A Super Guide to Your Dog's Poop: Frequency, Color, State, Smell & More

Health & Wellbeing
April 3, 2022
Diana Bocco
Reviewed By: 
Dr. Farshad Goodarzi - Animal Nutritionist
5 minute read

Every dog poops, sure. And just like every human has different toilet habits, so do dogs.

One thing we can all agree on, however, is that when your dog is healthy, poop is the last thing you probably think about. But when your pup’s health is suffering, a closer look will give you a lot of information about his condition and what you should do about it.

In fact, the color, consistency and even shape of your dog’s poop can answer a lot of questions if you know what to look for.  

We’ve put together the ultimate guide to dog poop to help you answer any questions you might have (and some you probably didn’t even know you had!) about what’s normal and what isn’t.

Remember that changes to poop color, consistency and even shape are quite normal after a dietary change. As long as they don’t stick around for longer than a few days.

Understanding Dog Poop Color

Healthy dog poop usually looks a uniform “chocolate” brown color. This means a medium-deep (or darkish) brown that’s always consistent. That means consistency in the poop itself (no specks or streaks of other colors or shades) and the number of times he goes to the bathroom.

This brown color is a sign of a healthy gastrointestinal tract with no liver or pancreas issues. A tiny speck of green or orange colors could be expected if you fed your dog some veggies. Raw veggies, in particular, aren’t always completely digested, so they can pass through in the stool. On the other hand, sudden changes to the general color of the poop could indicate a digestion issue. They could also indicate your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t have that might require a vet visit. As always, analyzing the circumstances of where the change comes from is good practice. For example changes in poop color is common after a diet change.

Green dog poop: Greenish stool can be the innocent indication of eating too much grass (which in turn sometimes indicates that your pup is having stomach or indigestion issues) or sometimes dental treats like Greenies. If you haven’t seen your pooch munching on anything green, though, then he might be experiencing absorption problems in the intestinal tract.

If bile is not used and reabsorbed properly because the gut is moving too fast, it might pass through in the poop, tinting it green. Some rat poisons also have a tint to them –usually green or blue-- so if you notice a greenish poop color accompanied by vomiting or other symptoms, you should rush to the emergency room.

Orange dog poop: Unless your dog has been munching on carrots, orange or dark yellow stools could be an indication of a problem with the pancreas or biliary disease. Because pancreatitis can be fatal if left untreated for too long, you should see your vet as soon as possible. If you notice yellow gummy-like streaks in the poop, you might be looking at mucus. Mucus is often an indication of gastric upset or an inflamed colon.  

White or grey dog poop: Liver, pancreas and gallbladder problems often turn the stool a pale color, especially when enzymes aren’t being produced at a normal rate for the proper functioning of the organs. If your dog is on a raw diet, a chalky white color could be an indication of too much calcium in his food. Noticed white spots in your dog’s poop? This is often due to tapeworms, especially if the spots look like grains of rice.

Red dog poop: Red usually indicates blood, usually from the large intestine. This could be caused by many things – a tumor, trauma or an accident, inflammation or even worms.

Black dog poop: Black stools are often an indication of blood too. When the blood comes from higher up within the digestive tract, it’s partially digested by the time it exits the body and it will look black rather than red. This could be due to a problem in the stomach or the small intestine – and because anything from irritation to an ulcer to ingestion of a toxin could cause it, it’s best to see the vet as soon as possible.

Purple Poop Color: If your dog’s poop looks like purple(ish) gelatinous raspberry jelly, it’s time to seek emergency medical attention. This could be a sign of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis or HGE, which is fatal if untreated.

A chart indicating different poop colors and their causes

Understanding Poop Consistency

Next time you take out a plastic bag to scoop things up, take a second to notice the consistency of the poop. Healthy stools are moist and they retain their shape when you pick them up. If the poop is too watery or so dry that it will crumble when grabbed, this could be an indication that something’s amiss with your dog’s tummy. Any significant change in the consistency of your dog’s poop should be checked by your veterinarian.

For most vets, the consistency of your dog’s poop can be evaluated on a scale from 1 to 7: 1 is very solid and dry, 7 is very liquid diarrhea. The ideal consistency is between 2 and 4, depending on your dog’s diet. Too soft or sticky could mean there’s mucus or a coating, a clear sign of poor digestion. Too dry could indicate constipation, dehydration or slow intestinal movement.  

Common Causes of Dog Constipation

  • Too little dietary fiber in the diet. This is common if your dog eats a commercial kibble diet.
  • If your dog is eating foreign objects and they get caught in the intestinal tract, they could cause an obstruction.
  • Dehydration (a possible symptom of more serious diseases)

Common causes of dog diarrhea

  • Switching to a new diet can cause diarrhea. This is true even if the new diet is much healthier. You can help the transition by slowing down the switch and introducing the new food slowly to give your dog’s tummy a chance to adapt.
  • Is your dog on antibiotics or taking a new medication? Diarrhea is a common side effect of many drugs.
  • Diarrhea could also be a sign that your dog is sick, especially if the diarrhea doesn’t seem to get better after a couple of days. If you notice other symptoms, such as loss of appetite, vomiting or low energy levels, talk to your vet.
  • Stress is a common cause of diarrhea in dogs. It can be triggered by anything from moving to being boarded (when you go on vacation) to changes in the environment. New pet in the family? That could be a cause too. Some dogs are more sensitive to stress and anxiety than others, so if you have a dog who seems to worry about everything, keep an eye out for tummy trouble.

