The scoop on your dog's poop
Updated: Jul 4
By Team Alaska What is your dog's poop telling you?
We are all dog lovers and with that comes lots of responsibilities, including picking up lots of dog poop. While you may not love this task, it is one of the most important daily indicators of your dog’s health and wellbeing. Take it from us, as dog mushers for over 20 years, and now as dog walkers for Buddy, we have scooped and studied A LOT of dog poop. There is a lot of important information in each of those poops so take note! Don’t just hold your nose and grab the poop to put into a bag, take a close look at it first and see if you can divine what your dog is trying to tell you with their poop.
Your dog’s poop should be a well formed log that easily breaks into a few pieces as it comes out. It should hold it’s shape and be pretty easy for you to pick up in a bag. If your dog’s poop is almost crumbly and dry or your dog is struggling to poop it out they may be dehydrated or have other issues causing constipation. At the other end of the spectrum, if not sure how you will even get your dog’s poop in the bag because it is runny and loose and more the consistency of soft serve piles, your dog may be struggling with diarrhea. If your dog’s poops are consistently hard and dry or soft and loose it is worth talking with your veterinarian about possible changes in diet, supplements, etc. you can consider to help them have more normal stools.
Your dog should have a regular pooping schedule and may poop anywhere from 1-4 times per day depending on their size, age, activity level, etc. If your dog poops a lot more or less than their normal this is cause for concern and may warrant a vet visit. A dog that is straining to poop without success or not pooping at all, may have eaten something they shouldn’t have (e.g. a rope toy, a favorite stuffed toy, or maybe one of your socks) and be struggling to pass it. A dog that is having frequent bouts of diarrhea may also have eaten something they shouldn’t have (e.g. human food they got into or something they found out on a walk) and their body is trying to get rid of it. Remember, poop is a waste product of the digestive process. If your dog is pooping several large piles every day you might want to consider changing their diet as they are generating a lot of unusable waste from their food. More bioavailable foods may result in smaller, less frequent bowel movements. You may also just be overfeeding your dog and they are getting rid of all that excess that their body doesn’t need.
Most dog poops should be milk-chocolate brown colored. Bilirubin, which is contained in the dog’s bile that is released from the gall bladder to assist in digestion, is what gives it that color. If your dog’s poop is very dark, almost black or if it is very light, almost yellow it could be the ingredients in their diet or it could be an underlying issue to talk to your vet about. If poop has white mucous or looks greasy this is important to mention to your vet as well. Your dog’s poop might have dark blood that looks almost like coffee grounds or bright red blood streaks. Blood in stool is a good reason to talk your vet too. For more information on what varying colors of your dog’s poop might indicate, check out this webpage: https://emergencyvetsusa.com/dog-poop-color-chart/.
So….what can you do if you notice your dog’s poops are less than perfect and they could use some help? Here are a few fairly safe things to try. All of these items can be purchased without a prescription at a grocery store or online. It is always a good idea to talk with your veterinarian about dietary supplements you want to try for your dog and make sure your vet agrees they would be safe and potentially helpful for your dog’s issues.
Canned pumpkin can help dogs with a wide range of digestive issues from constipation to diarrhea. The dietary fiber in canned pumpkin acts as a prebiotic that stimulates the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. The fiber in pumpkin also helps absorb water in the intestines and allows the dog to form and pass better stools. If your dog’s stools are less than perfect or “normal”, a little pumpkin in their diet might be just the trick to help get them there. In addition, pumpkin contains vitamins and minerals that are good for your dog’s overall health. If you know your dog ate a something like a sock or a toy and they are struggling to pass it, you can talk to your vet about adding pumpkin to their meals to help pass the object. If your dog cannot pass the object or have any bowel movements it will be important to take them to the vet as bowel obstructions can be a serious medical emergency that may require surgery. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends adding 1-4 tablespoons of pumpkin per meal depending on the size of your dog. You can add pumpkin regularly to your dogs meals (our own dogs love it when they get some pumpkin added to their meal!). Just be sure to mix water in with the meal since pumpkin is high in fiber and takes a lot of water to digest. It is possible to feed too much pumpkin so talk to your vet about the amount that is right for your pet and the issue you are trying to resolve.
Psyllium husk powder Psyllium husk powder is an excellent digestive supplement that can help with a wide range of dog digestive issues from diarrhea to constipation to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and anal gland issues. Psyllium provides fiber that absorbs water in the intestines and helps stools form and pass more easily. It is important to make sure you feed psyllium with plenty of water and talk with your vet if your dog is taking medications to ensure that psyllium won’t interfere with the absorption of any of them. A standard dose of psyllium is 2-10 grams per day (4 grams = approximately 1 tsp). Talk to your vet about the amount that is right for your dog. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends a range 1-4 tsp per meal. We feed our own dogs a small maintenance amount of psyllium husk powder with every meal and we always feed their meals mixed with water to make sure they stay hydrated. The fiber in psyllium could help get your dog’s stools closer to the ideal.
Our veterinarian recommended Optagest for our own dog who has a very slow digestive system. Since adding this powder to his meals daily we have seen great improvement in the quality of his stools, a reduction in his stinky gas, and an improvement in his ability to digest and absorb the nutrients in his meals overall. If your dog has frequent digestive issues and/ or less than ideal bowl movements ask your vet whether this powder of prebiotics and digestive enzymes might help.