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Dog Poo: Unveiling the Clues into Canine Health

Alison Frost, ProDog Raw’s Canine Nutritionist, writes about the important clues that can come from observing dogs’ poo. Her years of experience helping dogs with digestive issues are reflected in this informative guide.

Alison Frost

Author: Alison Frost

Edited By: Anna Bain

Dog Poo: Unveiling the Clues into Canine Health

Whilst dog poo isn’t exactly anyone’s favourite discussion topic, it’s something I advise dog owners to be aware of for various reasons. Dog’s internal health can be directly reflected in their excrement, and can be a helpful way to gain early insights into potential health issues.

I’ll be discussing all the details of dog poo in this article: what it should look like, what it might be telling you, and important clues to watch for pertaining to your dog’s health.

In this article, we feature a selection of nutritional supplements from our range:

DIGEST for gut health & prebiotics

COLOSTRUM for immune support

Understanding dog poo

Importance of observation

As we all know, dogs can’t tell us when something doesn’t feel right. In addition to this, their stoic nature means that they’ll rarely let us know if they’re not feeling well, and if they do, it’s likely because they’ve reached a severe level of discomfort. Thankfully, they do give us subtle clues into their wellbeing if we pay attention. One of the ways they do this is through their poo.

As dog poo is the end result of the digestive process, it can tell us a lot about dogs’ internal health. From digestive issues to liver function and much, much more, there are many clues to be derived from your dog’s excrement! This is why I’m an advocate of keen dog poo observation: you can get ahead of underlying health issues by simply being aware of what their poo looks like, potentially saving them from unnecessary suffering.

Different aspects of dog poo to consider 

The colour of dog poo is an important indicator of canine health, as it alludes to certain imbalances that could be occurring within dogs’ digestion and other systems [1]. However, there are other aspects of dog poo to consider that also provide crucial clues into dogs’ internal functions. Combined with colour, these various aspects can create an informative picture of what’s going on regarding dogs’ digestive and overall health.

When observing dog poo for health clues, it helps to observe the consistency, frequency, shape, and contents, as well as colour. These combined aspects can tell you a lot about your dog’s inner workings; whether their digestion is functioning properly or perhaps needs some attention in one area or another. I’ll go into this in more detail later in the article.

Digestion and gut health

Link between digestion, gut health, and overall health

Gut health is the foundation of all canine health, so it makes sense that dogs’ poo reflects the condition of their internal environments. Imbalanced gut bacteria, inflammation of the gut, and other digestive issues have a great impact on the rest of the body’s systems, and can influence their functioning in either a positive or negative direction. This is because the gut communicates with the immune system, the body’s inflammatory response, and the brain, among other crucial organs and functions. 

When something’s wrong or off balance in the gut, all of these processes are affected; potentially creating wide-spread systemic imbalances that can be responsible for a host of health concerns. The results of this vary between individual dogs, as each will have a unique response, but the central theme remains the same: imbalanced gut health creates imbalances elsewhere in the body.

Role of the digestive system in nutrient absorption

The digestive system is directly responsible for the absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Basically, this means that the positive elements in dogs’ food are absorbed into their various systems where they contribute to their wellbeing, whilst the negative or unusable parts are formed into waste products. Put simply, the more beneficial nutrients dogs eat, the better their health will be.

Foods that include empty calories or fillers, excessive starches, sugars, preservatives, or any synthetic ingredients are essentially waste products, even before they’re digested. Dogs can’t absorb the nutrients they need from these foods, which has a direct impact on their gut health, overall health, and vitality/energy levels. In order to promote and maintain these, species-appropriate nutrition is crucial. Fresh, whole foods that dogs are designed to digest naturally benefit their digestion, leading to balanced gut health and overall wellbeing [2].

Interpretation of dog poo

What different characteristics could indicate

As mentioned earlier, there are several characteristics to be aware of when observing dog poo. Here’s a quick breakdown of each and what they might be able to tell you:

Colour

Medium to dark brown is considered to be ideal colouring for dog poo. Here are some examples of other colours that can indicate cause for concern:

  • Yellow — Can indicate liver or bile issues
  • White — Can be a sign of too much bone or calcium for your dog, or temporary effects of recently switching to a raw diet
  • Red — Indicates bleeding of the lower GI tract
  • Black — A sign of digested blood from bleeding in the upper digestive system
  • Green — Potential sign of a parasite infection such as giardia,  but can also be caused by eating too much grass
  • Purple — Potential indicator of Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE), warrants immediate veterinary attention
  • Grey — Can be a sign of pancreatic or bile issues, potentially too much fat in the diet

Consistency

The consistency of dog poo should be firm, but not rock hard. Ideally, you should be able to squish it a little when picking it up (with a bag, of course!), and it shouldn’t leave residue on the ground. Very hard dog poo can indicate constipation or dehydration. Loose dog stools or diarrhoea in dogs can be a sign of gastric upset or potential food allergies/intolerances. 

