Scoop of the Poop

Scoop of the Poop


 Q.  This is an odd question but what is a normal poop for a dog?  My friend and I were discussing the difference between her dog’s poop and mine. 


 A.  The joke is, if you get a bunch of veterinarians together for dinner, at some point the conversation turns to poop.  This is a good question and is important to understand.  As dog parents, it is good to know what is normal verses abnormal poop. You can tell a lot about your dog’s health by looking at the feces (poop).  


First, what is normal? Easy, it is compact, moist, easy to pick up, and feels like Play Doh when squeezed.  It also can be segmented.  There are many variations on this and changes will mean something different about your dog’s health.  There is a scale for dog poop called the Bristol Stool Chart. It is a scale from 1 to 7.  Type 1 is separate hard lumps, like nuts, and are hard to pass. Type 2 is sausage shaped but lumpy. Type 3 is like sausage but with cracks in it. Type 4 is like a sausage or a snake which is smooth and soft. Type 5 is soft blobs with clear-cut edges and are easy to pass. Type 6 is fluffy pieces with ragged edges, and it looks mushy. Type 7 is watery without any solid pieces. It is totally liquid.  


Feces that is hard to pass can cause constipation. This is a condition where your dog is struggling to pass the poop. He can strain and be in pain.  If this condition continues, your pup may need an enema.  Causes can be dehydration, or your dog ate something that is hard to pass, like too much bone or chew toy. There may be an underlying cause for the dehydration other than just not drinking enough on a hot day. If it isn’t the lack of access to water, especially on hot days, then a metabolic condition may be a cause.  Kidney problems and fevers are two possible culprits.  


There are times your dog’s poop is covered with mucous. This can be shiny looking slime to a thick jelly case around the feces. Sometimes it can be streaked with blood. These are signs of inflammation in your pup’s colon. If it happens on occasion, the problem may be a dietary indiscretion.  It is often seen after a stressful event like boarding, a big day of exercise, and a fun day of visiting.  If it occurs more often, you will need to see your veterinarian to find the cause and correct it. Bring a sample of the poop to the appointment to rule out intestinal worms and parasites.  


The color of the feces can be important. Normal is a variation of brown. When the stool changes color and that color change is often a deeper problem which may be going on. Some odd colors for stools can be white, yellow, orange, and bloody red to name a few.  


Poop that is loose, watery, pasty, and mushy can have many causes too. Loose stools is called diarrhea. Sometimes these changes happen when Fido is stressed by doing dog sports or boarded. Dietary indiscretions such as eating compost, something found on a walk, and drinking salt water are a few examples of reasons for loose stools. Another cause can be food allergies.  Many times it is parasites.  There are viruses and bacteria, which can be the culprit too. Some drugs, especially antibiotics, will cause diarrhea.  


Odor is another aspect of the feces to be considered. Dog poop doesn’t necessarily have a bad odor unless you get it on your shoe.  If the odor is offensive, putrid, or has changed with an abnormal consistency, it is time to go to your veterinarian.  


If your pup is having poop that is not a type 2 or 3 on the Bristol Stool scale, call your veterinarian for an appointment.  When dog poop is abnormal more often than not, there is a problem and your dog needs help.  


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH 

Animal Wellness Center 

Augusta, Maine 


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