Like most pet parents, you have an up-close and personal relationship with your dog’s poop. That’s not as bad as it sounds—dog poop can give you lots of valuable information about your pup’s health. And it’s often an early indicator that something’s up.
When it comes to interpreting dog poop, you’ll need to pay attention to the four C’s: color, consistency, coating, and contents. Changes to any of these aspects of your dog’s poop may just be related to a change in diet, but they can also be a sign of a more serious health problem.
In this essential guide to dog poop, you’ll learn about healthy dog poop vs unhealthy dog poop and when you should be concerned. Reference the guide any time you think something looks abnormal so you can stay on top of those bowel movements.
Table of contents:
1. What should healthy dog poop look like?
2. Dog poop colour meanings
3. Healthy vs unhealthy dog poop consistency
4. Dog poop contents and when to be concerned
5. Should my dog’s poop have a slimy coating?
6. What should healthy dog poop smell like?
7. When to call the vet about your dog’s poop
8. How to collect a dog stool sample
9. The final scoop
10. Dog poop FAQ
What should healthy dog poop look like?
Healthy dog poop should be light brown to dark brown in color, with a firm, but not hard, consistency. It should also be formed and segmented, and easy to pick up—not smeared on the sidewalk or stuck in the grass. The amount of stool should be proportionate to how much your dog eats.
As a general rule of thumb dogs should poop at least once a day, but no more than five. If your pup’s pooping more than five times a day, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Dog poop colour meanings
Just like with humans, your dog’s poop will change colour and consistency slightly depending on what they eat and how much they’re drinking. If you choose to give your dog table scraps like carrots, broccoli, beets, and spinach, these brightly coloured foods can easily affect the hue of your dog’s poop.
However, if your dog’s poop is a different colour than normal, it’s something you should monitor. While you’re keeping an eye on things, keep track of what they’re eating. If they do need a visit to the vet, the doctor will want to know what your dog has eaten recently.
Let’s take a look at the many possible colours of dog poop and what they might mean for your pup.
Brown dog poop
Brown is an acceptable and normal color for dog poop. There’s no cause for concern.
Green dog poop
Grass and some green foods can result in greenish dog poop. Eating grass could mean your dog’s having stomach troubles and it’s worth keeping an eye on the issue. If your dog hasn’t been snacking on your lawn, collect a stool sample and contact your vet for recommendations.
Yellow or orange dog poop
There are several reasons why your dog’s stool might appear yellow or orange, for example a change to diet. As your pup adjusts to new ingredients, you may see some orange-to-yellow. These colors are typically normal and no cause for alarm.
As with other unusual shades of poop, strongly coloured ingredients like turmeric or green tea are usually the culprit. If their regular food contains these ingredients, their poop will always have a bit of a tinge. If you’re ever concerned about the shade of your dog’s poop, get in touch with your vet.
Red, pink or magenta dog poop
Brightly colored foods, like beets, can temporarily turn portions of your dog’s poop pink or magenta. It’s best to keep an eye on the issue, but it's not generally cause for concern.
However, poop that contains a lot of fresh, red blood, could mean hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. This can be a serious condition and can be fatal if left untreated. Your dog should head to the vet immediately.
A red tinge or red streaks in your dog’s poop means fresh blood in the lower GI. This could be related to colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine or colon, parasites, rectal cuts or tears, bleeding polyps, or other intestinal conditions. Red poop is always a cause for concern and you should reach out to your vet.
Black dog poop
Black stool is also cause for concern because it usually means there’s bleeding in the stomach or upper GI tract. If your dog’s poop is black, they may have an underlying medical condition and they should see the vet right away.
Gray dog poop
Your dog’s poop may appear gray or pale if they’re having pancreatic issues. This impacts your pup's ability to properly digest and absorb their meals resulting in high amounts of fat in the stool. As a result, Gray stool typically has an oily or greasy appearance and a particularly strong aroma. If your dog has more than one instance of gray stool, contact your vet.
White dog poop
White stools are typically a sign that your dog’s constipated or has too much calcium in their diet. Since this can be common in dogs on raw diets or dogs who eat bones, it’s not cause for immediate concern. If you’re seeing white segments, white spots, or white worms in your dog’s poop, they likely have intestinal parasites and will need to be treated.
“Some worms and intestinal parasites can be passed from animals to humans,” says Dr. Cassandra Vlahaki, Head of Veterinary Medicine at Juno Veterinary. “You should always use a bag or gloves to pick up poop and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.”
If your dog shows signs of illness or they have white poop for more than 24 hours, you should call the vet to make sure it’s not a more serious issue.
Blue dog poop
Strangely colored stools can result from consumption of non-food items, which could be dangerous or toxic. For example, certain pesticides have been reported to cause blue-tinged poop, so you should call your vet immediately and monitor your dog for any other signs of illness.
Healthy vs unhealthy dog poop consistency
We know you agree—when it comes to dog poop consistency, firm, tube-like stool is ideal. It should be easy to pick up and feel a bit like clay. Slightly softer, less formed poop is also okay and falls under the normal category. Check out the Bristol Stool Chart, for a visual reference.
If your dog’s poop is hard or runny for more than a day, or it's accompanied by other symptoms, you should contact your vet. Here’s when dog poop consistency may be related to something more serious.
