Dog poo- What it can tell you about dog health

katy towle 20 January 2021


While we may not like to talk about it, everybody poos! This, of course, includes our trustworthy canine companions. In fact, many owners are quite familiar with their fluffy friends’ stools, thanks to the fact that they are the ones picking them up and disposing of them on every walk. While ‘poo patrol’ may seem like a thankless task, it can actually provide some invaluable insight into our dogs’ overall health.

Consistency

A normal dog poo should be solid in consistency so that you can pick it up cleanly off the ground without it becoming stuck or leaving a portion behind. Liquid poo is known as ‘diarrhoea’ and tells us that too much water is being lost via the digestive tract. However, it should not be rock hard or difficult to pass either. It should be easily ‘squished’ within the poo bag after being picked up; think of bread dough before it has been baked!

While the odd irregular poo may not be a big concern, when the issue is consistent, we should take a closer look at things. 

A change in consistency can have a number of causes.

Hard stool can be due to:

  • Dehydration or reduced fluid intake
  • A lack of fiber in the diet
  • A medical condition such as a pelvic injury or neurological disorder 

Sloppy stool may occur because of:

  • A bacterial imbalance in the gut
  • A dietary sensitivity or allergy
  • A dog eating something they shouldn’t have (such as rich human food or bones)
  • A medical condition such as liver disease or a viral infection

Colour

There is some degree of normal variation when it comes to poo colour and it can depend on what a dog has eaten that day. Some owners panic when they see green poos, for example, but this may simply mean that Fido has been chowing down on grass the previous day. All shades of brown are generally normal, but abnormal colours include:

  • White. Lack of color is a red flag and can indicate an issue with the digestive system, such as in the liver or gallbladder. This should be looked into right away.
  • Red. Even a few flecks of red are not normal. We can see a small amount of blood for many reasons (including parasitic infections, anal gland abscesses and rectal polyps) but it always warrants a trip to the vet.
  • Black. Black, tarry poo indicates bleeding from somewhere high up in the digestive tract, such as the stomach. The blood has been ‘digested’ turning it from red to black.
  • Bright yellow. In some cases, this colour can mean a liver problem, though I did once diagnose a Labrador puppy pooing yellow with a ‘Crayola crayon overload!’.

Little ‘Extras’

Sometimes when we are picking up our dog’s ‘mess’, we might find something we weren’t bargaining for such as:

Mucus. Mucus can be present and may look like slime or snot on the surface of the poo. This lets us know that there is inflammation and is one of the hallmarks of ‘colitis’. Colitis is an inflammation of the large bowel that many dogs will suffer from during their lifetime.

Worms. In heavy worm burdens, we can sometimes actually see these critters wriggling about. If alive, we need to get some good quality wormer on board stat! If the worms are dead and you have just given a wormer, this lets us know that the medicine has done its job.

‘Grains of rice’. Tapeworm segments can sometimes be seen in the poo. TOP TIP: If your dog has tapeworms, check them thoroughly for fleas as fleas can carry these nasty worms.

Smell

Without a doubt, all poo smells bad! Having said this, some poo can smell particularly foul. Those fed on poor quality diets often have a worse odour as some of the food is passed undigested. As a rule of thumb, the better the food, the less awful the stench.

The ‘perfect’ poo

So, what should your little one’s poo look like? Well, solid and chocolate brown with no ‘surprises’ on top is what we are looking for. Most dogs will go once or twice a day and they should not find it difficult to posture or pass the poo. 

How can we improve the appearance of our dog’s poo?

Poo health is, of course, closely linked to general health as well as gut health. Feeding high quality diets and avoiding inappropriate foods (such as rich human food and bones) goes a long way. 

Those prone to sloppy poos or other issues will often benefit from specific diets, such as Pooch and Mutt’s ‘Health & Digestion kibble. Importantly, it is a good source of both prebiotics and probiotics, which will contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. As well as this, it is made from high-quality, bioavailable ingredients which are easier for your dog to digest. 

If your dog’s poos are abnormal, it is very important to get a diagnosis, which usually means a check over and a faecal sample. In some cases, further tests such as specific blood tests and abdominal scans will be needed too. Once we know why the poo is irregular, we can then start to address the problem.