Even though dog poop might not be the most pleasant topic, pet parents should definitely pay attention to this detail. Healthy poop is an indication of a healthy dog – at least in most cases. Keeping an eye on your dog’s poop characteristics can be a great way of tracking various health issues that he or she might be experiencing. But what makes the difference between normal and abnormal poop?
How Often Should a Dog Poop?
While it is said that dogs can ‘go to the bathroom’ for number 2 between one and five times per day, a healthy dog should usually poop up to three or four times in a day. If he does poop more often than that, it can be two things – either something in his digestion has changed, or he has eaten an unusually large amount of food.
The frequency of your pup’s pooping habits in a day can be modified by several factors. The quantity of food is one of them, as we have already mentioned. But did you know that the amount of fiber in a dog’s diet also affects the number of times that he ‘does his business’?
Puppies do it more often compared to adult and elderly dogs. Besides, there are some medications that can affect poop frequency, as well, such as opioids. How often your dog defecates is an indication of his/her lifestyle and behavioral habits.
Pooping in the House
Even older dogs (and those that are extremely well-behaved) can go no. 2 in the house from time to time. If it happens often, something could be at the root of the problem. Dogs that are stressed, have a new schedule, or don’t know how to ask humans to go out can experience this.
The same can happen with dogs that are taken to a boarding facility as their owners are on vacation or those that are kept indoors and a sitter comes and spends just one or two hours with them per day.
Older dogs can poop in the house more often, and that’s because they might have fecal incontinence (lack of bowel control), be it mild or not. As your dog ages, he or she may need to go to the bathroom more frequently, and this is a natural process. The anal sphincter loses some of its strength, and so do the muscles that keep the poop inside the dog’s body. In case you didn’t know, this happens to humans, as well.
Another reason why some dogs can go no. 2 in the house is because they forget. Yes, dogs can have canine cognitive dysfunctions which largely resemble what we would call Alzheimer’s disease in people. Dogs can forget to do their business when they’re taken out for walks, and that’s when you’ll notice that they will come back home and poop on the floor.
Arthritis and pain can cause your dog to poop indoors, too, because it can be painful for a pooch to adopt the correct posture to poop (squatting can be uncomfortable due to joint and muscle changes).
Last, but certainly not least, dogs that have anxiety or those that fear loud noises can poop without even wanting to.
Cleaning up Poop
If your dog poops outdoors, you can simply use a thick plastic bag to cover and entrap the feces, then turn it inside out immediately, or you can use a poop scooper for cases where the dog poops on sand, for example. By the way, allowing your dog to poop on sand is safer and makes it easier for you to dispose of it in a timely fashion. It effectively puts other dogs at a lower risk of getting things like parasites, for example.
If the dog poop incident happens indoors, you need to clean it as quickly as possible. There are several products that you can use for the purpose, but it’s a good idea to also use a mix of vinegar and water so as to try to disinfect the area afterward.
Cleaning dog poop from your pooch’s fur can be done mostly with the help of a bath with warm water and shampoo. Some vets say that a mild human shampoo like a variety made for babies can work, if you don’t have any made specifically for dogs, but I personally do not recommend using a human-grade product on your canine friend. Their skin pH is different from that of people, so you could cause dermatitis or dandruff.
Why Should You Pick up Dog Poop?
Picking up after your canine friend is an important task that is definitely part of responsible pet ownership. One of the first reasons that you should pick up your dog’s poop is that no one likes stepping into ‘a surprise’ and getting their shoes dirty. Whenever you take your pet off your property, you are entering public space, which means that other people can get exposed to Fido’s feces in one way or another. Just think about how unpleasant it would be to have a child touch your dog’s poop by accident (we’re referring to toddlers, who tend to want to touch as many things as possible as they are learning about the world around them).
Another reason to pick up after your dog is that your pooch’s feces aren’t natural fertilizer, as would be the case with cow manure. In fact, since dogs are omnivores, their diets are typically high in protein. Therefore, dog waste has high concentrations of nitrogen, as well as phosphorus, which means that the feces can actually burn your lawn if you do not pick it up.
