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What Your Dog’s Poop Color Means

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Dog Health By Andrea Carter 11 min read May 24, 2021

monitor your dog's poop color
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Tending to your dookie duty while out walking your pooch is probably not your favorite pastime. But, did you know that paying attention to your dog’s deposits is key to understanding her overall health? 

The fact is, many diseases and disorders leave their mark on your dog’s droppings. So, becoming a doody detective and knowing what issues could be affecting your pooch’s poops when they look unusual is important information.

Here, we will explain what different poop colors often mean and when it’s a good idea to visit the vet!

Your Dog’s Poop Color: Key Takeaways

  • It is important to regularly monitor the color of your pet’s poops. The color of your pet’s feces can provide clues to her overall health and signal potential illness.
  • A typical, healthy dog poop should usually be medium to dark brown. It should also be pretty firm and slightly moist. Deviations from this appearance don’t always signal a problem, but you’ll definitely want to note unusual poops when they occur.
  • In addition to the color, you’ll also want to note the consistency, coating, and contents of the droppings too. Together, these characteristics are often known as the “four Cs.”

What Does Normal, Healthy Dog Poop Look Like? 

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what normal dog poop usually looks like before we get into the nitty gritty of funky caboose creations. 

Healthy dog poop is firm (but it still gives a little — think Play-Doh), slightly moist, easy to pick up, and medium to dark brown in color.

It should also be comprised of segments that fall apart easily, and lack any type of coating. Finally, the contents should look mostly uniform.

That said, occasional visible variations are nothing to worry about. This includes things like bits of undigested food or a poop or two that are wetter than normal.

It is a good idea to get in touch with your vet to get your pooch some help if:

  • Your dog produces loose stools or diarrhea that continues for several bowel movements or becomes watery.
  • Your dog has been acting unusually or seems unwell.
  • Your dog is constipated and hasn’t pooped for more than 24 hours.
dog poop should be firm

The Four Cs” of Dog Poop

When veterinarians talk about a dog’s fecal material, they usually break the details down into four distinct categories known as the “four Cs.”

These include the poop’s:

  • Color
  • Consistency
  • Coating
  • Contents

The first two are often the easiest for dog owners to notice, but the last two can provide important clues about internal issues as well. 

You’ll want to pay attention to all four categories when your dog is feeling sick. Those details can provide you and your veterinarian with information about her insides that she can’t tell you about.

Image from AKC.com

Color: Different Dog Poop Colors and What They Mean 

Dog poop that arrives bearing an unusual color can indicate some specific issues going on inside your pooch.

Since pooch poop can be quite a few different colors, here we will break it down and pair each hue with the most common health issues that can cause a dog’s poop to become that color.

  • Brown – This is a normal color for a healthy dog’s poop. It may range from a light brown to mahogany, and the standard color for each dog depends mostly on what food she normally eats.
  • Black or Maroon – Poop which is this color may also have a consistency like tar, and is often indicative of bleeding in the stomach or small intestine. Common causes are bleeding ulcers or other issues high up in the digestive tract. 
  • Red – While you needn’t freak out about a small amount of blood on your dog’s poop, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the next few poops your dog produces, as well as her behavior. Contact your vet if the bloody poops continue or increase in volume. Common causes of red poop are internal bleeding lower in the digestive tract (in the large intestine, colon, or rectum), anal gland infections, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), rectal injury, or red food dye in your dog’s food.
  • Pink or Purple – Often described as resembling “raspberry jam,” this type of poop is an indicator to take your dog to an emergency veterinarian immediately. Poop like this is often a symptom of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) — essentially a gastrointestinal infection that causes severe bleeding. Unfortunately, many dogs die every year from this ailment without prompt medical care. 
  • Orange This color can indicate that your dog’s food is moving too quickly through her intestines. It can also mean your pooch has a pancreas or liver problem, or it could be caused by diseases affecting the gallbladder or bile dogs. These types of issues are worth talking to your vet about soon.
  • Yellow – This color may also indicate a problem with your dog’s gallbladder or liver. It may also be caused by hypermotility (food moving through your dog’s digestive tract too quickly).
  • Green – Poop that is mostly green in color can have a few explanations. The least concerning is simply that your dog ate quite a bit of leaves or grass. More concerning, it can also be caused by rat bait poisoning, parasites, or a bacterial infection. It’s a good idea to get in touch with your vet if you keep seeing green poops.
  • Grey & Greasy – This color and texture combo are usually seen together, and they are typically indicative of a digestion issue, such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). Go ahead and make an appointment with your vet, since dogs with EPI need treatment to get healthy again. 
  • White – Poop this color is often chalky as well, and is most often produced by dogs on a raw diet who have consumed too much calcium or bone recently. Keep an eye on your pooch, and if you see white poops for more than two bowel movements, get in touch with your vet. 
  • White Polka Dots or Spaghetti – Seeing these particular patterns in your dog’s poop likely means that your dog has worms. A dog dewormer will usually help clear up the problem, but you should discuss the issue with your vet first to ensure you select the right medication (different parasites require different drugs).
Hygiene Is Critical for Dogs with Worms

