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Dog Poop: Everything You Need To Know

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Last updated

For the pet parent, dealing with the subject of dog poop is perhaps the least fun part of having a four-legged companion. Unfortunately, abnormal dog feces is one of the first signs that something is wrong with our best friend. Whether we like it or not, dog poo or dog stool can give us a lot of insight into what is happening inside the canine body and what we can do to help.

So whether you are dealing with watery Shih Tzu poo, bloody Labrador puppy poop, sticky poop, or strange color, here is everything you need to know.

The scoop on puppy poop: when should you be worried?

Puppies are notorious for eating anything and everything, and the obvious consequence is their poop. Unfortunately, puppy poop is often loose or soft. So long as it is a standard shade of brown, this is usually not a problem. 

Feeding a quality diet with pre and probiotics can help make the stool firmer. Probiotics can also help your pup transition foods, counteract the side effects of medications like antibiotics, or maintain gut health under stress.

If your puppy normally has firm poop and it suddenly becomes runny, keep an eye on it for 24 hours. If it doesn't go back to normal, or if it turns to liquid, it is time to go to the vet.

Even though a vet visit is essential if your puppy has diarrhea, it is usually not a reason to panic. It's vital to consider loose puppy stool in the context of other symptoms before you become too alarmed.

For instance, bloody puppy poop is highly worrying for any loving owner. But if your puppy isn't showing any other significant symptoms, it may be a simple case of colitis—also called garbage disease as it is often the result of nosing through the garbage.

This is common among pups who tend to swallow anything. Luckily, it is easily treated with medication and a few days on a specialized diet.

On the other hand, if the puppy's bloody diarrhea accompanies other symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, or refusing to eat, it could be parvo poop or something equally serious. In this case, it is a definite medical emergency.

In short, loose puppy stools are not unusual, but it is essential to keep an eye on them in case other symptoms arise. And if loose stool without any other symptoms does not resolve itself in a day or so, we recommend seeing a vet to discuss diet or other possible causes.

Help! My dog has runny poop!

But what about diarrhea in older dogs?

Firstly, remember the three Cs when evaluating dog poop: Consistency, Coating, and Color. 

Consistency means the poo should be moist and firm enough to pick up but not hard. Coating refers to blood or mucus. And color means that poop should always be a healthy shade of brown.

Watery dog poop is the bane of every dog lover's existence. However, loose stool from dogs will happen sooner or later. The first thing to differentiate between is a dog with soft stool and a dog with liquid poop. 

Remember, the consistency of poop is one of the first indications of a problem. Soft stool may be stress, a reaction to a medication such as deworming, or a little too much fiber in the diet. 

However, if the problem persists and you are dealing with very runny dog poop, it is time to investigate the cause and perhaps seek medical assistance. 

The most common causes of dog diarrhea are:

  1. Eating something unusual or rancid, often from the garbage
  2. Food intolerances and allergies
  3. Stress and anxiety
  4. Parasites
  5. Sudden changes in diet
  6. Viral or bacterial infections
  7. Swallowing an object that they can't digest
  8. Parasites
  9. Inflammation in the gut
  10. Medications such as antibiotics.

Even if the cause of soft stools isn't serious, diarrhea can still cause dehydration and interfere with the absorption of nutrients. So taking care of your dog's gut health and keeping them hydrated is vital, especially if you are dealing with runny poo.

What does it mean if my dog has bloody poop?

Bloody dog poop requires a visit to the vet as it may be serious. Like mucus, it is a problem in the stool "coating" and has many possible causes. These include:

  • Eating foreign objects or a new food that causes inflammation,
  • Pathogens such as viruses,
  • Cancer,
  • Parasites, 
  • Diseases that affect blood clotting,
  • Ulcers, or perianal fissures,
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons. 

Eating red food like beets can cause red poop that isn't necessarily blood. But if you see any other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, abdominal pain, or pale gums, treat it as a medical emergency.

Take note of the color and the consistency of the bloody poop too. It's best to take a clear photo or sample to your veterinarian for analysis. 

Dark dog poop or black poop indicates that the blood has been digested, which means it is coming from the upper digestive tract or stomach. This is called "melena," and the owner may not always know that it is blood because the feces are black and tarry.

It is usually bright red if the blood is coming from the large intestine or fissures around the anus. This is called "hematochezia." 

