Common Dog Poop Problems
Dog poop problems may not be fun to think about, but they are some of the best indicators of your dog’s health. Whether or not you spend a lot of time in the yard scooping your dog’s poop, you should be aware of how often your dog is pooping and what their poop looks like.
There are a few criteria that your dog’s poop ought to meet to be considered healthy. If poop is the wrong size, shape, color, or consistency, it’s likely because your dog is experiencing some sort of health issue. In most cases, you will need to take your pup to the vet to address the issues.
In the below paragraphs, we’ll take a look at:
- What Healthy Dog Poop Looks Like
- Dog Poop Problems and What They Mean
- Common Digestion and Bowel Issues Dogs Face
- How to Treat Common Digestive Issues in Dogs
- Nutrition Essentials for Keeping Your Dog in Good Digestive Health
- How Leaving Dog Poop In Your Yard Affects Your Dog’s Health
By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll know everything you need to know about making sure your dog is passing healthy poop and living a healthy lifestyle.
What Healthy Dog Poop Looks Like
Let’s start by laying a foundation for what healthy dog poop looks like. First, it’s important to note that your dog should be pooping at least once a day, but generally no more than five times a day. Most dogs poop about two or three times a day. If they’re pooping much more or less, they may have a digestion issue you should look into.
Second, know that there are five measurements we use when determining how healthy your dog’s poop is.
- Consistency. Your dog should pass poop that is solid, soft, and easy to pick up. It shouldn’t be hard and rocky or soft and watery. It shouldn’t leave much residue on the ground when you pick it up.
- Shape. A dog’s poop should be shaped much like a log. Shapeless, runny poop and small, pebble-like poop are common signs of intestinal issues.
- Color. Your dog’s poop should be brown like milk chocolate. Any other color is probably a sign of intestinal distress.
- Size. Your dog should be pooping an amount appropriate to how much you’re feeding them. If they are pooping way more than they should be or barely at all, they’re likely experiencing some kind of illness.
- Content. Dog poop should be clear of additional matter. If you’re finding grass, worms, fur, blood, or anything else unusual in your dog’s poop, you’ll need to check for behavioral and/or physical issues.
If your dog is passing poop that is solid, soft, log-shaped, brown, clean, and normally-sized, your dog is healthy. But if any of these factors are off, your dog could be experiencing some serious health problems.
Dog Poop Problems and What They Mean
First, let’s consider some common problems you could see with your dog’s poop. These problems could be poop that’s the wrong size, shape, color, or consistency. We’ll take a look at what these problems mean and how you can help.
Off-Color Dog Poop
Off-color dog poop is one of the easiest measurements of how well a dog is doing. Let’s look at the various colors you might see and what each one probably means.
- Green. If your dog’s poop is green, there are two main causes: their bowel is moving too fast or they’ve eaten something odd. If your dog is experiencing rapid intestinal transit, they will have greenish poop because the poop is not exposed to enough bacteria during transit to turn it brown before it is passed. Or, if your dog is eating a lot of grass, certain types of dog treats, or certain types of rodent poison, their poop may turn green because of the content in their stomach.
- Orange or yellow. Dog poop that is orange or yellow is usually an indication of some sort of issue within their pancreas, liver, or gallbladder. In these situations, their bile colors their poop in a shade of orange or yellow.
- Gray or white. If your dog passes gray or white poop, they are probably experiencing some kind of liver, gallbladder, or pancreas issue. For some reason, they are not properly digesting their food.
- Red. Red dog poop almost always means blood. Blood can be caused by a variety of reasons, often within the large intestine. Foreign objects, tumors, inflammation, trauma, or worms might cause bloody stool. Plus, a dog may get blood in their stool if they are struggling to pass it and thus cause cuts in their anus.
- Black. If your dog’s poop is black, this is likely an indication of distress and bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract or stomach. It could be caused by medication, poison, parasites, or a variety of other diseases.
- Spotted white. Dog poop that is spotted with white flecks resembling rice grains indicates tapeworms. The white spots are small worms that the dog likely got from eating fleas. Roundworms (larger and longer) may also appear in dog poop.
