What Should Your Dog's Poop Look Like, Anyway? What’s “Normal” (and What’s Not)
Dog poop: sometimes it's brown and hard; other times, it's yellow-orange and mushy—but what does it all mean? And if you're like us, you've probably wondered what dog poop should look like, anyway? Luckily, unraveling the mystery behind your pet's stool is pretty straightforward.
To help you make sense of it, we're breaking down what you should look out for in your dog's stool movements—including what is normal, what is not, and when a visit to your vet is in order.
Your Dog's Poop Is a Window Into Its Health
If you've never thought to look at your dog's poop before bagging it, well, you should. We know that it's not the most pleasant of tasks, but it is an important one. The quality of your dog’s stool tells you a lot about its internal bodily state, and is often the first to show warning signs of a medical issue. In other words, our dog's feces is a window into its health—even if you don't find the view all that appealing.
Before you try interpreting the various sizes, shapes, textures, and hues of your dog's stools, you should first know what "normal" poop looks like. Typically, a healthy stool is brown, log-shaped, solid yet squishy, and sized proportionately to the amount of food your dog is eating. On the Fecal Scoring Chart, a system used by veterinarians, it would fall between the second and third options on the scale.
If your dog's fecal matter doesn't fit the bill, this may indicate an issue that requires more investigation.
7 Types of Dog Poop and What They Mean
For this reason, we've listed the types of dog poop found on the Fecal Scoring Chart and what they could possibly mean.
LOOKS LIKE: Pebble-like lumps that are hard to pass
LOOKS LIKE: A lumpy sausage that is firm but segmented
LOOKS LIKE: A log that is soft but shapely—A.K.A., the ideal poop
LOOKS LIKE: A log that is soft but loses its shape when picked up
LOOKS LIKE: A soft blob that is quick to pass
LOOKS LIKE: Fluffy pieces with no definite shape
LOOKS LIKE: Liquid—it's watery with no solid pieces
Depending on what type of poop your dog has, it may indicate a mild or more serious medical problem.
If your dog's poop is hard or pebble-like (Type 1), or if your dog has difficulty during a bowel movement, it might have constipation. Type 2 and 3 are within the realm of normal. However, Type 2 might indicate semi-constipation because it is harder to pass, so Type 3 is often thought to be healthier than Type 2. Stool that is soft and loses shape when picked up (Type 4) is often a sign of diarrhea.
If you notice your dog is producing very watery stools (Type 5, 6, or 7) within a short period, it may indicate something more pressing like an intestinal disease. Stools that are mucus-y or streaked with blood are other textures worth bringing up with your vet. A bloody stool, for instance, could be a sign of a slight tear around your dog's bottom, whereas mucus might indicate an issue with the intestine.
The Hue of Your Dog's Stool Matters, Too
While it's important to take note of the shape, size, and texture of your dog's poop, its shade is also telling of its health. If it’s colored all but brown, it may signal a problem.
An orange or yellow-tinted stool could mean problems in the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts. A green stool might indicate an intestinal problem. While orange, yellow, and green stools always warrant an immediate evaluation by a vet, they don't always signal a serious issue. Green stool, for instance, can be caused by something as harmless as your dog eating too much grass. Other common causes of orange or yellow poop is food moving too quickly through the GI tract, a food intolerance, or an upset stomach. On the other hand, a black stool might indicate bleeding in the G.I. tract, whereas a gray stool with a greasy sheen could signal a biliary or pancreatic problem. Poop that is studded with white spots could indicate the presence of worms. If you see any of these hues in your dog's poop, you should get in touch with your vet as soon as possible.
Still, seeing any of these colors doesn't necessarily mean a life-threatening diagnosis—so until you receive an evaluation from a licensed vet, don't fret just yet.
How to Improve Your Dog's Bowel Movements
On any given day, there's no telling what your dog might poop out. Luckily, you can improve the way your dog goes No. 2., which involves two main variables: fiber and water.
A good balance of soluble and insoluble fiber is the key to healthy bowel movements. Soluble fiber makes the contents of our dog's stool softer and easier to pass, while insoluble bulks up waste and also aids in pushing it through the system. Many specially-formulated dog foods, supplements, and remedies contain both types of fiber, helping soothe digestive problems and promote healthier stools.
Just keep in mind, a method that works for one dog may not be suitable for another. That's why it's important to talk to your vet before making any changes to your dog's diet. Once you and your vet agree on a diet for your dog, be sure to transition your dog's food slowly to prevent aggravating its stomach.
Water is just as important as fiber for your dog's bowel movements. If your dog is dehydrated, it may pass hard, pebble-like poop, or experience some straining when trying to defecate. To prevent this, ensure your dog has access to a bowl of fresh water and is drinking throughout the day. This is especially important if your dog is physically active or frequently plays outdoors as they will need even more water to maintain normal hydration levels.
Don't know how much water to give your dog? Give your dog 1 ounce of water for each pound they weigh. If your dog, for example, weighs 10 pounds, it will need at least 10 ounces of water every day. You might also want to double-check with your vet if this is the ideal amount for your dog.
When Your Dog's Poop Merits a Trip to the Vet
As mentioned, an unhealthy stool tinted an unusual color will merit a visit to your vet. But it's important to note that other factors require an immediate diagnosis. These include:
- Persistent constipation or diarrhea
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Too frequent bowel movements (More than 5 times per day)
- Other physical ailments, such as bloating, lethargy, fever, vomiting, or trouble walking
- Sudden weight changes
If your dog isn't exhibiting any of these symptoms, but you feel like things just aren't right, go with your gut and schedule an appointment with your vet immediately. "It's better safe than sorry," as the old adage goes—and when it comes to your dog's health, we agree wholeheartedly.