Hard Dog Poop
Hard stool may look more like nuggets or droppings, and your dog may strain when they’re going to the bathroom. Occasional hard poop often indicates constipation, dehydration, or a lack of fiber. If hard poop is also white in colour, your dog may have too much calcium in their diet.
However, frequent hard stools can be a sign of serious underlying conditions like digestive disorders. If your dog has recurring hard stools and it’s not likely they’re the result of diet, get in touch with your vet.
Runny or Watery Dog Poop
Runny or watery dog poop is diarrhea, which can be caused by a change in diet, stress, or more serious conditions like giardia, parasites, viruses, infections and other disorders.
Diarrhea that resolves itself within 24 hours isn’t usually cause for concern. However, if your dog has multiple bouts of diarrhea that last for more than a day, there’s blood in their stool, or they're showing signs of pain or illness, you should get them to the vet right away.
Dog poop contents and when to be concerned
While you’re scooping, it’s important to take a quick look at the contents of your dog’s poop. You don’t need to dig through it, but you should be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. Here are a few things to watch for.
The occasional bit of undigested food is totally normal, but if you’re noticing it repeatedly or there are large amounts, your dog may have a digestive issue. Mention it to your vet as soon as you can and if you notice vomiting or other signs of illness, bring your dog in right away.
You’re likely to see bits of hair in your dog’s poop from time to time, especially if they have long or thick fur. However, if there’s a lot of hair, or it's accompanied by vomiting or weight loss, call your vet right away. It’s rare, but your dog may have an intestinal blockage from a build-up of hair.
If you see small white particles or skinny worm-like objects in your dog’s poop, they likely have worms. Intestinal parasites are especially common in puppies, but older dogs can get them, too. Intestinal worms always need to be treated and they can be contagious to humans and other pets, so it’s important to call your vet as soon as you suspect them. Collect a fresh stool sample so your vet can prescribe the appropriate dewormer for your pup.
Dogs can be sneaky about snacking on non-food objects like candy wrappers, small toys, and even socks. If you notice a foreign object in your dog’s poop, reach out to our Virtual Care team right away. Ingesting foreign objects can lead to intestinal or rectal injuries or serious blockages of the digestive tract.
Should my dog’s poop have a slimy coating?
Healthy dog poop should not be slimy or coated with mucus. While dogs naturally produce a small amount of mucus to help things move along their digestive tract, excessive mucus is a good sign that something’s off. Slimy dog poop could be the result of intestinal inflammation, digestive disease, or a bowel disorder or infection.
“There’s no way to know the underlying cause of bloody or yellow mucus without a complete vet examination and diagnostic testing,” says Dr. Cassandra. “That’s why it’s so important to seek care.”
Mucus-covered poop is generally an off colour, harder to scoop, and accompanied by blood, or diarrhea. Sorry you asked?
What should healthy dog poop smell like?
We know dog poop doesn’t smell like roses, but if you notice it’s worse than normal or has a particularly strong odor, it’s worth monitoring. The occasional “ugh, what did you eat!?” is normal, but recurring stink or excessive gas could mean your dog has parasites or a potential infection.
When to call the vet about your dog’s poop
As with any issue, you should call your vet if you’re concerned. You can also reach out to our virtual care team to help you assess the situation. However, a single abnormal poop isn’t cause for panic. If your dog’s energy levels are normal, they’re eating well, and seem like their regular self, it’s okay to keep an eye on them at home.
As a general rule of thumb, you should definitely call your vet if you notice any of the following in addition to out-of-the-ordinary poop:
- Diarrhea or constipation that lasts for more than 2 days
- Excessive amounts of blood, mucus, or fat in your dog’s stool
- A possible intestinal blockage
- You’re worried your dog may have eaten something dangerous
- Your dog isn't eating or drinking
- Any additional signs that your dog’s sick, in pain, or feeling unwell
Acting quickly helps prevent unnecessary discomfort and can improve your dog’s prognosis.
How to collect a dog stool sample
We’ve mentioned a few times that you may need to collect a stool sample, so that’s the best way to do that?
Collecting a stool sample is simple. Just pick up your dog’s poop with a plastic bag or container. Your sample should be as fresh as possible. If getting a fresh sample within a few hours of your appointment is tough, you can store the sample in the fridge or ask your vet for recommendations.
If you’re dealing with diarrhea and your dog’s poop is too watery for a sample, take photos to show your get at your appointment.
The final scoop
Who knew daily bathroom breaks could tell you so much about your dog’s overall health? To recap:
- Healthy puppy poop and dog poop should be brown and well-formed.
- Poop comes in many colours, and while it’s not usually an immediate concern, it’s good to keep an eye on things.
- Yes, poop stinks, but it shouldn’t be overwhelmingly bad or unusually strong.
- Contents and texture are important, too. Be on the lookout for undigested food, non-food objects, or excessive mucus.
- If abnormal poops last longer than 24 hours or they’re accompanied by signs of illness, you should consult your vet.
Don’t forget, dog’s poop will change with diet. The nutrient content and digestibility of new food affect your dog’s bowel movements, so it's normal to see changes in color, consistency, content, frequency as your pet’s gut adjusts.
If you’re ever worried about your dog’s poop, we’re here to help. Contact your Juno Vet care team any time.