Other Dog Poop Oddities
In addition to odd-colored poop, you may notice poop that is the wrong consistency, filled with foreign objects, or coming out in the wrong quantity. Let’s look at a few warning signs that you might find in dog poop.
- Fur. If your dog is passing poop filled with fur, it’s probably because of excessive grooming. This usually means that they’re suffering from fleas or another type of skin irritation. It could also indicate boredom or behavioral issues.
- Mucus. Some mucus is normal in dog poop, but excess mucus is likely a sign that something is wrong in the dog’s colon that is causing inflammation. The issue could be a parasite, an infection, an allergy, or spoiled food, among others.
- Fat. Excess fat will make your dog’s poop look greasy. The presence of fat in poop usually means dogs are eating too much fat or that they are struggling with gallbladder or pancreas issues.
- Foreign objects. Grass, rocks, sand, carpet, and other foreign objects appear in your dog’s poop if they are eating said items. Usually, their choice to eat unusual objects indicates they are suffering from a nutritional deficiency or a behavioral problem. Grass may indicate nausea or stomach upset as well.
- Diarrhea. As with humans, diarrhea is likely an indication of illness in a dog. They may get diarrhea from eating too much, changing their diet, eating a lot of garbage, eating poison, experiencing parasites, or even feeling stressed.
Constipation. If a dog stops pooping, passes hard, dry stool, or strains to defecate, they are probably constipated. Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors, including excess calcium, lack of fiber, lack of exercise, tumors, injuries, and stress.
Common Digestion and Bowel Issues Dogs Face
As with humans, dogs face many different digestion and bowel issues. It’s not often possible to identify the exact issue at the first sign of discomfort, so it’s important that you see your vet if your dog is experiencing symptoms. However, we will take a look at some of the most common digestive or bowel issues your dog could be facing.
Symptoms of Digestive Issues
There are many symptoms that accompany digestive issues in dogs, most of which are easy to identify.
- Off-color poop. Could point to internal digestive issues or poor eating habits.
- Diarrhea. Could indicate any kind of internal distress, allergy, or food sensitivity.
- Pebble-like poop. Usually indicates constipation from dehydration or other internal issues.
- Fatty poop. Often a symptom of too much fat or digestive issues.
- Mucus-coated poop. Usually a sign of upset digestion.
- Constipation. Usually an indication of dehydration, low nutrition, or internal blockage.
- Vomiting. A sign of multiple internal disturbances, allergies, or food sensitivities.
- Gas (flatulence). Often a sign of digestive distress or bloating.
- Weight loss. Usually a symptom of worms or other digestive diseases.
- Lack of appetite. Another sign of worms or digestive diseases and issues.
- Dehydration. A sign that often accompanies diarrhea and vomiting from digestive illness.
- Abdominal pain. A symptom of multiple internal issues.
- Abdominal enlargement (distension). Often a sign of bloat from twisted organs.
- Distress. A common symptom of a variety of different internal issues.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, you should keep a careful eye on them. If the symptoms don’t disappear within a day or so, you’ll need to go to the vet. In some cases, you may want to skip the waiting period and go to the vet immediately.
You likely notice that these symptoms could indicate any number of internal issues and are not very conclusive. That’s why talking with your vet is often essential if you notice your dog struggling with pain, distress, or odd bowel movements.
12 Common Causes of Digestive Issues
The causes of digestive issues and upset stomachs in dogs range from the very mild to the very serious. While there are likely hundreds of different issues a dog could face, we’ll look here at the most common causes.
- Dietary Indiscretions. You’ve probably seen your dog eat some pretty strange things, including carpet, garbage, table scraps, and grass or other outdoor objects. While they can digest some of these things without much trouble, certain foods and items can cause bacterial growth or an obstruction in your dog’s stomach, leading to pain and distress.
- Food. Changing up your dog’s diet can be a good thing, but sometimes dogs get upset stomachs the first few times they switch to a new food. If you notice diarrhea or upset stomach after changing food, you might want to consider slowing down the process.
