It may be a gross topic, but let's face it - if you're a responsible dog owner, you're picking up your dog's poop multiple times a day. So, you might as well know what to look for to determine whether your dog's poop is normal or problematic. We've broken down the do-do, so you don't have to. Here's the "scoop" so you can learn more about your dog's health and well-being.
First, let's define what normal dog poop looks like. Although varying from dog to dog and breed to breed, typical dog poop should be basically brown in color, neither too soft (diarrhea) nor too hard to pass (constipation). Use your dog's healthy poop (color, frequency and consistency) as a baseline to compare when he is not feeling well so you're aware when there's an issue.
Poop of a liquid consistency or that looks like "cow patty" or "soft serve" is typically not a cause for concern. If it improves within 24-48 hours, no action is needed. A wait and see approach is advised, and if the dog is acting normally (eating well, not vomiting and displaying a happy demeanor), there is usually no need to seek medical attention.
Black or Very Dark Poop
This may require an urgent trip to the vet as black or tarry consistency can indicate a gastrointestinal ulcer or bleeding high in the GI tract. A bleeding ulcer can oftentimes be caused by human medications with aspirin, steroids or NSAIDs, so be careful of ever giving to your dog without consulting your vet. Other generalized bleeding can be from rat poison, heat stroke or immune-mediated disease. Blood work and/or an ultrasound are typically recommended to get a full look at the intestinal tract.
The red color could indicate bleeding within the GI tract. Streaks of blood can indicate colitis (inflammation of the colon), rectal injury, anal gland infection or even a tumor. Less worrisome may be slight reddish color in an otherwise normal stool, which is typically indicative of inflammation in the large intestine. Regardless, you'll want to monitor your dog closely for any further changes in stool and also behavior.
Pink or Purple Poop or Large Volume of Diarrhea
Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE) can be a common cause of pink or purple poop (often described as looking like raspberry jam), or a cause of a large amount of watery or bloody poop, especially in smaller dogs. While most will recover with treatment, seek veterinary attention immediately as this condition can be fatal if left untreated.
Grey or Greasy Poop
Poop that appears fatty or glistens could indicate a condition called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), which occurs when the pancreas does not produce necessary enzymes to digest fat. Commonly referred to as maldigestion, EPI is treatable. German Shepherds and Rough-Coated Collies are often afflicted with EPI.
Check with your vet immediately, as green poop can indicate a variety of issues from as mild as eating a lot of grass to as serious as swallowing rat bait poison or ingesting a dangerous parasite. Exposure to rodenticides is certainly dangerous, so let your vet know if that may be the case.
Orange or Pasty, Light Poop
Often indicative of a liver issue or biliary disease, orange poop warrants a call to your vet. Hopefully from professional evaluation, it's determined that the orange color is simply from the poop moving too quickly through the GI tract to pick up bile, which makes poop its normal brown color.
If you've recently changed your dog's diet, yellow mucus in poop usually means a food intolerance or allergy, causing an upset stomach. Isolate the suspected ingredient(s) and remove from future diet.
White Flakes or Specks in Poop
Have you noticed grains of white rice in your dog's poop, only to realize you haven't fed him any rice? While not serious, this likely means your dog has worms. Roundworms (spaghetti-like shaped) are typically found in puppies. Small, flat worms (found on the outside of stool or around the rectum) may be found in your dog's sleeping areas as well and typically indicate tapeworm, which take over when a dog has fleas. Worms require a visit to the vet, but don't panic upon first sight, as they are treatable with parasite medication.
It is worth noting that slight variations in your dog's poop or infrequent bouts of diarrhea or constipation are often no cause for concern and don't constitute an emergency situation. For example, if your dog eats something questionable off the ground or out of the trash (commonly referred to as garbage gut), he'll likely pay for it with an upset stomach and abnormal stool.
However, if your dog's abnormal stool is accompanied with vomiting, refusal to eat or drink, or other concerning symptoms, a trip to the vet is necessary. Your vet may even ask you to bring a stool sample with specific storage instructions for laboratory testing. Other diagnostics such as blood work or radiographs may also be warranted depending on the symptoms.