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what your dog's poop is telling you

November 30, 2017, by Ryan O’Quinn

How many times have you thought to yourself, or said to your dog, “I wonder what’s going on in that brain of yours? If only you could talk.” I think it’s safe to assume it crosses every dog owner’s mind at least once, but probably more often. Since your dog won’t be talking to you anytime soon, there’s something your dog leaves behind daily that says a lot — at least about his health anyway. Can you guess what it is? Yep, that’s right, it’s your dog’s poop — and your dog’s poop says quite a bit!

Hopefully, you’re in the yard cleaning up your dog’s poop on a regular basis. While engaged in this chore, it’s the perfect time to monitor the healthiness of your dog’s stool. We actually do this at each visit to our clients’ homes. If we find something out of the ordinary, we will notify you of our findings. And, no, you don’t need to get up close and personal with a magnifying lens and a petri dish. But you should be keeping an eye out for anything unusual looking. This is where the four C’s of poop come into play; color, consistency, content, and coating.

1. Color: Normally, a dog’s stool is a chocolate brown color. During digestion in a healthy dog, the gallbladder releases bile to aid in the breakdown of food. Bilirubin is a pigment in bile that affects stool color. The stool may have some small differences in color mainly due to diet and hydration. Some abnormal color patterns are:

-Black or very dark stool: most likely due to bleeding high up in the digestive tract.

-Redish streaks: typically indicates bleeding in the lower digestive tract.

-Greyish or yellowish stools: may indicate issues with the liver, pancreas or gallbladder.

Keep an eye on your dog doing his business for a solid day. Pun intended! If he poops more than 2-3 times with any abnormal colors, contact your vet right away.

2. Consistency: Veterinarians typically use a numerical scale from 1-7 to measure the consistency of your dog’s stool. This scale places a value on the stool, where 1 represents very hard pellets and 7 is a basically liquid with nothing solid. Ironically the ideal stool on the scale is a #2; a firm, sausage-shaped poop that feels slightly squishy like Play-Doh when pressed.

Formless stool means the large intestine is not properly re-absorbing water; hard stool can be painful to pass and may indicate your dog’s dehydrated.

3. Content: The only way to check stool’s content is to break it right open and dissect it. Definitely does not sound fun by any means. The inside of a stool shouldn’t look any different from the outside. Here are some abnormal things you may find:

Worms: long and skinny roundworms, or little rice-shaped tapeworms. it’s important to always examine a fresh sample, as other creatures will seek out the stool and may cause a bad sample.

Foreign objects: as you know, it’s not at all uncommon for dogs to eat random non-food items — which typically pass whole and can be seen in the stool.

Fur: clumps of fur in the stool may indicate overgrooming, which can be related to anxiety, stress, allergies, and skin diseases.

4. Coating: Poop should not have any kind of a coating or film over it. Have you ever noticed when you’re picking up your dog’s poop and there’s a sort of trail left behind? That could be a coating of mucus and may indicate bowel inflammation. Diarrhea is usually accompanied as well.

Lucky for your pup (and you) the majority of poop-related issues tend to resolve themselves within 24 hours. If your dog stops eating, seems anxious or depressed, or continues to have digestive symptoms after a full day, it’s time to call your vet.

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