- Stress. Some dogs experience severe diarrhea or constipation when they’re stressed. This stress is most often induced by travel, moving, or other big life changes.
- Bloat or Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV). If your dog has bloat, their stomach is probably twisted, making it impossible for them to expel gas or vomit. You’ll probably notice discomfort, an enlarged stomach, retching without vomit, and drooling in your dog. You should seek medical attention immediately for bloat.
- Pancreatitis. Vomiting and diarrhea are often the result of pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. This is often caused by an increased intake of fat and can be very serious. Other symptoms include dehydration, weakness, loss of appetite, and fever.
- Biliary disease. Biliary disease can manifest in several ways: Gallbladder Mucoceles, or a buildup of mucus and bile in the gallbladder; Cholecystitis, or inflammation of the gallbladder; Cholelithiasis, or gallbladder stones; Cancer present in the gallbladder. Loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea are signs of biliary disease.
- Giardia. Giardia is caused by a parasite that a dog might pick up through contaminated food, water, or soil. Pale colored diarrhea is the most common symptom and may be accompanied by lethargy, loss of appetite, and flatulence.
- Parvovirus. Parvovirus is a serious disease most commonly occurring in puppies. The virus attacks white blood cells and the intestinal tract, wearing down the walls of the dog’s intestines until it can no longer absorb nutrients or properly digest food. Severe vomiting and diarrhea, fever, lethargy, and bloody stool result from this virus, which should be treated immediately.
- Tapeworms. Most dogs ingest tapeworms by eating an infected flea after grooming. These long worms attach to your dog’s small intestine and grow, eventually releasing segments of their body in your dog’s poop. Tapeworms don’t usually cause illness, but if they grow large they can cause your dog to stop eating.
- Intestinal blockages. Most often, serious intestinal blockages occur because your dog swallowed a foreign object of some kind. This object then becomes lodged in your dog’s intestinal tract and makes it impossible for them to eat. Blockages usually result in vomiting and could lead to internal shock or rupture if not properly treated.
- Toxins. Some foods and substances are poisonous to dogs, including chocolate, household poisons, vitamins, minerals, medications, rodenticides, certain human vegetables, alcohol, and some kinds of plants. When your dog ingests such a poison, they will likely begin vomiting, having diarrhea, and sometimes trembling uncontrollably.
- Cancers. Rarely, cancer may cause digestive problems in dogs. Cancerous tumors may block your dog’s digestive tract or increase inflammation and acidity, resulting in stomach upset.
While these are the most common causes of digestive issues in dogs, there are many other diseases and issues that could lead to similar symptoms. Because odd-colored poop, diarrhea, and vomiting are all very common symptoms in most intestinal issues, it’s important that you take your dog to a vet to get testing done right away if you suspect any kind of intestinal illness.
How to Treat Common Digestive Issues in Dogs
While you may need to take your dog to the vet after noticing symptoms of digestive upset, you may also be able to help your pet with a few home remedies if their illness is not serious. It’s important that you carefully monitor any symptoms to make sure your dog isn’t getting any worse. If they are, it’s time to go to the vet.
Home Remedies for Digestive Problems
There are a few home remedies you can try if your dog’s health problems don’t seem too serious. If your dog is having strange poop for at least two bowel movements or vomiting for more than a day, you will probably need to take them to the vet regardless.
One of the first things you should try is changing your dog’s diet. For example, if you just switched to a new dog food, it might upset their digestion. Try feeding them dishes with a quarter of the new food and three quarters of the old food for a few days, slowly adding in more of the new food. This should ease any serious stomach upset.
If your dog is constipated, you can start out by getting him to drink more water. Sometimes, adding water to food is the best way to get the extra liquid down. Adding broth or other flavoring to your dog’s water could also encourage more drinking. If extra water doesn’t help, you could feed your dog some oil (vegetable or coconut) with their food to ease digestion, get them to exercise more, and increase the amount of fiber in their diet.