Contents

The contents of dog poo are another important indicator of their health. Healthy dog poo should ideally have no visible contents, as this means their digestion is functioning optimally. If you notice anything visible such as red streaks or worm segments (these look like grains of rice), a trip to the vet is in order. Any foreign objects also warrant immediate veterinary attention to rule out a potential intestinal blockage.

Frequency

Each dog has their own elimination schedule depending on how often/how much they eat, along with other factors. For example, some dogs need to go twice a day, whilst others only need to go once. As you know your dog best, you’re the best judge of what’s normal for them. If they’re going more or less often than usual, this is a sign that something’s off with their digestion. However, if your dog hasn’t eliminated at all for more than 48 hours, take them to the vet immediately.

Shape

Dog poo should resemble a torpedo in shape; long-ish (in relation to your dog’s size) with a “pinch” at the ends. Loose stools or diarrhoea in dogs will obviously have a more relaxed form, and can indicate digestive upset. Small, very hard pieces can indicate constipation or dehydration. In either case, I recommend bone broth for dogs; it replaces essential electrolytes and restores their hydration levels. 

Interpreting your findings 

Based on what I’ve outlined above, observation of your dog’s poo will hopefully lead you to a pretty clear interpretation of how they’re feeling. If you’re seeing anything that concerns you, a call to your vet will help identify any underlying issues. If your dog’s poo is only slightly different than normal, this likely indicates a mild digestive upset that can be rectified with a diet change or adding a dog supplement designed to support digestive system, such as ProDog’s Digest, to their existing diet.

However, it’s important to know what to look for in cases of potentially serious health issues, which can also be alluded to through observation of your dog’s poo. Utilising the guidelines in the above section, you can be your dog’s first advocate when it comes to getting them the help they need if the situation calls for it.

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Benefits of a raw diet

Raw food digestion benefits

As raw dog food is designed to mimic the wild canine diet, there are numerous health benefits that come along with it. The central benefit, however, is improved gut health. This is because a raw diet is highly digestible to dogs, and offers the essential nutrients they require for optimal health [3]. These nutrients allow the digestion process to function properly, and contribute to a balanced internal environment.

The absence of fillers, preservatives, and other indigestible substances in a raw, species-appropriate diet makes the digestion process simpler, as there’s less waste to filter out. This promotes absorption and assimilation of nutrients and contributes to dogs’ wellbeing, rather than making their bodies work harder to “adapt” to foods that their bodies don’t recognise. 

Discover more about the benefits of raw dog food in our comprehensive guide.

Natural support for gut health

Whilst fresh, whole foods is my number one recommendation for digestive issues and overall canine health, there are times when additional support is helpful. In these cases, I suggest utilising nutritional supplements in addition to a gut-friendly diet. These nutrient-dense blends offer a concentrated boost of targeted support, and can produce results that may not happen with diet changes alone.

ProDog’s nutritional supplements are designed to boost gut health and all the processes associated with it. For digestive upset and gut health support, I generally recommend our Digest , Animotics paste and Colostrum supplements. These provide easy and convenient dietary support that can aid restoration of the gut, help to balance immune response, and promote optimal functioning of dogs’ various systems. 

If you’re not sure which supplement may be best for your dog contact us for FREE advice from our canine nutritionist team.

Raw diet tweaks

Customising raw diets for optimal results

As with any food, there are certain raw meals that may not agree with your dog’s individual digestion. For example, intolerances/sensitivities to certain proteins or plant products can cause digestive upset and result in changes to dogs’ poo, even when they’re eating a healthy, whole-food diet. If you’re feeding a raw diet and your dog is still experiencing gut health issues, a diet review is likely in order. 

In these situations, I generally advise our customers to try new proteins for a while, such as our Novel protein options. Another tactic might be to try a more simple diet, such as ProDog’s 80:10:10 range. Each dog is different, so recommendations will be different based on various factors. Our expert nutritionists are happy to help; they’ll answer your questions whilst determining what the best course of action might be for your dog. 

Meanwhile, you can also discover more via ProDog’s raw feeding guide , and our raw dog food calculator will help to ascertain how much your dog should be eating based on their individual traits.

Adjustments for various digestive issues

Some raw diet tweaks are simpler than others, and can be resolved relatively quickly. For example, chalky, white dog poo is generally the result of too much bone in the diet, and can be solved by reducing their intake and increasing the amount of boneless raw food in their diet. 

Bone provides essential nutrients for dogs and should ideally be included in their diet, but each dog requires slightly different amounts. It might take a few tries to figure out the sweet spot for your dog, but it shouldn’t be too hard. Keep in mind, however, that this may also be a temporary effect of recently switching to raw. The situation will likely resolve quickly if this is the case. 

