What else, other than color and consistency should you look at when examining your dog’s stool?
Healthy poop should not have any coating on it.
Sometimes you’ll find poop that is covered by a slimy substance – mucus. Mucus is produced in the intestine to lubricate and protect the gut lining but normally it isn’t noticeable on feces.
Mucosal surfaces in the gut are part of the immune system, designed to detect and kill pathogenic organisms that may be trying to make their way through the gut lining.
When the large intestine isn’t happy and battling parasites, bacterial overgrowth, food allergy or intolerance, or even tumors (basically anything that irritates or inflames the gut wall), it can result in an increased production of mucus, which then becomes apparent on the stool. Even stress can cause mucus-coated stools.
One or two slimy stools don’t warrant rushing to a vet.
However, if this becomes a regular occurrence, or it is combined with other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain, the situation in the gut has gotten out of control and it’s important to have your dog seen by a vet.
What hides within
Just like with vomit, the contents of your dog stools can sometimes provide an inkling as to what may have upset your dog’s digestive system.
Pieces of plastic, toys and other non-food items, tell you that your dog ate stuff that was not intended to be eaten, which could be behind the problem. One question left unanswered, however, is whether all the foreign material has passed or some still remain within the digestive tract.
If you find bits of undigested food, it’s either a reflection on the food or your dog’s ability to digest what they eat.
Things like pieces of raw carrots can appear in the stools in more or less pristine shape. Dogs are not designed to digest chunks of raw vegetables. Once I tried giving my dog a freeze-dried raw food with chickpeas in it. Chickpeas are nutritious and seemed like a good ingredient. However, the chickpea grit came out exactly the same as it went in. Clearly, there wasn’t much nutritional benefit to be gained from feeding something that just goes through unchanged.
If the food that dogs should normally digest well comes out untouched, then you have a serious problem on your hands.
If your dog’s stools look greasy, you might be looking at a condition that prevents the intestinal tract from absorbing nutrients normally (malabsorption).
Poop does not smell like roses. It’s supposed to be stinky. But some abnormal smells are an indication of a problem.
Food-like, or smelling of sour milk
Poop that smells food-like, or of sour milk suggests rapid transit, malabsorption and/or irritation of the bowel; it can be a sign of overfeeding, particularly in puppies
Putrid smell suggests possible intestinal infection.
Rancid smelling poop
If your dog’s stool smells rancid, it indicates improper digestion of food
When to worry
One bad poop, no bad poop
Bad poops happen, particularly since dogs tend to eat all kinds of things some of which are not meant to be eaten. If my dogs get a bad poop, I watch for other signs of a problem such as
- changes in appetite
- increased drinking
- or anything else that seems off.
When they look and act fine and the next poop is the way it should be, I just file the event in the back of my mind—or include it in the health chart.
If bad poop develops into diarrhea, I generally give it 24 hours to resolve. If it doesn’t, or if it becomes severe, or accompanied by other signs mentioned above, I see a vet.
There are a number of things that affect stool quality and diet is definitely one of them. In an otherwise healthy dog, it can even be as simple as determining the right amount of dietary fiber for that individual. This can be quite a balancing act, particularly in large breed dogs. But before you make any assumptions and start playing with your dog’s diet, see a vet to make sure you KNOW what you’re dealing with.
Don’t forget the sample
Your vet can get a lot more information from your dog’s poop than you ever could. Not only do they evaluate all the above aspects, but they can also further analyze it and take a detailed look at what’s in the poop that is hidden from view. (a microscopic fecal analysis)
If you have any concerns, bring a poop sample with you.
Just like with a urine sample, the fresher the better.
As always, understanding what poop should or should not look like is important to know when you should see a vet. If you do notice consistent abnormalities, see your vet sooner rather than later. It might save you headaches down the road.
Assessing Your Dog’s Poop for Signs of Health Problem