If your dog is having a lot of diarrhea, try feeding your dog some plain, steamed food like pumpkin, rice, or plain low-fat meat. Plain yogurt, probiotics, and cottage cheese can also help your dog digest their food more effectively. Slippery elm and other herbs like fennel or chamomile could also provide relief, but you may want to check with your vet first.
If your dog is eating strange household objects or their own poop, they could be searching for extra nutrition. Make sure their dog food contains all essential nutrients for a healthy dog. Dogs need minerals, hydrochloric acid, and many other nutritious elements (which we’ll dive into below) to be healthy.
You can supplement minerals, apple cider vinegar (for the hydrochloric acid) and certain other nutrients if your dog isn’t getting enough in their food. You may also need digestive enzymes if your dog is older and struggling to digest due to age.
When to Go to the Vet for Dog Digestive Issues
It’s critical to know when you need to head to the vet to get help for your dog. Failing to go when you need to could lead to your dog suffering serious pain or even dying.
While you should certainly try what home remedies you can before heading to the vet, when you notice certain signs, you need to get medical help. Let’s look at some of the common signs that your dog is seriously ill and needs immediate medical attention.
- Blood in poop. Any time your dog’s poop is bloody, you need to talk to your vet. They can help you determine where the blood is coming from and order further testing if necessary.
- Black poop. As mentioned, black poop is almost always a sign of internal bleeding. This needs to be addressed immediately.
- Worms in poop. While worms aren’t usually life-threatening, they can cause a dog’s intestines serious damage and can also steal away important nutrition. Call or visit your vet for a dewormer prescription to get your dog back to normal.
- Green or yellowish poop. Since green poop is commonly a sign of disease in your dog’s organs and an excess of bile, you’ll want to see your vet as soon as you can. While some causes of green poop are less harmful than others, you’ll still want to rule out serious diseases as soon as possible.
- Bloat. Most common in deep-chested dogs like Great Danes and German Shepherds, bloat or GDV is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Keep an eye on your dog for a distended stomach and failed attempts to vomit.
- Toxins. While it can be difficult to know what your dog is doing at all times, it’s usually not hard to spot when they ingest a toxin. If you see that you’re missing chocolate, grapes, onions, drugs, rodent poisons, or household cleaning items, check your dog for signs of illness. As soon as you notice vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, or discomfort, get your dog to a vet.
- Failure to urinate. Bladder stones, stones in the urethra, and urinary tract infections can make it difficult or impossible for your dog to urinate. If you notice them straining and failing to urinate, or if you see blood in their urine, call the vet for guidance.
- Extreme dehydration. If your dog has been vomiting and having diarrhea, they may need to go to the vet to get some IV fluids. This is especially important if they refuse to drink and eat.
If you notice these symptoms in your dog, try to call the vet or take your pup in as soon as possible. To help your vet better determine what is going on with your dog, try to collect a poop sample in a plastic bag. Vets can test poop to discover a wide variety of issues your dog may be facing.
How Your Vet Tests Your Dog
Once you get to the vet, they’ll try several different tests to figure out what’s wrong with your dog and how to help them heal as quickly as possible. If you brought a stool sample, they’ll probably start by testing that to see what substances in it indicate poor health. They may decide to take a urine sample as well if they suspect that your dog’s urinary tract may be involved.
Next, they’ll probably run blood tests. Blood tests can check for blood sugar levels, signs of organ failure, and certain enzymes in your dog’s liver and pancreas. Your vets may also do an x-ray of your dog to view their digestive tract and stomach and check for blockages, bleeding, and other issues.
Finally, they may try an endoscopy, in which they insert a small camera into your dog through their mouth into the digestive tract. This will help them identify clearly any issues, blockages, or parasites infecting your dog. It can also test cells that look off in your dog’s body to determine probable issues.
Once receiving the results from these tests, your vet may order a cell biopsy to study cells that showed up as abnormal in the endoscopy. If they can’t find anything wrong with your dog’s internal systems, they may try food trials to determine if specific foods are causing your dog’s discomfort.
