This might seem like a funny topic to talk about, but your dog’s poop could be a sign of something going on with their health that you’d otherwise be unaware of. Dogs don’t typically show signs of discomfort. As pack animals, it’s not in their nature. Maybe they don’t even know there’s something wrong, so looking at their poop could be the answer!
You see, your dog’s belly does far more than digest food. Their stomach and intestines are home to billions and billions of tiny bacteria, which is part of their gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the collections of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes that situate in the digestive system, and can dictate the overall health of your pup if out of balance.
The gut microbiome helps the body to digest food and get the essential nutrients from that food – otherwise, a healthy diet would go to waste! Not only that; it also supports the immune function, which is vital to fighting illnesses; protects against pathogens that could cause serious diseases; and can even impact your dog’s mood!
The gut is sensitive to changes in diet and hydration, and environmental changes as well. That’s why it is so important to keep your dog in constant good health. Feeding them with a diet that provides them with all the right nutrients so that their guts can function well could lengthen the years of their life!
One way of recognising any digestive or immunity problems in your dog could lie in their faecal matter. There’s a reason why vets might ask you for a stool sample, as poop can tell a lot about overall health. But before it gets to that, there are certain things you could look out for. And they are, the four C’s...
The “perfect poo” tends to be a chocolate brown colour, with a rather firm consistency that would break into smaller segments if you were to move it. Preferably, there’d be nothing sticking out of it, too. But let’s move on and find out what we might see that could imply there’s a tummy problem. Luckily, most stomach issues resolve themselves within 24 hours, but it’s good to keep an eye on your dog’s bowel movements.
There are four easy things to assess if you want to check your dog’s poop. They lie under the four C’s: colour, content, consistency, and coating.
Dog poop is usually a chocolaty shade of brown. When the digestive system is working well, the gallbladder releases bile, which helps break down the food, and in that bile, there is a pigment called bilirubin, which changes the colour of the stool. Things like diet, hydration, and dye in certain foods can slightly alter the colour, but not too much! The more colourful the poo though, the worse it could be. Here’s a colour key to get an idea of what could be wrong:
Great! It should be brown.
If your dog’s stool is green, they could be eating too much grass, possibly as a way of soothing an upset stomach.
If you see white spots in their poo, it could be that your dog has worms.
This could be an indication that there’s something wrong with the liver, pancreas or gallbladder.
When you see red in the stool, it could suggest that there’s bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract.
This can also imply bleeding, but more likely higher up in the stomach or intestines.
The consistency of the poop should be reasonably firm, and if you’re not sure of how it would feel…you might have to feel it. Of course, use a plastic bag or some gloves, but if the stool is rock hard or lacks firmness, the intestines may not be working properly, or your dog could be dehydrated.
Vets actually rate the consistency of faeces with a numerical scale, from 1 to 7; 1 being the hard end, and 7 being more like muddy water.
Ideally, you want a number 2 (no pun intended!). Feeling firm and looking a bit like a caterpillar, so that segments separate when you press it. If the stool is too firm, that could be a sign of dehydration and would be painful for your dog to pass. If the stool is runny and doesn’t really form a shape, the large intestine may not be absorbing water properly. Having runny poo or diarrhoea can also be the cause of dehydration.
Having a particularly stiff or runny poop once shouldn’t be cause for concern, but if it persists, you should seek medical attention. Ensure your dog is hydrated, and only feed them simple foods if you have concerns.
Your dog’s poop should not have a coating on it. When you pick it up, there shouldn’t be a trail left on the ground – for example, mucus, which often occurs with large bowel movements or with diarrhoea.
If you do see a strange film or layer in their excrement for more than 24 hours, it would be wise to take them to the veterinarian as this could be a sign of an inflammation in their bowel.
Seeing a streak of red in the stool may appear at times, which as said earlier, could be a sign of bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract. If you see one streak, it might be that your dog had difficulty in passing the stool. If you see more than one streak, it is more likely an internal problem, so they should be checked over by a vet.
Most bacterial content can only be seen with a microscope, so it’s really a job for medical professionals! But dogs are explorers, and as they explore, they might pick up one or two things…
If you want to check their dog poop yourself, there are ways. Now, this is the least pleasant part, as it could include dissecting the poop. Again, use gloves or a bag to push the muck around, or perhaps a stick and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. The poo shouldn’t change when you reach the middle of it; it should stay the same density throughout.
If you suspect that your dog’s stomach is suffering, these things could be sitting within their poop:
It’s best to look for these from a fresh sample, as creatures may be attracted the excrement after it's been planted. There are two types of worms; long and skinny roundworms, and little tapeworm segments. Worms can damage the intestine, so seek medical help if you do notice them.
As part of being a responsible pet parent, your pet should be taking preventative flea and worm medication at regular intervals throughout their life. It’s good for their health, improves their life quality and protects other dogs they may come into contact with. Speak to your vet about what preventative product may suit your pet the best.
The more curious of the pooches out there might be roaming your garbage can without you knowing or picking up bits off the street. So if you notice pieces of plastic, socks, rocks, or food wrapping, try to keep a closer eye on where they have access to, and restrict any access to things they may consume.
You may find large clumps of hair gathered in their poo, due to over-grooming. Dogs might do this due to stress, boredom, allergies, or possibly skin disease. So, finding fur is an indicator of other potential health problems.
The best thing to do is to keep an eye on your dog’s consumption, and their bowel movements, on a regular basis. Having an occasional funky stinker isn’t something to worry about, but consistent problems in their nether regions could be cause for concern, and something a veterinarian will want to check. When you do take them to the vet, save time by bringing a stool sample if you can.
Having a good diet and keeping hydrated is key to having well-working guts, which will keep their dog poop looking and feeling good.
If you source from a reputable pet brand, a good dog prebiotic or probiotic will aim to support optimum gut and gastrointestinal health. Canine gut health can affect their immune system, energy levels, and even organ function – so ensuring their digestive system is in tip top condition by way of using optimized natural prebiotic/probiotic supplements for dogs, will help ensure they live a healthy, happy, and active life.
If you're reading this blog because your dog won't poop or hasn't for a few days, or their poop is coming out in hard, small pebble-like dry stones, it's probably because they're a little constipated.
To help, they probably need a boost of fibre. Try feeding them a teaspoon of coconut oil or canned pumpkin per 4.5kg of your dog's body weight with their food. Pumpkin is high in fibre so can help your dog's poop on its way! Make sure you avoid using a pumpkin pie filling or a puree that has any added sugar, as this isn't good for your dog. Coconut oil is a natural lubricant, so can prove very helpful for a dog's stuck stool.
Looking, feeling and examining a piece of poop is maybe not what you had in mind to do with your afternoon, but it’s all part of being a pet parent!
Looking after their health is essential for your dog to ensure they have a long and happy life… With you! Making sure they have the right nutrients and hydration will in turn lead them to forming healthy, easy-to-pass stools.
Here at the Petlab Co., we understand how stressful and confusing it can be looking after your beloved pup, which is why we encourage you to know as much as you can about every aspect of your dog’s wellbeing… Even the stinkier ones!