The Scoop on Poop …

Your fur kids’ poop (stool or faeces) provides a wealth of information, which is why it may seem that veterinarians ask you about your pet’s poop — and request samples of it — pretty much every time you go to the clinic. We discuss this topic in greater detail.
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Of course, most pet parents, guardians and slaves also pay a good deal of attention to their animals’ poop. We all know what an ideal stool should look like, right? Not too hard, not too soft, just right.

Shape

Normal

Normal dog stools should be shaped like a log, that is, cylindrical in shape and should be easy to pick up leaving no mess behind.

Abnormal

Small round stools may be indicative of constipation. It’s important to check that these fur kids are drinking enough and not dehydrated. Old dogs who don’t drink enough and are inactive because of arthritis, may have this type of stool. This can be also seen in dogs with kidney disease. Stools that appear very thin like strips may indicate narrowing of the intestine or rectum. Intact male dogs with an enlarged prostate may also develop pencil-thin stools because the enlarged prostate pushes against the bowel.

Older dogs with arthritic hips sometimes are unable to maintain their defecation posture for complete emptying of their rectum. Frequently these arthritic dogs drop small nuggets of stool when they walk or at rest. If the stool sample has no shape what so ever, your pet is suffering from diarrhoea.

Colour

Normal

The colour of a dog’s stool varies from one dog to another. For a good part, it can depend on what the dog eats. Dogs who eat raw meat diets with bones will often have stools that turn white after 24 hours and then crumble. Generally speaking though, the normal colour of dog stool is brown, the same colour of chocolate.

Abnormal

Dark black, tarry stools are a concern as this can be a sign of the presence of digested blood. This is known as “melena” and is often seen in dogs with gastrointestinal bleeding from ulcers. Yellow stools can also be indicative of increased intestinal motility with the stools moving so fast through the intestinal tract that stercobilin doesn’t make it on time to add its distinct pigment. It can be seen in digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Also, bright yellow stools can be indicative of problems with the liver, pancreas or gall bladder and bright orange stools may be also suggestive of liver or gall bladder issues. Grey stools are often indicative of a liver problem or mal-absorption. Raspberry-jam looking stools happen when severe inflammation causes sloughing of the intestine’s lining with “chunks” of tissue found within the watery diarrhoea. It is often a symptom of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

Consistency

You may be surprised to know that some veterinarians use a numerical system to score the consistency of a pet’s stool. The faecal scoring system assigns a value to the stool from 1 to 7, where 1 represents very hard pellets and 7 is a puddle. The ideal stool is between 2 and 3: a firm segmented piece, caterpillar shaped, that feels like Play-Doh when pressed. Some pets naturally have squishier poops than others do, but all stool should hold its form.

Poop FormRatingNotes
AbnormalVery hard and dry; often expelled as individual pallets; requires effort to expel from body; no residue left on ground when picked up
NormalFirm, but not hard; pliable; segmented in appearance; little or no residue on ground when picked up
NormalLog-shaped; little or no visible segmentation; moist surface; leaves residue on ground, but holds form when picked up
AbnormalVery moist, soggy; log-shaped; leaves residue and loses form when picked up
AbnormalVery moist but has a distinct shape; piles rather than distinct logs; leaves residue and loses form when picked up
AbnormalHas texture, but no defined shape; present as piles or spots; leaves residue when picked up
AbnormalWatery, no texture; flat puddles

Faeces grading chart, developed by Nestle Purina.

Normal

Stools should be easy to pick up and they shouldn’t break up easily when you do this. Ideally, if you are picking stool from the grass, it shouldn’t stick to the grass leaving some behind.

Abnormal

Constipated dogs produce small, dry and very hard stools that are painful to pass. Even the consistency of diarrhoea may pinpoint to the portion of the GI tract giving problems. Generally, large volumes of watery diarrhoea may suggest issues of the small intestine; whereas, small, strained volumes produced on a frequent basis suggest issues with the colon. Stools that start out a bit on the soft side and then become gelatinous, shiny and mucoid may be indicative of colitis. This makes the inflamed colon produce a lot of mucus and there may also be erosions that lead to bleeding. Colitis can be sometimes triggered by stress.

Coating

Your fur kid stools shouldn’t have any coating; you should be able to pick up the perfect poop without leaving any residue on the ground. A coating of mucous often accompanies disorders of the colon. Bright red blood may also be present in a pet’s stool, which is always alarming for owners. Though a single streak of red on a stool can happen for a variety of reasons and is often not a cause for concern, bleeding that persists for more than one stool raises a red flag.

Contents

Does your vet expect you to dissect your pet’s stool at home to give them a rundown of what you’re seeing? Absolutely not, but some people do it anyway! You may be shocked to find items you were looking for in the past days! Rice-shaped flecks of white or long, wriggly spaghetti-like strands mean your pet may have worms. Excessive grass can accompany GI upset; clumps of hair can indicate over-grooming due to allergies, stress or a list of other medical conditions. Sometimes the stool will provide obvious clues to what your pet has been up to while you’re away, like chewing up your underwear or eating crayons.

Volume & Size

The size of your pet’s stool sample should be consistent and relative to the amount of food your pet eats. For instance, the size of a Yorkshire terrier’s stool will be dramatically smaller than a Great Danes’ stool.

Normal

The volume of stool can often indicate how well your dog is absorbing food and how much he eats. The volume of stool produced varies from size of the dog too. Obviously, the stool of a Chihuahua will be much smaller than the stool of Saint Bernard! Observe your dog’s stool so you can get acquainted with what’s the normal size stool of your dog’s stool so you can recognize the first signs of trouble.

Abnormal

If your dog isn’t eating much and the volume seems a lot, it could be he is not absorbing and digesting as he should. Dogs with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency are known for producing voluminous stools, having a dull coat and losing weight. Also, dogs fed a lot of fibre may also develop voluminous stools. Alternatively, if your pet’s stool volume is reduced, one would be concerned that maybe your pet is not eating as much as it normally has. This is especially revealing for cat owners who fill a bowl with cat food and let their cats graze on it for days. If the stool volume is suddenly reduced, one would be concerned that this cat’s appetite is reduced and may be ill. Another explanation for reduced stool volume would be constipation or a partial gastrointestinal obstruction. If no stool is being passed, one would be concerned that your pet may be suffering from constipation or a bowel obstruction.

Additional Articles and Videos

Good reference articles & videos further reading available at:

  • WALTHAM Faeces Scoring System (Waltham) (Requires Adobe PDF Reader);
  • When Your Dog’s Poop Looks Like This, Visit Your Vet, by Dr Karen Becker (Mercola);

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