The Color of Poop
In the same way that the “eyes are the windows to the soul,” your dog’s poop can be a window into his health. Exterminating stool is an important step in the overall evaluation of a dog’s health and well being.
The general evaluation of stool is determining the “Four C’s of Poop,” Color, Consistency, Content and Coating.
Under normal circumstances, the stool is a chocolate-brown color- hence the many Tootsie roll analogies. During normal digestion, the gallbladder releases bile to aid in the breakdown of food. Bilirubin is a pigment in bile that affects stool color. The stool may have some minor deviations in color due to diet, hydration, or dyes in his or her food, but you shouldn’t see a substantial amount of changes. Some of the abnormal color patterns are:
- Black stool: bleeding high up in the digestive tract may result in tar-colored stool
- Red streaks: this indicates bleeding in the lower digestive tract
- Grey or yellow stools: may indicate issues with the pancreas, liver, or gallbladder
If abnormal colors persist for more than two stools, call your veterinarian.
Veterinarians use a numerical system to score the consistency of a pet’s stool. The fecal scoring system assigns a value to the stool from 1 to 7, where 1 represents very hard pellets and 7 is a puddle. The ideal stool is a 2: a firm segmented piece, caterpillar shaped, that feels like Play-Doh when pressed. Formless stool means the large intestine is not properly re-absorbing water; hard stool can be painful to pass and may indicate dehydration. The ideal dog stool is easily squishable, and hold its form without melting into the grass. In general one super-soft or super-hard stool isn’t a cause for concern, especially if the pet is normal otherwise, but if it persists for more than a day, call your veterinarian.
The inside of a stool shouldn’t look any different from the rest of it, but here’s some abnormal things you may find:
- Worms: long and skinny roundworms, or little rice-shaped tapeworm segments. Remember, stool that has been outside for hours may have little creatures in it that weren’t there at the outset, so it’s important to know if this is a fresh sample.
- Foreign materials: grass, sock bits, plastic, rocks. Pica, the eating of non-food items, is not uncommon in dogs, and sometimes you don’t know that your dog is digging into the trash until you find a bit of Ziploc in the stool.
- Fur: big clumps of fur in the stool indicate overgrooming, which can happen secondary to stress, allergies, skin disease, or even boredom.
Poop should not have a coating or a film over it. If you’re picking up your pet’s stool off the grass, there shouldn’t be any sort of trail left behind. A coating of mucous often accompanies large bowel inflammation, and often occurs concurrently with diarrhea. Small streaks of bright red blood may also show up on occasion, usually secondary to straining to defecate.
Most of the time, abnormal poop resolves itself within a 24 hour period. If a pet is eating, drinking, and behaving normally otherwise, giving it a day to sort itself out should be fine. If he or she stops eating, seems depressed, or continues to have digestive symptoms after a day, it’s time to call the vet. To help ensure good digestive health, feeding your dog a high-quality diet and limiting the amount of human food or table scraps go a long way. Also keep your home free of trash and pests, as well as properly storing chemicals and medications.