The power of pet poop (yes, really)

Patty Khuly, DVM
Vet Reviewed
By Patty Khuly, DVM on Sep. 24, 2009
The power of pet poop (yes, really)

No, you’re not alone. We all scrutinize our pet’s poop. least our dog's poop. I mean, it’s right there in front of us (usually) so why not look?

Disgustingly scatological though it may be, this is perfectly normal human behavior –– if you believe what Freud said, anyway. Salvador Dalí had the same belief in the power of poop to reveal the inner workings of the human psyche (he loved Freud), but we all know how whacked he was.

But when it comes to our pets, does it really matter what poop looks like?

I tend to think so. Beyond the obvious cylindrical clump, poop can be liquidy, whipped (you’ll never look at your ice cream cone the same way again, right?), tarry, raspberry jam-ish, or streaked with blood or gobs of mucus. Stool quality can be a harbinger of nastiness deep within.

These are dramatic (and disgusting) examples. But even the mundane, daily variations may be revealing of your dog's inner "style," indications of chronic deficiencies, food intolerances, bacterial imbalances and other problems best not ignored.

Along those lines, here are some important things to know:

1. Color: The color of the stool can be indicative of lots of thing, not the least of which includes artificial dyes in food (not a useful thing). Any change in stool (without a known change in diet) should be considered possibly problematic. If your dog's poop suddenly changes color or looks odd relative to the normal brown evident in other dogs' stools, consider asking your vet about it.

2. Size: The size of the stool often relates to the kind of diet that’s fed. With some "low-residue" and high protein diets the stool will be smaller. Switch to a bulkier brand and stools will be impressively bigger. Big dog in the city? Switch to the low-res, low-bulk variety. Any sudden change in poop size? Gotta wonder what they’re not absorbing.

3. Form: If your dog's poop isn’t always well formed (a nice stool is Tootsie roll shaped, with perhaps an acceptable soft plop at the end), consider a stool check and a simple blood test (along with a physical exam, of course). Too-round stools? It’s a red flag for constipation.

4. Straining: Pets strain (stand there and try to poop with nothing coming out) when their colons are irritated or when they’re constipated. Pets who do this all the time need medical attention. Those who do it on rare occasions with mild diarrhea are generally OK, but they need a look-see.

5. Stink: Sudden or chronic stinkiness is a tip-off for lots of extra (or "bad") bacteria in the intestinal tract. Check this out with your vet.

Lots can be done via diets to fix pet poop troubles. Most of the time it’s not about disease –– rather, it’s about slight variations in how dogs process the diets they’re fed. If your 'Fluffy' is regularly irregular, a dietary trial and error may be in order.

That’s the scoop! Any questions?

Dr. Patty Khuly

Patty Khuly, DVM
Vet Reviewed


Patty Khuly, DVM


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