If the poop looks odd, smells foul, occurs too often or too little, is red (possibly blood) or pale yellow (possibly issues with the pancreas or liver), pay heed. These are clues that something is wrong with your dog’s diet or there’s a medical condition brewing, such as constipation, inflammatory bowel disease or even colon cancer.
“If your dog assumes the normal posture to poop, but there is no results, he or she could be constipated, could have a foreign body obstruction somewhere in the GI tract, could have swollen anal glands or something else,” says Trisha Ballard, DVM, a holistic veterinarian who has practiced in the Dallas area for the past three decades.
The Three C’s of Poop Consistency – The deposits from the pet should be segmented, the consistency of Play-Doh and easy to pick up.
• Color – Color should be chocolate brown. Bright red may indicate bleeding in the lower GI tract. Maroon colored stools could indicate bleeding in the stomach or small intestines. Pale yellow deposits may signal something is wrong with the liver, pancreas or gallbladder.
• Contents – Hold your nose and inspect the poop. Any signs of rice-shaped flecks or wriggly strands could signal your dog has worms. Too much hair in the stool can be attributed to over grooming due to stress, allergies or a host of medical conditions.
• Coating – Gross as it sounds, when you scoop the poop off the yard or the floor, it should not leave any residue or filmy mucous.
Why the need to bring in a poop sample on your veterinary visit?
“Poop provides us veterinarians with a wealth of information,” says Dr. Ballard. “Healthy poop is chocolate brown in color, the shape of a log, passed one at a time that is easy to pick up.”
What Number Is the Pet’s Poop?
When it comes to producing healthy poop, veterinarians have been keeping a not-so-hidden secret. They actually rank the poop brought into their clinics on a scale of 1 to 7. The healthiest poop falls between a 2 and a 3.
Here is the run down on the fecal scoring system used by veterinarians to rate doggy poo:
1. Hard, small pellets resembling Milk Duds.
2. Tootsie-roll in color and texture. Segmented.
3. Ideal: Chocolate brown-colored logs easy to pick up and slightly squishable.
4. Chocolate, gray or tan colored logs with a slimy coating.
5. Moist, slimy logs that fall apart when picked up and leave a residue.
6. Shapeless plops of poop often dropped in multiple locations.
7. Watery, reddish brown or tan-colored poo puddle.
Yuck, yes. But when do these episodes require veterinary care or rank as medical emergencies? It depends on how your dog’s “deposits” look and smell as well as their amount and frequency.
GI upsets in dogs run the gamut from the occasional diarrhea/constipation to the more serious colitis, often misidentified pancreatitis, the lesser-known exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and small intestinal bacteria overgrowth to the downright deadly bloat.
“The gastrointestinal tract ranks as one of your dog’s most important organ systems,” said Ernie Ward, DVM, who operates Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., noted author and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. “I firmly believe that a healthy gut means a healthy pet.”
Here’s a quick rundown of how to combat these headline-making GI conditions:
• Colitis: Inflammation of the largest intestine that is evident by frequent, small volumes of semi-formed to liquid feces. Chief cause: stress (being anxious about being boarded or due to parasitic infections.) Antibiotics and fiber supplements often treat this condition.
• Diarrhea/Constipation: Adding canned pumpkin to the diet can help an occasional bout, but chronic episodes can signal kidney or liver disease or parasitic infection that requires medicine and veterinary treatment.
• Not all tummy upset incidents merit pronto trips to the nearest veterinary clinic, such as the occasional diarrhea or constipation. And, it turns out that bright-red stools are not nearly as dangerous as are runny stools that pack a powerful stench and look like they contain dark coffee grounds.
“The presence of blood in stools can be confusing,” said Dr. Ward. “Bright red is not as life threatening as horribly smelling black flecks in the stools. The bright red tells me this is coming from the lower, large intestine near the anus. The dog could be straining to defecate and irritated his anus area. But if the dog’s stool smells horribly and has evidence of dark flecks, that is much more serious. It tells me that there is bleeding from the small intestine or a serious ulcer. That dog needs to see a veterinarian right away.”
You can catch a GI issue in your dog early and possibly, save on veterinary treatment bills by heeding these three tips:
1. Inspect your dog’s poop – daily. The size, texture, frequency, color and smell of your dog’s poop serve as big clues on how healthy his gastrointestinal tract is. Feces should be brown, formed easily to bag and definitely not reek.
2. Recognize emergency signals. Take your dog to the vet, pronto, if your deep-chested dog is on the ground with a swollen stomach and having dry heaves but unable to vomit. He could be having a bout with bloat.
3. Pick the right pumpkin for occasional mild digestive upset. If your dog has mild diarrhea or constipation, add pumpkin in his bowl. But use real canned pumpkin that provides dietary fiber and not the sugar-filled pumpkin pie variety.
Poop Fact or Fiction
1. Dog and cat poop is good fertilizer. Answer: False. Pet poop is toxic to lawns and can cause discoloration and burn spots on the lawn. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has classified pet waste as a dangerous pollutant in the same category as toxic chemicals and oil. Do not consider using dog poop in compost piles for your garden.
2. Dog poop can contain roundworm larvae that can cause blindness. Answer: Fact. If a person ingests a roundworm larva, it can migrate to the brain, lungs, kidneys, heart or eyes. That is why it is important to thoroughly clean your hands after touching soil, pet toys or anything that has come into contact with pet feces.
3. The average dog excretes nearly 1 pound a day or about 274 pounds of poop each year. Answer: Fact. And pet poop represents about 4 percent of the contents in landfills. Baby diapers, by the way, also claim 4 percent of the landfill.
4. One ounce of dog feces contains 23 million microorganisms of bacteria — nearly twice that of human waste. Answer: Fact.
5. The most ecologically friendly removal method of dog poop is to bag it and toss it in the trash. Answer: False. Actually, the EPA suggests you flush dog poop (not litter-covered cat poop) in the toilet. There are water-soluble doggy poop bags now available on the market that will enable you to easily flush the feces safely down the toilet.
By Sarah Zumhofe