Other examples of quick diet tweaks include less offal (organ meats) for dogs with loose stools, less fat for dogs with greasy stools, and more moisture or fibre for dogs with hard or dry stools. A consultation with a canine nutritionist or holistic vet can be very helpful in these situations, as can a chat with ProDog’s expert feeding advisors. 

Nick Thompson, DVM, is ProDog Raw’s in-house veterinarian and a long-time raw feeding advocate. He discusses gut health, as well as the clues that dog poo can provide in this short video.

Dog poo: Nature’s clues into your dog’s health 

I realise this topic is one most people would rather avoid, and I don’t blame you. However, I know you want what’s best for your dog, and being aware of what their biology is telling you can help you take better care of them.

Colour, consistency, and other factors of dog poo can provide helpful clues into the health of our dogs. Knowing what to watch for, providing the nutrient support they need, and getting them medical help when necessary can go a long way towards helping dogs lead healthier, happier lives.

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Dog poo FAQs

Why is there blood in my dog’s poo?

Red blood in dog poo indicates bleeding of the lower digestive tract. It might be something as simple as a small cut or something more serious, but should be checked by a vet either way. Black dog poo indicates digested blood, which means it’s coming from the upper digestive tract. This should also be evaluated by a vet straight away.

What causes worms in dog poo?

Worms in dog poo are the final step in the intestinal worm’s life cycle and indicate a worm infestation. Read our article on worms in dogs for more information.

Why is my dog’s poo white?

White dog poo is a sign of excessive bone or calcium in the diet, and should resolve after a small tweak in dogs’ diets. It can also be a temporary effect of recently switching to a raw diet as well. 

Why is my dog’s poo yellow?

Yellow dog poo can be a sign of liver or bile production issues. However, if your dog has eaten lighter proteins such as rabbit or turkey, their stool can be a light yellow colour also. If your dog’s poo is very yellow more than occasionally, I recommend a visit to your vet.

What should normal dog poo look like?

Normal dog poo should be medium-dark brown, firm but not hard, and torpedo shaped, but this can vary slightly, depending on the proteins and food fed. Read the “Interpretation of dog poo” section above for more specifics.

What’s in my dog’s poo?

Ideally, there should be no visible contents in your dog’s poo, with the exception of an occasional blade of grass, or the odd bit of carrot or two. If you’re finding foreign objects, streaks of blood, or worm segments in your dog’s excrement, they should be evaluated by your vet.

What causes dog constipation?

Constipation in dogs can be due to dehydration, stress, diet imbalances, and a variety of other causes. Moisture in the diet and adequate hydration are key when dealing with constipated dogs. Read our article on dog constipation for more details.

Why is my dog pooping water?

Watery dog poo is an extreme version of diarrhoea in dogs, and can be caused by a variety of digestive upsets. It can also cause serious dehydration if left unchecked. Bone broth and added moisture in their diet can help offset this, but they should also be seen by your vet.

How can I tell if my dog has diarrhoea?

If your dog has loose stools you’ll likely realise it sooner than later. Diarrhoea in dogs is usually quite obvious, as their faeces has no form (or very little form) and is much softer/more liquid than the ideal consistency of dog poo described earlier.

How does the colour and shape of dog poo indicate health?

Various functions and processes in the body can influence the colour and shape of a dog’s poo. As discussed in the article above, different colours indicate different potential issues, as does the shape and consistency of dogs’ poo. Consult the “Interpretation of dog poo” section for additional details.

References

  1. Suchodolski, J., Markel, M., Garcia-Mazcorro, J., Unterer, S., Heilmann, R., Dowd, S., Kachroo, P., Ivanov, I., Minamoto, Y., Dillman, E., Steiner, J., Cook, A., Toresson, L. Dec 2012. The Fecal Microbiome in Dogs with Acute Diarrhea and Idiopathic Inflammatory Bowel Disease. PLoS ONE;, 7(12):e51907. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051907
  2. Algya, K., Cross, T., Leuck. K., Kastner, M., Baba, T., Lye, L., de Godoy, M., Swanson, K. Sep 2018. Apparent total-tract macronutrient digestibility, serum chemistry, urinalysis, and fecal characteristics, metabolites and microbiota of adult dogs fed extruded, mildly cooked, and raw diets. Journal of Animal Science;, 96(9):3670-3683. Doi: 10.1093/jas/sky235
  3. Sandri, M., Dal Monego, S., Conte, G., Sgorlon, S., Stefanon, B. Feb 2017. Raw meat based diet influences faecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs. BMC Veterinary Research;, 13(65). Doi: 10.1186/s12917-017-0981-z

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