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While it may feel a little uncomfortable and a little gross to get up-close and personal with your dog's poop, it’s worth it, as it can help give you a window into his overall health.
You should always consult your veterinarian if you notice unexplained, ongoing changes in your dog’s poop, especially if you suspect illness or injury. But it does help to know a bit about what normal poop should look like, and what different changes can mean.
According to Dr. Donna Solomon, DMV, normal dog poop is medium to dark brown in color. It’s firm enough to hold its shape when handled, but soft enough to squish under a bit of pressure. While its odor is (of course) less-than-pleasant, it shouldn’t have you gasping for fresh air as you hold the leash six feet away.
Dr. Solomon notes that any dog can have an off-day, poop-wise, and poop that’s occasionally soft or discolored isn’t usually a cause for concern. However, if you notice any of the following, it’s a good idea to observe your pet closely for signs of illness, and make a quick call to your vet if need be.
Poop that’s the Wrong Color
Green poop can indicate that your dog has been savoring extra amounts of grass lately, or that she got into the Christmas cookie icing (food dyes--even those present in some brands of dog food--can discolor poop). But if his stool is green and slimy, it can indicate a parasitic infection or intestinal problems.
Yellow, mucousy stool can indicate an infection, intestinal irritation, or an intestinal blockage. Yellow diarrhea could indicate a food intolerance, and may be a sign that a change in your pet's diet is in order.
White stools typically indicate high amounts of calcium in your dog's diet. White dog poop used to be more common a few decades ago, when dogs were fed people food and bones much more frequently. However, it's important to note that light-colored stools can indicate liver problems.
Poop with bright red blood can indicate a cut in the anal area, bowel irritation, or that your dog ate something sharp. Small amounts of blood, while alarming, don't necessarily mean something serious. However, poop that is black and tar-like can mean the presence of blood higher up in the intestinal tract, which can have a serious cause, such as an anal sack infection, Parvo, intestinal problems, or other serious health issues.
Poop that’s the Wrong Size, Shape or Smell
Stool that is skinny, liquidy, soft, mucousy, greasy, bloody, or small and hard, or stool that smells far worse than usual, may be cause for concern. Causes for stool changes can be as simple as dehydration or a dietary change (including your dog indulging in something that disagreed with her) or as serious as an intestinal blockage.
Diarrhea or constipation caused by a “bad food choice” or a short-term infection may resolve on its own with proper home care, as directed by your veterinari