How To Collect a Stool Sample for Your Dog’s Vet
If you notice your dog’s poop is looking weird, you’ll want to take a sample into the vet for testing. This step could be critical in determining your dog’s specific digestive issues and how to help them get started on the road to recovery.
Here are the steps to take to collect a stool sample for your dog’s vet:
- Put on a pair of disposable gloves to protect your skin.
- Take a picture of the poop with your camera or phone before picking it up.
- Pick up the poop and place it in a plastic bag designed to carry poop.
- Keep in mind that if you’re dealing with diarrhea, you probably won’t be able to get everything. Just do your best to get what you can and make sure you get lots of pictures.
- Tie the bag closed and place it in a tightly-closing container like a Tupperware.
- Refrigerate if you’re not driving directly to the vet.
Once your dog poop is collected, call your vet to make an appointment or drive to an emergency veterinarian if your dog is in serious distress.
Nutrition Essentials for Keeping Your Dog in Good Digestive Health
Digestive issues may be common in dogs, but none of us wants to see our pet suffer because of our own carelessness. If we can prevent digestive issues before they happen, we will. Sometimes, though, we don’t even realize we’re missing something until symptoms begin.
As a pet owner, you probably spend a lot of time researching the best methods of caring for your dog and the best foods to feed them. But sometimes the best way to understand what you need to feed your dog is to understand what nutrition they actually need to function, not just what dog food others like the most.
To make sure you’re giving your dog the best possible food, let’s take a look at the nutrients every dog needs to thrive. There are six main nutrient needs for every dog:
Your dog must have a good balance of each one of these nutrition elements. However, it can be confusing to know exactly how much your dog needs. In truth, it depends on the dog breed, size, age, and stage of life. It’s a good idea to ask your vet what they recommend if you want the highest-quality nutrition for your dog.
There are some general guidelines to follow. First, you shouldn’t feed your dog more or less calories than they need. Again, the calories they need will depend ultimately on their size and breed, as well as their habits. More active dogs use more calories than stationary pets.
The World Small Animal Veterinarian Association (WSAVA) has a chart of recommended calorie amounts for different dog types. However, talking to your vet is still going to be your best bet in deciding the perfect amount for your pup.
Second, focus on protein and fat. While dogs can eat and use carbohydrates, they are not essential in dog food as most dogs can synthesize them from other food sources. Proteins and fats, however, come directly from dog food.
Proteins form antibodies, build muscles, carry oxygen and carbon dioxide to the blood, and help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Fats protect nerve fibers, help nourish hormones, form cell membranes, and transport nutrients to and from cells.
Third, make sure your dog is getting vitamins and minerals as well. Dogs need fewer vitamins and minerals than humans do, but these micronutrients are still important to their overall health.
Dogs need Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, just like humans. They also need plenty of minerals such as:
The best dog foods will contain meat for protein and some fruits and vegetables to add vitamins and minerals. With the right nutrition, your dog will have more energy, enjoy life more, and (for your convenience) pass poop that is firmer, smaller, and dark brown.
When picking nutritious dog food, keep an eye on the ingredient list. Dog foods, as most human foods, list ingredients by weight. That means the first three items on the ingredient list will make up the bulk of the dog food.
Focus on getting food sourced from meat protein–and try to find food that lists what animal the meat comes from. Avoid foods with dyes and excessive sugar and salt. Also try to avoid additives like propylene glycol, BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin.
How Leaving Dog Poop In Your Yard Affects Your Dog’s Health
Dog poop can have a huge impact on your dog’s health, no matter where it is. From the issues dogs face trying to poop to the internal issues they may reveal in their poop, you may find multiple ways to help improve your dog’s health by paying attention to their poop.
Dog poop is a huge carrier for parasites and germs. If poop is left out in the damp yard, it can mold quickly. If it’s left out in the heat, maggots quickly develop in the poop. Plus, dog poop can carry parvovirus and worms or giardiasis.