Poop Content

If you have a dog who likes to eat things he’s not supposed to, you might notice foreign objects in his poop from time to time. Pieces of toys, paper or sticks passing through is always good, but it could also be a sign that additional material is still logged in the stomach or intestines.

Dogs obsessed with eating non-food items could be suffering from a condition called “pica.” While pica can have many causes, PetMD points out that it’s often caused by a nutritional deficiency – if your dog is not getting the nutrition he needs from his diet, he might resort to eating other things in the search for those nutrients. Switching to a fresh, well-balanced, individualized diet means your dog will get exactly the kind of food he needs to thrive. No more guessing to figure out if something’s missing from his diet.

Other potential things you could find in dog poop are fur (if your dog is self-grooming or licking himself excessively due to stress, itchy skin or allergies) or worms. 4 In both cases, talking to a vet is the first step to solve the problem. For example, to avoid excessive licking you might need to change your dog’s diet (if the licking is caused by allergies) or make changes at home to reduce stress. Worms can be easily treated with deworming medications, although severe cases might need treatment for several months to ensure both the adults and the eggs have been completely eliminated.

Poop Smell

Let’s face it – your dog’s poo is never going to smell like flowers! But in general, dog poo should only have a mild odor. Pungent smells could indicate a gastrointestinal issue, poor diet or even an infection. Health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome can also change the smell of your dog’s stool.

A metallic smell could indicate the presence of digested blood, while foul-smelling stools could be a sign of a very serious disease such as Parvovirus or Distemper. Rancid-smelling stools (especially if your dog has diarrhea) are also a bad sign, according to Fairview Animal Hospital. They often indicate the presence of a Giardia infection. Giardia is very easy to catch -- Your dog can get sick by simply drinking water from a pond where the bacteria live.

Poop Size and Frequency

It goes without saying that the size of your dog will affect the size of his poop. After all, you can’t expect a tiny Chihuahua and a Saint Bernard’s to produce similarly sized poops!

On the other hand, your dog’s poop should always be about the same size and proportional to the amount of food he’s eating. Suddenly seeing stools that are much smaller or larger than usual could be a sign of poor digestion or a blockage. Or your dog might be eating less because he’s not feeling great, even if it’s not very obvious to you. Even a tiny amount of food less here and there can add up to a significant amount of calories your dog is missing out on.

The same is true of frequency: some dogs poop once a day, some poop three times. There’s no right or wrong frequency, as long as it remains constant. But if you’re suddenly scooping a lot less or a lot more poo, this could indicate a digestion problem and a need to see the vet.

It’s worth mentioning that with diet changes potentially come changes in poop size and frequency as well. For example, most dogs moving from commercial kibble to fresh dog food experience changes in their poop. This is particularly a good sign as it’s an indication of better digestion in this context. Their poop stabilizes after about a week or so when they get used to their new fresh food.

Dog holding a poster of fresh dog food benefits
Diet has a direct effect on your dog's gastrointestinal health

How Diet Affects Poop

When it comes to poo, the most important thing to keep in mind is that nothing has a more direct effect on it than diet. Healthy food promotes good digestion, especially if you’re picking well-balanced, fresh food that can improve the health of the gut.

Your dog’s poop on commercial food Your dog’s poop on fresh food
High in fillers and simple carbohydrates that often results in larger, bulkier stools, as dogs can’t digest these too well. According to Dogs Naturally, your dog could be excreting up to 70 % of the ingredients in commercial pet food! Smaller size, as dogs will generally absorb 70-95% of the fresh food fed, leaving little to convert to waste
If you have a dog who doesn’t drink much, you can end up with very dry poops, as kibble contains very little moisture After the transition period (where loose stools are somewhat common), your dog’s poops should stay in the ideal 2-4 section of the consistency scale
Strong, sometimes foul-smelling poos Much milder smell, as fresh food has no added preservatives, chemicals or coloring
More frequent poops. According to Science Alert, dogs fed kibble poop 1.5 to 1.7 times more Less frequent potty breaks needed! Dogs fed a fresh, wholesome diet produce less waste because their bodies can absorb a lot more of the ingredients included in their meals.
It’s not that rare for dogs eating commercial food to experience digestive trouble Dogs eating fresh-food diets have healthier guts

If you’ve been feeding commercial food to your dog for a long time, switching to a fresh, wholesome diet can result in changes in the consistency, color or frequency of your dog’s poop. For some dogs, this means loose stools or even diarrhea. If you know your dog has a sensitive GI tract, try transitioning to the new diet slowly to give the body time to adjust. To learn more about how to properly transition your dog to a fresh diet please read our guide "7 Benefits of Fresh Dog Food + How To Transition."

Human studies show that eating wholesome foods can have a better effect on your health than eating just “ingredients.” This is known as “food synergy” -- all the nutrients in one single food interact with each other to provide your body with better nutrition. The same is true of what you feed your dogs. A diet made up of whole foods guarantees your pet will get all the necessary nutrients in their natural state rather than as chemical compounds added later on.

Plus, according to Dogs Naturally Magazine, naturally occurring food components are not only better absorbed but likely more effective too in keeping your dog healthy and strong. Well-balanced, whole diets work synergistically in the body, meaning that all nutrients work together, making it easier for the body to absorb and make use of those nutrients. When you choose a fresh diet, you’re getting all the nutrients right from their original source – and that will have a beneficial effect on your dog’s gut bacteria and, as a result, on his poop as well.  

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