If a dog’s diarrhea has turned completely liquid, it may look as though only blood is coming out. This can also happen if the dog has emptied its digestive tract and has no actual poop left. Only pooping blood is a definite emergency.

Remember, all blood in the poop requires a vet visit. But as severe as this symptom may seem, most conditions that result in bloody feces are treatable. 

What does it mean if my dog has slimy poop?

A little bit of occasional mucus coating dog poop is perfectly normal. After all, the top lining of a dog's intestines is an essential mucosal barrier. But if you see large amounts of sticky poop or slimy stool, there may be digestive issues, particularly if you see blood or diarrhea too. 

Mucousy dog poop can result from parasites like Giardia or pathogens such as E.Coli. So be careful when removing it, as it could be contagious to humans. Make sure to clean the area thoroughly. 

It can also result from allergies, injuries, or diseases in the gut, pancreas, or gallbladder. 

Remember, too much fat in the diet can lead to greasy stool and cause health issues such as pancreatitis. 

What does it mean if my dog has white poop?

If your dog has white poop that is dry, hard, and crumbly, it is often the case that there is too much calcium in the diet. This could be because of raw bones, bone meal, or eggshells fed as part of a raw diet. 

Too much calcium can be a problem for growing puppies, who can be vulnerable to bone and joint disorders if they receive an oversupply of calcium and phosphorus. 

An excess of these minerals can also cause renal trouble and constipation. So, this may be a factor if your dog is straining to poop.

On the other hand, white-flecked dog poop can indicate tapeworm eggs. They look a bit like short rice grains. In this case, your dog needs deworming.

If the poop looks white because of mucus or slime, the trouble may be that your dog is struggling to digest something, so you can see our section on slimy poop.

Unfortunately, white and gray poop that is greasy can also indicate maldigestion. In this case, the white or gray poop may happen if the liver fails to produce enough bile or if the gallbladder is not functioning correctly. A problem with bile secretion is a serious issue that will need veterinary intervention.

What does it mean if my dog has yellow dog poop?

Mustard yellow dog poop is usually also a sign of maldigestion, most likely because your dog has a food intolerance.

 A dog's poop turns brown because of bile. This is made in their liver, stored in the gallbladder, and secreted into the intestines. Most bile is reabsorbed, but the bile that stays in the gut changes the color of the digestive material, from green to yellow to brown. An upset stomach from eating something unusual can cause food to move too fast through the gut and come out yellow. 

Poop can also change color if your dog is fed food with dyes or too many carrots and sweet potatoes.

On its own, yellow poop is not necessarily an emergency. But if the issue persists, you may need to change the diet. 

Suppose it becomes orange poop or red, or if you begin to see mucus or changes in the consistency. In that case, it is time to go to the vet to look for possible problems with the liver, gallbladder, or digestive tract.

What does it mean if my dog has green poop?

Green poop is usually a sign that your dog is eating too much grass or plant material. This can mean they're feeling nauseous or have an upset stomach. Pigment in something your dog ate, such as Greenies, can also dye poop green.

Like gray or yellow poop, a problem with maldigestion can also cause green poop. For instance, a case of colitis can prevent bile from being reabsorbed and cause green poop.

Finally, green poop results from certain poisons like rodenticide in extreme cases. If you suspect your dog has ingested toxins, getting your canine to emergency services as quickly as possible is critical.

Why is my dog eating poop?

If your dog eats poop, you are not alone. About a quarter of dogs do this at some point, whether they are eating their own poop (gross) or something else's (ick!).

Even experts do not fully understand the behavior. Mother dogs eating puppy poop seems a natural part of the cleaning instinct. And it may be that puppies learn this from their moms. In fact, puppies eating their own poop, and that of other animals, is quite common.

Often, this problem resolves itself by the time puppies are about nine months old. Although it's distasteful, a puppy eating their own poop is not a crisis, so long as everybody in the household is dewormed. 

But since diseases like parvo are passed through contact with contaminated feces, puppies who eat poop must be kept on a leash and watched closely when out on walks. 

There could be several reasons for older dogs who still eat poop. It is worth getting your dog checked out for health issues like a deficiency, a problem absorbing nutrients, or conditions like diabetes that may increase hunger. 

