Dog Stool Information: What Do Normal Dog Stools Look Like?
Many dog owners aren't aware of what their dog's stools look like, and aren't aware of what they should look like or the usual problems. They may get a wake-up call only later, when their dog is really sick. Chances are, if you send your dog in and out of the house to poop on his own or have installed a doggy door, you may be missing out on some important information. Truth is, dog poop can provide a wealth of information about your dog's digestion, absorption of nutrients and even his emotional well-being!
Still, the stool's appearance is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many things our naked eyes cannot see. When I worked for a veterinarian, I used to hear dog owners say: "Oh, my dog can't have worms; we haven't seen any in his poop." It was my job then to emphasize the importance of running yearly fecal tests. Dogs can have parasites that can't be seen by the naked eye yet because they are at a stage where you can't detect their presence yet. There's a good reason why veterinarians rely on microscopes to identify them! The owners were often surprised when the vet actually found their dog's feces to be positive for parasites, and some couldn't believe their eyes when they saw what their dog pooped out after being de-wormed! Worms aren't the only pesky parasites to be found in dog poop; microscopic protozoans such as coccidia and giardia may feast there as well.
Inspecting dog poop may not be the most pleasant of tasks, but I highly recommend making it a habit. Veterinarian Donna Solomon claims "Just like diamonds that are evaluated by the four Cs—color, clarity, carat weight and cut grade—stool samples are evaluated by the following: color, shape, consistency, size, and content." In the next paragraphs, we will be looking at the differences between normal and abnormal stools in dogs. Note: there will be some graphic pictures of poop, so be prepared.
Knowing the average size of your dog's stool is important. Generally, diets that are poor and full of fillers lead to bulky stools because the dog doesn't absorb many nutrients; however, this isn't always the case.
Normal Stool Size
The volume of stool can often indicate how well your dog is absorbing food and how much he eats. The volume of stool produced varies by the size of the dog, too. Obviously, a chihuahua's stool will be much smaller than that of a Saint Bernard! Observe your dog's stool so you can get acquainted with the average size and so you can recognize the first signs of trouble.
Abnormal Stool Size
If your dog isn't eating much but the output volume seems high, it could be that he is not absorbing and digesting as he should. Dogs with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency are known for producing voluminous stools, having a dull coat and losing weight. Also, dogs fed a lot of fiber may also develop voluminous stools.
Normal stool color comes from the presence of bilirubin, a chemical produced by the liver and then further degraded into urobilinogen and then stercobilin, which is the brown pigment responsible for giving stools their typical color.
The color of a dog's stool varies from one dog to another. For the most part, it depends on what the dog eats. Dogs who eat raw-meat diets with bones will often have stools that turn white after 24 hours and then crumble. Generally speaking, though, the normal color is a chocolate brown.
- Dark black, tarry stools are a concern as they can signify the presence of digested blood. This is known as melena and is often seen in dogs with gastro-intestinal bleeding from ulcers.
- Yellow stools can also be indicative of increased intestinal motility with the stools moving so quickly through the intestinal tract that stercobilin doesn't make it on time to add its distinct pigment. This can be seen in digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and exocrine pancreatic insuffiency.
- Bright yellow stools can be indicative of problems with the liver, pancreas or gall bladder.
- Bright orange stools may also be suggestive of liver or gall bladder issues.
- Grey stools are often indicative of a liver problem or malabsorption.
- Raspberry-jam looking stools happen when severe inflammation causes sloughing of the intestine's lining with chunks of tissue found within the watery diarrhea. It is often a symptom of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.
You'll like see different shapes of stool throughout your dog's life, but most of the time, the universal shape remains the same.
Normal dog stools should be shaped like a log, that is, cylindrical and should be easy to pick up, leaving no mess behind.
- Small round stools may be indicative of constipation. It's important to check that these dogs are drinking enough and not dehydrated. Old dogs who don't drink enough and are inactive because of arthritis may have this type of stool. This can be also seen in dogs with kidney disease.
- Stools that appear very thin like strips may indicate a narrowing of the intestine or rectum.
- Intact male dogs with an enlarged prostate may also develop pencil-thin stools because the enlarged prostate pushes against the bowel.
The consistency of the dog's stool is important. It can tell you if your dog is constipated or has diarrhea. Sometimes the stool is somewhere in between diarrhea and constipation.
Stools should be easy to pick up and they shouldn't break apart easily. Ideally, if you are picking up stool from the grass, it shouldn't stick to the grass.
- Constipated dogs produce small, dry and very hard stools that are painful to pass.
- Generally, large volumes of watery diarrhea may suggest issues with the small intestine.
- Small, strained volumes produced on a frequent basis suggest issues with the colon, explains veterinarian Patty Khuly on Vet Street.
- Stools that start out a bit on the soft side and then become gelatinous, shiny and mucoid may be indicative of colitis, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona. This makes the inflamed colon produce a lot of mucus and erosions that lead to bleeding. Colitis can be sometimes triggered by stress.
Normal Stool Content
What's in your dog's stool? Normal stools should only be stool! But here are some things you may find:
- You shouldn't be able to see anything in it unless your dog ate something that he couldn't digest. It's quite common to see pieces of carrots, for example, as a dog's digestive system may not be able to break them down, especially when the carrots aren't shredded.
- You may be shocked to find items that went missing! Dogs who chew toys may have particles of toys in them.
- A lot of hair may indicate that your dog is shedding heavily and that he may need to be brushed more so less hair is ingested.
- The presence of grass may indicate grass consumption which is often seen in dogs who just like to eat grass or who are suffering from digestive upset.
- The presence of mucus in dog stool means the dog's colon is likely irritated.
- As mentioned, blood in the dog's stool may be indicative of many conditions, and is sometimes seen in diarrhea due to dietary changes and stress.
- Do you see rice-like particles, but you haven't fed your dog rice? Most likely they are tapeworm segments.
- Long spaghetti-like strands may be roundworms.
As seen, a dog's stools may say a lot about your dog's health! It's important to recognize, though, that dogs won't always have perfect stools. Your dog may have months of nice-looking stools and then one day his stools may look different. If that's the case, it's important to pay attention to the issue. Has the dog eaten something different? Might he be stressed? Has he recently been dewormed? If it seems not to be an isolated event and the dog develops other symptoms, it's good practice to consult with the vet and also bring a stool sample to him or her. See your vet if your dog's poop has an odd smell, size, consistency and content. It may turn out to be nothing, but at times it may require testing and treatment.
Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog's stool seems odd, consult with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
For further reading
- Slippery Elm Bark for Dog Diarrhea and Upset Stomach
How can slippery elm bark help for your dog's stomach upset? This natural dog diarrhea remedy has been featured in a study and shown to be effective. Learn more about this natural remedy for dogs.
- Using Probiotics for Dog Diarrhea
At times, the use of probiotics for dog diarrhea can be helpful in restoring healthy bacteria in the gut. Learn more about probiotics and how they can help for cases of canine colitis an d much more.
- Why is My Dog so Picky About Where He Poops?
So you own a dog who is very picky about where he poops? Learn why your dog may be so picky about his toilet habits and what you can do about it.