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What You Need to Know About Dogs and Poop

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I have a house brimming with small children and furry family members. This often leaves me enforcing the “No Bathroom Words” rule since the poop jokes can escalate quickly. However, when it comes to my pup Stanley, poop talk is not only allowed, but also encouraged. Doggie deposits can tell you a lot about how healthy your precious pooch is – or isn’t.

What Does Normal Dog Poop Look Like?

You already know that your pal is special, but be aware that your dog’s potty habits are unique, too. It’s a good idea to regularly take a look at your dog’s poop, so you can determine what’s normal for your pup and better identify if their stool changes in terms of size, smell, color, or consistency. In general, healthy dog poop is firm, segmented, slightly moist, and chocolate brown in color.

Normal Dog Poop Consistency

Healthy dog doodie is firm enough to hold its shape but also soft enough to give way if you press your gloved finger against it. Think of children’s molding dough in terms of consistency. In fact, some veterinarians use a scale of 1 to 7 to rank your pal’s poos. If 1 refers to hard pellets and 7 indicates a watery puddle, you want your dog’s poop to be somewhere around a 2.

Dog Poop Colors of Concern

Your li’l buddy can’t tell you if they are having tummy troubles. Luckily, your dog’s poop can. Color variations can be a great indicator of underlying health issues. Take note if you observe stool that is:

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  • Black or red – This indicates blood in the stool. The darker the shade, the higher up in your pal’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract the issue is.
  • Gray or yellow – These shades are often associated with bile in the stool and can indicate liver, pancreas, or gall bladder problems.
  • Green – Your pup has probably just been eating a lot of grass and plants. You may need to alter their diet to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need from their doggie dish instead.
  • White and chalky – Your pooch may have a diet that is too high in calcium, which can lead to obstipation (chronic constipation).
  • Flecked with white – This could be a sign of worms or other parasites.

All of these abnormalities, as well as others I’ll detail in just a bit, can be grounds for consulting with your veterinarian. It’s a good idea to err on the side of caution where your furry friend is concerned.

dog sniffing waste as man picks it up

Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop?

Although we pet parents may cringe when we see our darling dogs eating poop, the behavior is actually fairly common and even has a name – coprophagia. It also includes their tendency to sniff and lick poop.

Coprophagia is a common behavior for puppies who are exploring the world and trying to understand what is and isn’t food. If your dog is still eating poop beyond their puppy years, their behavior could be due to:

  • A natural instinct to gather information about other animals
  • A desire to keep their den clean (probably linked to their ancestors’ need to hide from predators)
  • Parasites or other medical issues
  • A need for your attention

Some pups eat their poop because they actually need the protein. Dry dog foods have more than double the fiber content than the foods their ancestors consumed. Canine bodies aren’t designed to absorb so much fiber, and you may need to speak with your veterinarian about a nutrition plan.

Whatever the cause, coprophagia should be discouraged. Eating poop puts your pup at risk for contracting parasites, viruses, and bacterial infections. If your furry family also includes kitties, be aware that eating cat litter can actually damage your doggie’s digestive system.

Dogs Roll Around in Poop, Too

As a pet parent, you’re no stranger to the notion that while your lovable pooch is utterly adorable, they can also be pretty gross on occasion.

Have you ever been out for a walk or on a trip to the doggie park and witnessed your sweet pal rolling around in poop? No one can be certain why dogs do this, but some people call the behavior “self-anointing.” Linked to evolutionary instinct, pups self-anoint to mask their smell and keep them safe from predators.

If you spot your furry friend rolling around in poop, let them know the behavior is dangerous and give them a good bath right away.

various cleaning supplies

How to Clean Up Dog Poop

Even the most well-trained pooches occasionally poop on the carpet or upholstery. When it comes to cleanup, speed is of the essence. Acting fast helps reduce odors and stains.

First, pick up the poop with a plastic bag and gently scrape off as many remnants as you can. Next, spray the entire area with a homemade or store-bought solution. If you’re making your own, you can try a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar. Let the solution sit for a few minutes and then blot the area with folded paper towels until dry.

You can also try lightly misting the area with hydrogen peroxide once you’re finished – just take care to only use a small amount to avoid staining.

Scooping and Proper Disposal

I think we can all agree that outdoor poop cleanup is much easier! However, you should still follow a few simple guidelines for both aesthetic and environmental reasons. Pet waste can have a high concentration of parasites and can even affect groundwater if left un-scooped. When your doggie does a #2 outdoors, remember to:

  • Encourage your pal to go on grass or sand (as opposed to pavement)
  • Sprinkle any loose stools with dirt or sand before scooping
  • Collect the poop with a plastic bag (with no holes!) and tie up right away
  • Dispose of the waste as soon as possible in accordance with your local municipality’s preferred method

Please note that while composting your pal’s poos may seem like the most environmentally friendly option, it’s not recommended. The chemical makeup of dog poop, along with the risk of parasites, can actually be a detriment to your garden.

Do I Need to Wipe My Dog’s Butt?

As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to keep your li’l buddy clean and comfy. For some pups, regular bathing and grooming are enough. For others, especially longhaired dogs and pooches with stubby tails, wiping is a good idea. A warm washcloth often does the trick, but you may also need to comb or trim the hair near your dog’s anus. If you notice your pal scooting across the floor, you should check their bottom for cleanliness concerns.

dog at check-up

When Does a Poo Problem Merit a Vet Visit?

You know the phrase “one extreme or the other?” It makes a good basic guideline when answering this question, meaning constipation and diarrhea are the most common reasons to call your veterinarian.


Most pups poop once or twice a day. If your dog’s constipation seems painful or strained, lasts more than a couple days, or is accompanied by symptoms like vomiting or loss of appetite, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian.

If your pal passes blood or mucus while trying to poop, they may also be dealing with a more serious issue. Constipation can be linked to a wide variety of ailments, including , kidney disease, nervous system disorders, and even cancer.


Diarrhea that lasts more than 12–24 hours is cause for concern. Some possible causes include:

  • Dietary issues
  • Parasites
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Pancreatitis
  • Injuries to the GI tract
  • Ulcers
  • Tumors

Diarrhea can cause dehydration in dogs fairly quickly, especially puppies. Take extra care to observe your dog and contact your veterinarian any time diarrhea is accompanied by:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in behavior

Additional Poop Concerns

If you notice fur in your pal’s poop, they may be over-grooming due to anxiety, allergies, or skin disease. It’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns. Similarly, if you notice foreign objects, such as plastic or wood, keep a close eye on your canine companion and look for blood in the stool or signs of constipation. Swallowing these non-food items can lead to injuries.

If you schedule a veterinarian visit due to a poo problem, make sure to bring a stool sample to your appointment. This will help your veterinarian diagnose your doggie and get them the best care possible.

woman embracing a happy dog

Can I Get Sick, Too?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Zoonotic diseases, meaning those passed from animals to humans, can be present in pooch poop. Some common offenders include salmonella, campylobacter, giardia, roundworms, hookworms, and other parasites. Even if your pal isn’t showing any symptoms, their poop could still pose a risk to you, so always wear gloves when handling.

Your health, along with your pup’s, is important. An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help protect your dog when poo problems strike. Is your canine companion covered? Get a quote now!

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