Greedy or hungry dogs in multiple dog households are more likely to eat poop, but much of this behavior may be instinctive. 

The best measure for this problem is to control your dog's environment. Keep them on a leash near areas like dog parks, and make sure the yard is clean. Limiting a serial poop eater's access to feces is the best way to stop this issue.

What if my dog ate cat poop?

A dog that eats cat poop is a bit more of a risk. Firstly, eating other animals' feces always places them at risk of catching a severe illness. Although dogs should not be able to catch feline parvo, they are still in danger of zoonotic diseases like toxoplasmosis and other parasites.

What's more, a dog eating cat poop out of the litter box may swallow cat litter. Fortunately, cat litter is not toxic, but both clumping and clumping cat litter can cause a blockage in the intestine, or irritate the gut and cause inflammation. Therefore, it's best to keep your cat's litter box out of your dog's reach.

Why won't my dog poop?

If your dog won't poop you and you're dealing with constipation, there may be several causes. The first thing to look at is a diet. A low-fiber diet of less than 4% crude fiber can cause constipation. 

Fiber can be a tricky issue. Some dogs, like those that are overweight or have diabetes, require more of it in their diet. On the other hand, some kinds of fiber are linked to deficiencies of essential nutrients. So look for professional help when addressing your dog's specific fiber needs. 

In addition, gut health is essential to prevent constipation and hard stool. This means a good balance of effective probiotics and prebiotics. A dog straining to poop may also happen if too much calcium is in the diet. In the case of German Shepherds, it is often because of perianal fissures.

Still, a dog that cant poop could be struggling with other problems, such as::

  • A dog or puppy taken outside may be too distracted or want to stall against going back inside. These pups may need more playtime outside or have more positive reinforcement for pooping. 
  • A stressed dog may develop digestive issues that cause constipation.
  • Gut motility can decline in aging dogs.
  • A dog that is not exercising enough might have its gut slow down, making pooping less frequent. 

If failing to poop goes on for longer than 24 hours, or if other symptoms emerge such as abdominal pain, bloating, bloody stool, hard stool, vomiting, lethargy, or refusal to eat, it is best to see a vet immediately. Causes could range from intestinal blockages to underlying problems like hypothyroidism.

Why is my dog pooping in the house suddenly?

A dog pooping in the house is usually a result of incomplete house training. In some cases, it may also be because a dog was left inside without access to the outdoors for too long. This is more common with smaller breeds.

However, if your dog is usually reliable about not pooping indoors, there may be an underlying problem. Some possibilities are:

  • Stress. Dogs who are stressed or suffer from issues like separation anxiety might defecate or urinate in the house, particularly if you are away.
  • Illness. A dog who has contracted a stomach bug or some illness that causes diarrhea might not be able to hold it long enough to get outside.
  • A dog may prefer to poop in the house if there is something outside they want to avoid. This could be rain, storms, cold, or another deterrent, such as being intimidated by other dogs outside.
  • Doggy Dementia: as senior dogs begin to lose brain function, they sometimes become incontinent. Do not punish an old dog, as this is not something they have control over. Instead, invest in measures to help the problem, such as doggy diapers.
  • A grudge. Although this is rare, research suggests dogs can hold a grudge. Occasionally, this can contribute to behavior such as defecating or urinating in an offending person's room. Although this behavior is relatively rare. 

Final Word: keeping your dog's gut healthy

Although it's one of the yuckier aspects of having a dog, dog poop is something we have to deal with. The good news is that feces can tell us a lot about our dog's health and remind us that keeping the GI tract healthy is part of responsible pet parenting. To that end, good probiotics and supplements like Soothe can help keep our pups in good health, preventing tummy upsets and runny poo. 

Soothe helps maintain good digestive health. It contains a unique probiotic blend that can help control diarrhea, as studies have shown canine probiotics are effective for loose stool and diarrhea. The beta-glucans and mannan-oligosaccharides in the yeast fermentate boost gut health and the immune system. They even help decrease pathogens in the intestines. 

The fish oil omega-3 fatty acids in Soothe are also vital for the function and growth of a healthy mucosal barrier in the stomach lining. This keeps anything nasty your pup may swallow from finding its way into the body. Thus, Soothe works on multiple levels to keep your puppy's gut healthy and avoid runny poop.