There’s more to dog poop than scooping. Although it may not be your favorite topic to think about, your dog’s stool can reveal a lot about their health.
Sending a stool sample from your dog for analysis can tell you a few things about their gut health, like whether the bacteria that make up their microbiome are consistent with a reference set of healthy dogs, if they have a parasitic infection, or if they may have intestinal bleeding.
What your dog’s poop tells you
Your dog’s stool can provide a lot of useful clues. What’s “normal” will depend in part on diet, age, and other factors.
In general, a healthy dog’s poop should be medium brown in color and should not be too hard or too soft. Ideally, your dog’s stool should be formed, firm in consistency, and have a segmented appearance. (If it’s hard and dry, your dog might have constipation.)
You may think of diarrhea as watery puddles, but completely liquid stool is really just one end of the scale. Diarrhea can refer to a range of consistencies, from moist but distinct piles to shapeless blobs to puddles. Learn more about diarrhea in dogs and diarrhea in puppies, what to do when it happens, and how to minimize it.
Frequently asked questions about dog poop
1. What does the color mean?
In both cats and dogs, very dark or black stool may indicate digested blood, possibly from upper GI ulcers, and red blood in the stool suggests bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract. In the case of dog poop, “funnier” colors—such as purple, gray, or green—could indicate other serious health issues, such as diseases of the liver or pancreas, or even ingestion of poison. If you see any of these clues in your pet’s poop, consult your veterinarian right away.
2. What does mucus mean?
Mucus in the stool may indicate colitis (inflammation of the large intestine). Let your veterinarian know if you often see mucus in your pet’s poop.
3. What are those white things?
White specks in dog stool may be parasites. Dog poop may contain tapeworms, which look like shiny grains of white rice. Take a sample to your veterinarian for parasite and pathogen screening.
4. What about the smell?
Seriously stinky poop can be a sign of multiple health issues. For example, that really bad smell might be a clue that your dog’s digestive system isn’t adequately processing their food. Certain medications can also lead to extra smelly poop, as can some infections, such as giardiasis, which is caused by a parasite called Giardia. Other factors that can contribute to bad-smelling poop include changes in diet, food intolerances or allergies, and blood in the stool.
5. Why does my dog have diarrhea?
If your pet has diarrhea, you know something’s not right. Diarrhea in puppies may be temporary, but because their immune systems are still developing, it can also be a sign of infection, so check with your veterinarian. Diarrhea in dogs can have a variety of causes. Your veterinarian may recommend fecal parasite or bacterial/viral testing, blood work, genetic testing, imaging (X-rays or ultrasound), or a food change depending on your dog’s physical examination, signs, and history.
What the color of your dog’s poop means
The color of your dog’s stool can give you clues about their health. For details, refer to the chart below.
Brown dog poop
Poop’s usual brown color comes from bile that gets picked up on the way through the GI tract. Dog poop that’s not brown might indicate a blocked bile duct or a liver disease that’s reducing the production of bile.
Yellow dog poop
Yellow or gray poop can point to serious health issues, such as diseases of the liver, pancreas, or gallbladder. Such diseases can affect the amount of bile being produced and how the bile is being processed in the intestines. Yellow poop may also arise from a food sensitivity; excess mucus or fat can give poop a yellow hue.
Green dog poop
Green poop may mean your dog has been eating a lot of grass, possibly as a reaction to an upset stomach. Diseases of the liver or pancreas can also cause green poop. Or your dog might have eaten something that contained green food coloring.
Shiny or greasy dog poop
Poop with a shiny or oily-looking surface may contain excess mucus, which can be caused by inflammation of the large intestine. Greasy-looking poop may also indicate a malabsorption of nutrients, especially fat, as may occur when the pancreas isn’t functioning well (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency).
Pale, clay-colored dog poop
A diet that’s too high in calcium can cause light-colored stool. Pale or clay-colored poop may also indicate problems with the digestion of fats, usually due to a lack of bile. If the gallbladder or bile duct is obstructed, this is a medical emergency. Consult with your veterinarian if you see pale poop.
Blue dog poop
Blue poop should always be treated as an emergency, because it may indicate ingestion of rat poison. If your dog’s poop is blue, take a sample along and seek urgent care immediately.
Pink, purple, or “raspberry jam” dog poop
Pink, purple, or “raspberry jam” poop may indicate Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE), which causes vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Most often occurring in smaller breeds, HGE requires prompt medical attention. Seek veterinary care immediately.
Eating beets (which are totally benign) can also cause pink poop.
Red streaks in dog poop
Visible red blood in your dog’s stool usually indicates bleeding in the lower GI tract, which can result from injury or inflammation. Infectious diseases like parvovirus, anal gland infections, and parasites like whipworms and hookworms are all possible causes. An ingested foreign object scraping the intestinal lining on its way out can also cause bleeding. Ingestion of medications or toxins (like rat poison) that can cause bleeding may result in bloody poop as well. Seek veterinary care immediately.
Black dog poop
Stool that is very dark or black may contain digested blood (and be referred to as melena), possibly from ulcers in the stomach or small intestine. (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the most common cause of ulcers in dogs.) Ingestion of medications or toxins (like rat poison) that can cause bleeding may result in melena as well. Seek veterinary care immediately.
What your dog’s poop means for their gut health
If your dog has been having diarrhea or other types of abnormal poop patterns recently, the reason may be their gut microbiome. When bacteria in the gut are out of balance or key beneficial bacteria are missing, your dog may experience distress, such as diarrhea. Additionally, changes to the gut microbiome may occur secondary to illness, a diet change, or medical treatments (such as antibiotics).
Our partners at AnimalBiome work to improve pet health through microbiome research. The at-home Gut Health Test (powered by AnimalBiome) identifies the types of bacteria living in your dog’s gut (from a small stool sample) and can tell you whether those bacteria are present in amounts consistent with or differing from a developed reference set.
Time, diet change, or treating an underlying medical condition are often enough to rebalance the bacterial population and increase its diversity. However, a small number of dogs may require fecal transplantation as a treatment. Talk to your veterinarian regarding unresponsive diarrhea and different fecal transplant options.
Remember to clean up after your pet
As we’ve discussed here, there’s a lot to learn from dog poop. But don’t forget that picking up after your dog is still important. Dog waste left in public places can spread disease and contaminate water sources. And unlike manure from herbivores, dog poop does not make good compost.
So always clean up after your dog. But also be curious: your pet’s poop can be a source of valuable information about their health.
This article was adapted from content originally published by our partners at AnimalBiome.