Besides, dog feces can contain a lot of things from parasites to bacteria. For example, dog waste is rich in Salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria and viruses such as Coronavirus and Parvovirus, Campylobacter, and others. While these might pose a threat to humans, they can effectively pose an even more serious one to other animals that come in contact with your canine buddy’s feces.
Last, but not least, it’s important to note that dog waste can take up to one year to be broken down naturally, which means that the bacteria in it can still linger in the soil.
Why do dogs often turn around and around before pooping?
Why do some dogs make so many circles before pooping? This behavior can be explained easily. First of all, by doing this, your pet makes sure that the spot is safe and clean and that he stomps on the grass so that the poop can be seen clearly and easily by other dogs. This helps Fido mark his territory.
As you can expect, going to the bathroom can be pretty vulnerable, especially since dogs aren’t able to look behind them at the same time and see whether there are any predators lurking and wanting to attack them. When a dog is squatting, he cannot protect himself from any predators. To secure the area, the dog makes a few circles and also surveys for any potential issues.
There have been various studies made that attest to the fact that dogs align their bodies with the magnetic field before they do their business. Whether this is an unconscious or conscious behavior, we don’t know, but the truth is that they like it when they are aligned on the North-South axis. German and Czech researchers have analyzed the behaviors of 70 dogs to find this out.
What Is in Dog Poop?
As unpleasant of a task picking up your dog’s poop might be, it is undoubtedly necessary as it can contain a variety of things, some of which can tell you whether your dog’s health is on par, and others that can pose a threat to those around you.
Blood is the first thing that you might notice. Red blood is a cause for alarm as it typically means that there are severe problems affecting the lower part of the canine gastrointestinal tract, or at least the tissues around the anus. On the other hand, melena is the presence of dark blood in the dog’s feces, in which case you will notice that the stools are tarry and almost black. Melena is usually associated with blood clotting disorders, gastrointestinal ulcers, foreign bodies, or cancer. The presence of dark blood in your dog’s feces means that the lesion is in the first part of the gastrointestinal tract and that the blood gets digested.
Mucus is another thing that you might notice in your dog’s feces. Even though it’s not typically noticeable, it can show up in some cases such as when your dog has eaten foreign material, has an infection, allergy, or dietary intolerance, or suffers from inflammatory disorders or parasites.
Worms are typically not visible in a dog’s stool. They are actually rather good at remaining inside your dog’s body, but if some of them die or the parasite infestation is severe, you might notice worm segments, larvae, or adults in the feces.
Foreign materials are something else that you could see in your dog’s poop. As you know, dogs like to chew on things (especially when they’re growing up), so you might notice a variety of objects that range from pieces of rubber, plastic, wood, or rocks to jewelry or shoelaces. Keep in mind that sizable objects could become lodged along the way, and in such a situation, you’ll also notice that your dog has a poor appetite, starts vomiting, and isn’t pooping normally.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
In a 2012 study presented at the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior annual conference, researchers from the University of California have found that 16% of dogs are regular stool eaters (having been caught doing it at least five times) and that 24% are observed eating feces at least once in a while. But why do they do it?
Poop eating can occur if your canine friend suffers from several health problems such as malabsorption syndromes, diabetes, thyroid disease, Cushing’s disease, or being on steroid medication. Diets that are deficient in calories and nutrients will also make your dog eat poop as he is trying to get some nutrients back.
Under some circumstances, however, poop eating is a behavioral disorder and a direct result of restrictive confinement, anxiety, isolation, or it simply happens when the dog wants attention.
If you have a younger dog and an older, sick dog living in the same space, you might notice that the first tends to eat the feces of the second. Many scientists hypothesize that this could be related to their instinct of protecting the pack from any predators (avoiding to leave traces).
How can you fix this issue? Vitamin and enzyme supplementation is a great way of going about things, but you can also use special products that are created to make the poop seem disgusting to your dog. Whenever your dog poops, you should simply spray the substance on the feces and you’ll see that they are less inclined to eat it. Some of these products contain pepper-plant derivatives, parsley, chamomile, yucca, or garlic.
