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Dog poop: it may not be the most pleasant topic, but healthy dog poop is often an indication of a healthy pup. Keeping an eye on the characteristics of your dog's poop can be a good way to track any health problems he might be experiencing. Let's take a look at what differentiates healthy dog poop vs. abnormal poop that could be a sign of underlying health problems.
What Does the Perfect Poop Look Like?
Dog poop has four main "C" characteristics: color, content, consistency, and coating. The color of healthy dog poop should be chocolate brown. For the content part of the poop, you may want to let your veterinarian do the "dirty" work. Most people won't see much of anything inside the poop without a microscope. Healthy dog poop should also be a little firm in consistency, like play dough. Ideally, it should be in log shapes with little cleaves in it that if you were to roll it, it would break into smaller pieces. Finally, healthy poop does not have a coating on it at all. So, if your pooch has a chocolate-brown, somewhat firm, coating-free poop with nothing noticeably sticking out of it, you are all clear. However, read on for signs that could indicate a health issue.
When to be Alarmed by Your Pet's Poop
Again, the four Cs of pet poop can help you determine when your dog may be sick. Although it may not be pleasant, observing your dog's stool while it is fresh is the easiest time to catch irregularities.
- Worms: These could be long and skinny or look like little pieces of rice. Again, you should only be concerned if these appear in the fresh sample. If stool sits outside for a while, worms may find their way to it.
- Fur: Big clumps of fur in the stool could be a sign of over grooming, allergies, or skin disease. Keep an eye on how often you are seeing fur in the stool and discuss it with your vet.
- Foreign materials: Grass, plastic, rocks, cloth, and even money can sometimes be found in your dog's stool, after all dogs can sometimes ingest some odd things. Although what goes in often comes out, if you notice strange items in your dog's stool, you may want to call the vet to make sure they don't want to do a thorough check or x-ray. In some cases, dogs have gotten foreign objects stuck in their digestive tract and they need to have them surgically removed. This is why it is best to call your vet immediately if you notice bits of cloth or plastic in your dog's poop.
If you're picking up your pet's stool off the grass, there shouldn't be any sort of trail left behind. A coating of mucus often accompanies large bowel inflammation and usually occurs concurrently with diarrhea. If you notice this mucus in your dog's stool for more than one day, you should contact your vet to gauge your next steps.
Below is a simple guide of what healthy dog poop looks like vs. unhealthy based on color.
- Brown: A healthy pup's bowel movements should be chocolate brown in color.
- Green: Green stool could indicate that your dog is eating grass, perhaps to soothe an upset stomach.
- Black or maroon: This could be a sign of bleeding in the stomach or the small intestines.
- Red streaks: This is another sign of bleeding, probably in the lower gastrointestinal tract.
- Yellow: Yellow stool could mean problems with the liver, pancreas, or gallbladder.
- White spots: Your pup might have worms if you notice small white spots in his stool.
When evaluating the consistency of stool, most vets use a scale from one to seven, one being very firm (almost dry) and seven being very runny. Appropriately, the optimal consistency falls at a number two on the scale. However, if your dog's stool is a little loose, don't get alarmed. Just monitor your dog's poop to see if it keeps getting softer and softer, and keep samples refrigerated in case you do need to take him to the vet.
It's important to take healthy stool samples to wellness visits for your pet, so that if your pet does start to show signs of an unhealthy stool, your vet has some past records to compare it to. If your dog is experiencing what seems to be healthy stools, but has other signs of illness (not eating, vomiting, lethargy, etc.), it is still a good idea to take a stool sample anytime you need to take your pet to the vet. Many times, bits of information can be discovered by putting the stool sample under a microscope or running other tests.
Collecting the Stool Sample
It's very likely that you have found many different ways to clean up poop around your yard or while out for a walk. From pooper scoopers to special biodegradable bags, when it comes to cleaning up dog feces, there is no shortage of equipment. So, when you're collecting a healthy dog poop or even an unhealthy stool sample to take to the vet, be sure to use a clean bag, pick the sample up gently, and place into a clean, shallow plastic container with a lid. Refrigerate the sample until you are able to get it to the vet. If the poop is too watery to pick up, be sure to take a few clear photos with your smartphone to show the consistency. You can also try to get some of the wet poop into a container using a clean craft stick or plastic spoon. Never take a stool sample that has been sitting in the heat or in the grass for long periods of time. These samples could have dirt or parasites that were not part of the stool. One last thing to note: cleaning up dog poop quickly is also beneficial to your dog. Too much feces lying around in the backyard could lead your dog to start eating his own poop. There are also issues with public health where dog feces can seep into the water table and contaminate water sources. It should also be mentioned that you should wash your hands after picking up any poop even if you wear gloves or use the bag over your hand just to be safe.
Final Poop Pointers
Remember, your dog's stool tells a lot about his health. Good dog owners should follow these tips to better understand their dog and his health:
- When your dog poops, look for the four Cs: color, content, consistency, and coating.
- Always take fresh stool samples to every vet appointment.
- Clean up dog poop immediately whether on walks or in the backyard.
- If your dog has an accident in the house, get him outside right away and try to positively reinforce proper poop procedure.
- Notify your vet immediately if your dog's stools change drastically, your dog starts eating his own poop, having frequent accidents in the house, or if he has gone more than 24 hours without pooping.
Dog poop isn't a subject matter that we all enjoy talking about, but it can be a good indicator of your dog's overall health. Catching signs early can help ensure keeping him healthy.
Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.