These organisms can cause illness if ingested by dogs or other pets, and in rare cases can even spread to humans. Kids who play in the yard are especially vulnerable to picking up viruses and germs from dog poop, including viruses like E. coli and salmonella commonly found in poop.
Parasite eggs and larvae that live in poop will begin to become infectious after a few days of the poop being left in the yard. If any animal or human touches the poop, they’re much more likely to pick up germs if the poop is a few days old.
You may have heard that dog poop can be a good lawn fertilizer, but this technically isn’t true. Due to their high-protein diet, dogs pass poop that is high in acid, which is actually bad for your yard in the long run. And don’t forget the awful smell that can build up! In the end, it’s much better to pick up your dog poop as soon as possible.
Why Dogs Eat Poop In Your Yard
Another danger of leaving poop out in your yard is the possibility that your dog may decide to eat it. The official name for eating poop is coprophagia. A dog’s desire to eat poop can be caused by environmental or behavioral issues, so it’s important to watch closely for symptoms.
While dogs historically ate their poop to get extra nutrients and clean up the environment, the habit is not as useful to our domesticated pets. In most cases, eating poop is a sign of some sort of distress in your pet. Some of the most common issues include:
- Deficient diets (i.e. your dog needs more nutrition).
- Malabsorption syndrome (failure to absorb nutrients, leading to weight loss and diarrhea).
- Diabetes, thyroid disease, or other conditions.
- Isolation from other animals and people.
- Restrictive confinement.
- Associating where they poop with where they eat.
- Smelling poop on their mother’s breath when they are puppies.
- Living with a sick dog (dogs may eat poop from a sick friend, possibly because of an instinct to protect them).
Any of these issues could cause your dog to eat poop, whether their own or that of another pet. It is important to note that dogs who eat poop may have real reasons for doing so. Keep an eye out for symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, fever, etc. Your dog may be ill, deficient in nutrients, or just desperate for attention.
Eating poop is no longer a habit that helps dogs maintain proper nutrients, as it might be for wild dogs. For domesticated pets, eating poop usually comes with more problems than benefits.
To prevent your dog from eating poop, make sure they are getting enough nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. You should also do what you can to provide them with attention, exercise, and other outlets for using up their energy.
In addition, if your dog’s poop is picked up quickly, you may be able to avoid the problem altogether by providing them a safer, cleaner yard to play in.
Finding Help Picking Up Dog Poop
If you’re like most people in the Treasure Valley, picking up dog poop is one of your least favorite chores. No one blames you–it can be a nasty, dirty job. But it is important for your dog’s digestive health.
However, if you’re busy and don’t have the time to scoop your dog’s poop on a regular basis, there are options for you in local poop-scooping businesses. The thing is, you want to make sure you get a quality team to scoop your dog’s poop and keep your yard clean. How do you know how to choose the best poop scooping service?
Here’s a list of important traits the best poop scooping services will provide:
- Efficiency–your scoopers will get in and get their work done in no time.
- Cleanliness–the best scoopers will leave your yard looking fresh with no poop residue left out for you to step in.
- Dedication–your poop scooping team should love their job and devote their working hours to getting your yard as clean as possible.
- Consistency–a great poop scooping service will come to your home as often as you need to keep your yard as clean as possible for your pets and your family.
- Communication–the best poop scooping teams will let you know when they’re on their way and when they leave your home so you know exactly what’s going on.
- Flexibility–with the best poop scooping service, you can choose what day and time you want your dog’s poop scooped, as well as how often you want the service provided.
Once you find a team that provides these traits, it’s simple to give them a call and start getting your dog’s poop scooped for you.
At Idaho Scoop Poop, we pride ourselves on always doing our job well. As servants of God and the Treasure Valley Community, we’re devoted to giving our clients the very best poop scooping service possible. We want you and your dogs to live healthy and happy lives without having to worry about poop in the yard.
If you need help with your poop scooping needs, reach out to us at Idaho Poop Scoop to talk about our subscription services for scooping your dog’s poop. We’d love to help you save time while helping keep your dog as healthy as possible!