Picking up dog poop just goes with the territory when you’re a dog mom or dad. You probably don’t give it a second thought. But because the color and consistency of your dog’s stool can provide important clues to their health, it pays to take note of their poop when you take them for walks and potty breaks.
Normal stools are firm, log-shaped and a chocolate brown color. Below are some other excrement colors you may see and what they could mean:
Green. Green stool usually just means your pet has eaten a lot of grass and is not a cause for concern. But if your dog is passing unexplained green stools, it could indicate a gall bladder issue, rat-bait poisoning or internal parasites.
Grey. Grey dog feces can be a sign that your dog’s pancreas isn’t producing the enzymes necessary for the digestion of fat. It also can indicate liver problems.
Orange/Yellow. This might mean fecal matter is moving too quickly through your dog’s digestive system to absorb bile, the substance that makes poop brown. However, it could also be a sign of a biliary or liver problem.
Red streaks or spots. Bright red blood in your pup’s stool may mean that they have an anal fissure, a tear in the tissue of the lower rectum or anus caused by straining to defecate. It can also be the result of other conditions such as viral and bacterial infections, gastroenteritis or colitis.
Black. Black dog poop could mean your pup has a bleeding ulcer. Some other causes include cancer, parasites, and viral or bacterial pathogens or a foreign body in the gastrointestinal system.
White. If your dog’s waste looks chalky white after it dries out, it could be caused by minerals from undigested food. It also could be caused by a high level of calcium in the diet, common in dogs that chew on a lot of animal bones. This typically isn’t a cause for concern. But too much calcium could lead to constipation. Signs include infrequent defecation, straining to poop and/or hard, dry stools that look like pebbles.
White spots. Oftentimes, worms in dog feces can appear as white flecks resembling rice grains.
In addition to color, pay attention to the consistency of your dog’s poop. It should be solid, slightly moist, and easy to pick up. Watery stool is a sure sign that something is off with your pup. If it only happens once in a while, it’s usually not a major concern. It could be “garbage gut”–a sign that your dog got into the trash. But if your dog passes watery stool regularly, it could mean a potentially serious problem, especially if accompanied by persistent vomiting, refusing to eat or drink for more than 24 hours, and/or lethargy.
Similarly, a little mucus in the stool is typically nothing to worry about. The slimy substance made by the intestines keeps the lining of the colon lubricated and moist. But excess mucus could be a sign of parasitic infestation, intestinal infections or inflammatory disorders.
Finally, a certain amount of odor is expected when you’re picking up dog poop. But if it’s more stinky than usual, that could mean your dog’s digestive system isn’t effectively absorbing the fiber in their food.
Medications, stress and diet changes can all cause your dog’s deposits to look different than it normally does. While a temporary change is usually nothing to worry about (e.g., one or two loose stools because they ate too many treats or green stool because they binged on grass), ongoing changes warrant a visit to your veterinarian.