If you suspect that your dog has worms or other internal parasites, make sure to pick up and dispose of your dog’s poop promptly (and wash your hands afterward).

This will help keep worms from spreading to other pets — or even your two-footed family members — while you complete treatment.

Consistency: Firm, Squishy, or Liquid?

Since dog poo can arrive on the scene in quite a few exciting shapes and densities, the best way to talk about consistency is to show you. 

poop score chart
Image courtesy of Purina.

The chart pictured above helps standardize discussion of dog poop consistency.

The chart goes from 1 to 7, with 1 being very dense, dry, and hard, 2 being healthy and normal, and 7 being a puddle with no form at all.

An occasional loose stool is nothing to worry about, but if you’ve been seeing 6 and 7s for longer than a day, it’s a good idea to let your vet know.

Coating: What’s On Your Dog’s Poop?

Healthy dog poo should be easy to pick up and should leave almost no residue behind. If the poop is too runny to easily pick up, compare its consistency with the chart mentioned above. 

However, if there is an obvious coating of mucus and the poop leaves a slimy spot in its wake, or if there is a significant amount of blood on the poop for more than one day, having a chat with your vet is a good idea. 

Often, mucus coating a dog’s poop indicates large bowel inflammation, and it may be accompanied by diarrhea. Common causes of these issues are roundworms, giardia, and colitis.

what is in your dog's poop

Contents: What Kind of Stuff Do You See?

Healthy dog poop should be mostly uniform in appearance. 

While searching for microscopic organisms in poop is best accomplished by your vet, sometimes bigger bits of indigestible or poorly digested food are visible. 

Worms, fur, bits of chewed up toys, or anything noticeably out of the ordinary are worth paying attention to and discussing with your vet. 

If your dog has passed bits of a consumed toy in her poop, stops pooping entirely, loses her appetite, or vomits, get in touch with your vet immediately.

Intestinal blockages are a common cause of these symptoms, and your dog may need surgery to fix the issue.

Why Does Your Dog’s Poop Color Change? 

While many of the poop color variations are caused by medical issues, sometimes your dog’s deposits will acquire a unique hue for less critical reasons

There is a normal amount of fluctuation in poop color for many dogs, so seeing an unusually light or dark pile may not be worth sounding the alarm if it’s an one-time or occasional occurrence. 

Watch for the color to change back to normal or persist the next few times your dog unloads, and also watch for a change in behavior (such as lethargy, vomiting, or grass-eating) that could suggest your dog isn’t feeling 100 percent.

Other things that will affect poop color are the food and treats you feed your dog. For instance, a new dog food that is red in color may give your pooch’s poop a reddish hue. Similarly, feeding her some extra carrots could be responsible for poop that is much more orange than usual. 

Of course, erring on the side of caution is always a good idea — the appearance of your dog’s poop is one of the most easily recognizable signs of her overall health while also being a great indicator of major and minor health problems.

Keep an eye on her droppings and communicate with your vet as soon as you notice a change and think there could be a problem.