The 4 Cs of Dog Poop
Most veterinarians agree that there are three factors that need to be paid attention to by pet parents, at least when it comes to dog poop. These are the following:
Consistency refers to how hard or runny your dog’s poop is. It shouldn’t be as hard that it comes out as pellets and produces anal injuries (yes, that is possible), but it should also not be as soft as diarrhea. Sometimes, dogs can get runny poops just like humans do, and if that happens just once, it’s nothing to worry about. However, if that occurs two or more times, call your vet. The point is that, when it comes to poop consistency, it should be as hard and at the same time soft, so that you are able to pick it up with ease.
Coating should be non-existent. If you notice anything like blood or mucus coating your dog’s poop, get in touch with your veterinarian.
As for the contents, sometimes it can be pretty hard to tell what’s in your canine friend’s poop, especially if you’re not keen on over-analyzing it. Dogs can eat lots of silly things from rocks to jewelry and many other items, some of which could even cause blockages.
The fourth C comes from color and as you can expect, and especially because dogs are omnivores, your dog’s poop can be a variety of colors. Each can mean a different thing, but we’ll delve into every one with more specifics below.
Color is Important
From all of the features of dog feces that you should pay attention to, the color is the one that matters the most. If you notice that your dog’s poop is chocolate colored and looks like a firm, brown log, you can rest assured that at least in terms of his digestive system, your pooch is fine. It should have a mild odor, too, but it shouldn’t smell so disgusting that you can’t pick it up without wanting to vomit.
Green can be an indication that your canine friend is suffering from a gallbladder problem as green stools are frequently encountered in dogs that have a hard time digesting fats. Black and tarry poop can be a sign of upper gastrointestinal bleeding whereas yellow or clay-like poop can be a sign of liver disease. If your dog’s stools are gray, it could mean that he has pancreas-related health problems. The most alarming color of all is turquoise as it is usually associated with rat poisoning. If you notice this last one, call your vet as soon as possible.
We’ve written about diarrhea in dogs before, but what can it be caused by and how often should you see your dog ‘going to the bathroom’? Well, under normal circumstances, the transit time of food from your dog’s mouth through the small and large intestine should take less than 10 hours, with the result consisting of a well-formed and firm stool at the end. If you start seeing runny stools that happen every couple of hours, your dog could have a case of diarrhea.
Diarrhea can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:
- Changes in diet
- Dietary indiscretions (spoiled food)
- Food intolerance
- Swallowing a foreign body
- Poisonous plants or substances
- Viral infections (Distemper, Coronavirus, and Parvovirus)
- Bacterial infections (Salmonella and others)
- Organ illnesses (kidney and liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, or cancer)
If your dog is vaccinated and otherwise healthy, and you take him or her to the vet on a regular basis (at least once or twice a year), you could use some homemade cures. Rice water is great, and so is feeding cooked white rice to your dog if he still has an appetite. Canned pumpkin is another amazing product you could use as it offers good results both in cases of constipation and diarrhea (and it contains healthy and digestible fiber).
Boiled potatoes and probiotics can be used for the purpose, as well. Furthermore, fennel and a variety of other herbs and plants have gut-soothing properties and giving your dog some St John’s Wort tea could also solve the problem. By the way, St John’s Wort is also effective for mild anxiety and phobias, and you can also use it externally for treating skin conditions or small cuts.
Collecting Poop Samples
Stool samples are important as they can be used to test for intestinal parasites and a variety of other diseases. In puppies, fecal testing is recommended every 2-3 weeks until they reach the age of 16-20 weeks. If your dog is already experiencing digestive problems, you should bring a fresh sample along with you to the vet.
Obtaining a fecal sample from your pet can be done easily, but it would be ideal to collect it indoors. As you can expect, when your dog poops outside, the feces can come in contact with the grass or other feces remnants, so they could get contaminated. Using a puppy pad is ideal.
The sample must be fresh, so you should get to the clinic within 4 to 6 hours after collecting it. You can use a ziplock bag and get at least the size of a sugar cube or half a teaspoon from the whole amount. The bag must be sealed and kept in the fridge until you bring it to the vet hospital.
As you might have noticed, examining your dog’s poop at least once in a while can save both you and your pet a lot of trouble in the long run. It’s not the most pleasant task, but we all have to do it to make sure that digestive issues are solved easily and also made preventable.