By Kate Klausner, Ann Arbor, MI
Poop can tell us a lot about the health of a dog, but what, exactly does it mean? And what’s normal? I developed this guide for our Pet Care Specialists, and I thought the rest of the network could benefit from it as well. So here is my guide to the Perfect Poop! 😀
THE PERFECT POOP
Use a scale of 1 to 5 to rate poop quality. 1 = liquid diarrhea, 5 = a hard/dry stool. 4 is ideal, “a light- to dark-brown stool that is well-formed, firm but malleable, moist, and does not fall apart when picked up.”
Should have a relatively inoffensive odor, typically be brown and of an even, well-digested consistency.
* Diarrhea and loose stool
Be Concerned If – It is severe, contains or smells of blood, contains raspberry-jam like mucus, is accompanied by other signs of illness, or continues for more than a couple of days
Not To Worry If – it occurs only once or twice and then resolves itself
Note – Dehydration is always a danger with mild or severe diarrhea; make sure plenty of fresh water is available.
* Constipation and dry stool
Be Concerned If – It continues for days or the dog stops going at all, which may be a sign of an obstruction
Not To Worry If – the dog has been unable to get out to go to the bathroom for an extended time and may have been “holding it” too long; if it only happens once or twice.
Be Concerned If – The dog strains to urinate, as urinary obstruction can be rapidly fatal.
Note – Anything that causes constipation could cause straining, plus any inflammation of the colon, rectum, or perianal region.
* Poop that is flat on one side
Be Concerned If – the dog is male; an enlarged prostate can press against male dog’s rectum, causing him to strain. It may also have a squishy or mushy consistency.
* Greasy feces
Be Concerned If – It is ongoing; it is a sign that the dog is not digesting the fat in his food. A visit to the vet is needed.
* Extremely stinky
Be Concerned If – Feces should never smell alarming; a scent of blood or severe rancidity should alert you to something amiss.
Note – High meat diets will have stronger smells, as will diets with beans or veggies that cause gas.
* Odd contents
Be Concerned If – Nonfood items such as bits of plastic, wood, can cause a blockage or other problems. Do look for ways to stop access to nonfood “extras”.
Not To Worry If – It contains indigestible food chunks such as raw carrot, whole nuts, whole seeds or grass; their appearance is only occasional.
Be Concerned If – It is excessive, which may indicate allergies, fleas or insufficient grooming. This is not a digestive issue.
Be Concerned If – If it doesn’t clear up after a bowel movement or two. Mucus means an irritated colon.
* Absence of stool
Be Concerned If – No stool or gas for a couple of days, vomiting, dehydration, and/or the abdomen feels tender and hard. There may be an intestinal blockage, which is an emergency. Slightly bloody or watery brown feces may indicate that the intestine has telescoped in on itself
Not To Worry If – If they otherwise seem perfectly fine, don’t worry if a dog occasionally fails to defecate for a day or two.
* Odd colors
Yellow, hard stool – a diet that contains a lot of bone meal. Soft yellow stool can indicate a serious problem like a viral infection, especially if it’s yellow diarrhea, with or without vomiting.
Green – can indicate imbalances. These may be momentary and caused by something recently eaten, or reflect longer-term problems such as parasites or an organ issue.
White or very pale and hard – Raw diet containing bone meal. It may appear in one feces but not in another on the same day. It may be slightly difficult for the animal to pass, as it can be comparatively hard, but is not usually a cause for concern. Good quality vegetable fiber can help to ease the situation.
Tarry or black stool – may signify bleeding from the stomach or from high in the small intestine. This is an emergency. However, a meal of raw organ meats, such as brain or spleen, may also produce black feces in healthy dogs. Pepto-Bismol can cause very dark stool.
Bloody (red) – the dog may have swallowed something that is blocking the GI tract, or may have a severe food allergy; can also signify cancer. Frank red blood or mucus that looks like raspberry jam can indicate life-threatening disease. This is an emergency.
Note – Fresh-ground raw beets may innocently stain poop a deep red that can look (and ooze) almost like blood. Stool produced by a dog on a raw diet will vary more in hue than will that from commercial food. Be aware that dyes used in some foods or treats can stain feces almost any color.