What Can Affect the Appearance of Your Dog’s Poop 

What are the most common causes for odd poops from your pup? 

  • Illness
  • Parasites
  • Water intake (too much or too little)
  • Medications
  • Food 

Your dog’s poop ought to consist mostly of digested dog food, since that should be the main staple of her diet.

Because of this, some of the qualities of her food can powerfully impact how her poop appears. The dog food’s fiber content, how well she can digest it, her tolerance of the ingredients, the moisture content, and if any colors were added can all make big changes to how her poop looks.

If you think any of these variables could be making your pooch’s poops abnormal, chat with your vet about how to make changes so her piles can return to normal. 

Pet-Care Pro Tip

Note that your dog’s poop will change in appearance slightly over time. This means that you’ll always want to inspect it when it is “fresh,” rather than after it has been exposed to the elements (such as the sun, rain, and decomposing organisms) for a day or two. 

Tips for Keeping Your Dog’s Poop Normal 

So, does experiencing a rainbow of poop colors from your pup sound like something you’d like to avoid? Here are some tried and true methods that will keep your doggo’s booty creations consistent.

  • Find a good food and don’t change it much. Once you find a brand of dog food that your dog likes to eat and can digest well, it’s a good idea to stick with that same brand of food since changing foods frequently or too rapidly can be rough on a dog’s digestive system and cause diarrhea for a couple days.  
  • Limit treats and chews. Limit treats and chews to 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. If you are giving a lot of treats as part of a training program, reduce the amount of her regular food accordingly.
  • Limit people food. Some dogs have very sensitive digestive systems, and even a tiny taste of some people foods can upset their stomachs. Also, note that some people foods can be dangerous to give your dog!  
  • Visit the vet regularly. Your vet is trained to recognize small changes before they become major medical concerns. Regular check-ups are important to keep your pet healthy and her poops fabulous!
  • Prevent your dog from eating “street snacks.” If your dog is known to nom on some odd items, like cat poop or long-dead stuff, keep a closer eye on her and limit her access to those objects to help keep her digestive system (and her poop) in top condition.

    Teaching a cue like “Leave It” can be useful so you can let your dog know what objects you want her to avoid or ignore.

How to Collect a Poop Sample for Your Vet 

how to collect dog poop for vet

Taking a fresh fecal sample to your vet visits is a useful way to help your dog get diagnosed correctly, especially if she has been making some discolored dookies recently.

To provide the best sample possible, you should:

  • Use a clean poop bag
  • Pick the sample up gently
  • Place the poop into a clean, shallow plastic container with a lid
  • Refrigerate the sample until you can deliver it to the vet

If the sample is too watery to collect using this method, first take a clear picture of the poopy puddle with a smartphone. Then, you can try using a craft stick or plastic spoon to collect an uncontaminated sample (no dirt or grass) to put into the plastic container. 

Do not use a sample that has been sitting in the heat or on the grass for a while, since it could have dirt or parasites in it that weren’t part of the poop when it was deposited. 

Pet-Care Pro Tip

Note that some parasites and their eggs are only excreted intermittently, meaning that there may not be any evidence of an infestation in every single poop sample.

Accordingly, many vets encourage owners to collect three consecutive poops to be sure. 

***

While focusing on your pooch’s piles might not be an activity you look forward to, knowing what her healthy poops look like can help you recognize when your dog isn’t feeling well — even if she’s not showing other symptoms yet.

Now that you know how to be a dookie detective, keep an eye on your pooch’s booty bounty as you pick up those piles! Your dog (and your fellow dog caretakers) will appreciate it!

Have you ever had issues with your pet’s poops? What is the strangest thing you’ve seen in your dog’s droppings? What is the most unusual color poop your dog has created?

Share your experiences (and any questions you may have) in the comments below!

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Written by

Andrea Carter

Andrea writes training content for K9 Of Mine and has been helping dogs and their people learn to live happily together for over a dozen years. She is currently helping special dogs work their way through the shelter system and continually draws on the knowledge gleaned from a lifetime of learning, a myriad of creature-centric jobs, and the daily care of her own quirky pets.

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