores it on a scale of 1 to 7.
If the poop score is 1, that means it’s extremely hard. If it’s a 7, that means it’s extremely runny. Normal dog poop will usually score about a 2 on the above-mentioned scale. It will have almost a caterpillar shape, with firm, rounded segments.9
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
If you get frustrated because your dog eats stool once in a while, you’re not alone. You may even wonder if it is the cause of your dog throwing up yellow foam. Unfortunately, a lot of dogs exhibit a type of behavior known as coprophagia, which is just a fancy way of saying they eat poop. And yes, it’s gross. But why do they do it?
Now, coprophagia is typically a behavioral issue. However, there can sometimes be a medical reason your pet is eating stool. For example, your dog’s system might be having a hard time absorbing nutrients from food. This can make stool seem appealing.10
Take your pet to the vet and see if there’s any sort of medical problem occurring. If it’s not a medical issue, then it’s probably a behavioral issue, as you’ll see in the next section.
Behavioral Issues that Contribute to Coprophagia
Puppies tend to exhibit coprophagia, but as long as they eat quality food, the problem will usually subside on its own as the dog grows up. In fact, many puppies come by the behavior naturally. Dogs who give birth will often times eat a puppy’s excrement in order to clean up the nest.
Unfortunately, some pet owners still believe that the best way to keep a puppy from pooping inside is to rub the dog’s nose in the stool. This is not only an inhumane and ineffective method of training, it could even encourage coprophagia.11
Dog Poop Problems
Getting back to how dog poop can paint a picture of your dog’s health, there are a few things to look out for when checking your dog’s stool. Seeing any of these could be a sign of a problem.
→ Strange materials – It’s not that odd to find strange materials in dog poop, such as grass. Sometimes, you might even see rocks, or the occasional piece of plastic. The reason is that dogs are prone to eating things they shouldn’t, and remnants can show up in their stool.12
→ Fur – You might see fur in pet stool. This could mean your dog is grooming too often due to a skin problem, or they might be experiencing stress. Go to the vet to determine the cause.13
Other Issues with Dog Poop
Now, there are still other clues that dog poop can give you into the health of your pet. Here are some of the more worrisome ones.
Mucus in the stool is easy to see. Dog poop with mucus looks shiny and slimy. In some cases, infestation by parasites, such as giardia or coccidia worms, can cause mucus to form in poop.14,15
Hookworms can also lead to mucus. These parasites will often affect your dog’s GI tract, leading to potentially serious complications. There are, however, many different medicines that can be used to successfully address this problem.16
Another potential cause of mucus in the stool is stress. A dog can experience stress just like a human. There could have recently been a new family addition, such as a baby or another pet. Or your dog may be stressed due to being boarded.17
This is a sure sign that something isn’t quite right with your pet. If watery stool happens only once in a while, it’s usually not a major concern. But if your dog passes watery stool on a regular basis, you should be concerned.
Watery stool accompanied by behavioral changes means a potentially serious problem, especially if your dog is acting lethargic and weak, and has had runny stool for the last two or three days.18
It might not seem that constipation should be on this list. After all, we’re talking about clues to poop, and if a dog is constipated, you won’t see much poop – if any. But it still needs to be addressed.
Constipation, like watery stool, isn’t that big of a deal if it only happens occasionally. But if your dog is constipated often, that could mean trouble. For example, it could be there’s some sort of pelvic injury, or a blockage in the dog’s intestines.19
If your dog is regularly suffering from constipation, bring them to your veterinarian’s office for a complete examination.
Really Stinky Stool
A certain amount of odor is, of course, expected when you’re picking up dog poop. But if it’s stronger than normal, that could mean your dog’s digestive system isn’t doing a good enough job of absorbing the fiber in their food.20
This is the red flag of all red flags when it comes to signs of health problems that you can see in dog poop. You’ll need to get your pet medical attention quickly if you see blood in their stool.
If the blood is red, the issue may be affecting the lower part of the dog’s digestive system. If the blood appears black, it’s possible that bleeding is occurring in the upper part of the GI tract.
Now, the reason for the bleeding could be medication, or it could be an ulcer. An ulcer requires immediate care. Only your vet will know for sure what’s going on, so get your pup in for an exam immediately.21
How a Dog’s Diet Affects Dog Poop
Some dog owners see an ad or hear from friends about the latest, “greatest” dog food. As a result, they’ll change their dog’s diet on a whim. Don’t be one of them. It won’t hurt to check your dog food to see what it contains, but don’t switch to a different brand just because someone recommended that you do so.
As it turns out, suddenly changing your dog’s food can lead to digestive problems. It could, for example, cause a great deal of mucus to accumulate in your dog’s stool, which often means the dog is allergic to one of the ingredients in the new food.22
If you want to switch your dog over to a new food, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just talk to your vet first to make sure it’s safe to do so. Once you get the okay, make the switch gradually.
What if Your Dog Sniffs Another Dog’s Poop?
It’s natural for dogs to sniff everything. In fact, it’s about as natural for dogs to sniff as breathing. When you take your dog on a walk, a good portion this time is probably devoted to letting them sniff the ground.
But this behavior can also be dangerous. If your dog comes across the poop of another pooch, do what you can to keep your pet from sniffing it, because parvovirus can sometimes be found in dog feces. And it can travel from the poop to your dog’s nasal passages.
Symptoms of parvo include:
- Watery stool
- Bloody stool
- Sudden weight loss
If your dog suddenly exhibits any of these symptoms, get to the vet as soon as you can.23
Be Careful When You Pick Up Your Dog’s “Business”
Did you know that several types of bacteria found in dog feces can be harmful to humans? That’s why you should always use caution when picking up dog stool, whether you’re clearing it from a yard, or cleaning up after your pet during a walk.
Here are just a few bacterial diseases dog poop can cause.
Campylobacteriosis – This is condition can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, and other symptoms. It can even be life-threatening for people with a weakened immune system.
E. Coli infection – The E. Coli bacterium, which is sometimes found in dog poop, can lead to nausea, vomiting, and cramping of the stomach. See our dog vomit color guide to learn about what it can tell you.
Yersiniosis – This is another bacterial infection that can often be spread through dog feces.24 Symptoms include fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain that is sometimes mistaken for appendicitis.25
How Dog Poop Can Help Your Yard
Instead of leaving pet poop lying around in your yard for a few days before picking it up, you might want to consider putting your dog’s waste to use. Composting dog poop is a great way to provide nutrients for your garden. Again, though, you need to be careful.
Add the poop to grass clippings and plant waste. Some people also mix it with sawdust. Then simply sprinkle the mixture into your garden. The compost will be warm enough to kill any bacteria that may be in the stool. Just be careful not to use it on vegetables you plan to eat.26
Taking Action if You Suspect Something’s Wrong
Thankfully, strange poop usually doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your pet’s health. But you should never ignore any of the warning signs that you may see in dog waste. This is especially true if you see blood, or any indications of worms, in your dog’s poop.
Don’t ever feel that you’re being paranoid by taking your dog to the vet due to some oddity in your pet’s poop. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health.
When in doubt, seek medical attention for your pet. If it’s nothing, great. But if there’s something wrong, getting ahead of it could help your beloved companion more than you may have imagined possible.
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