What Is My Dog’s Poo Telling Me?

November 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm 36 comments

I swear I am not obsessed with dog poo. This is the first time in my life that I have drawn dog poo and I am doing it because I would rather not be seen taking photos of Boogie’s poo to illustrate this blog post. It’s bad enough to have this drawing (below) on my computer screen when the landlord and workmen showed up in my apartment today. Yep, giant drawings of dog poo on my monitor when I wasn’t even here. Totally embarrassing.

Yes, Boogie really did THREE poos on our walk this morning.

So Boogie eats exactly the same food everyday (not including the scraps that he steals off the sidewalk) so I don’t understand why there is so much variety in his poo. His first poo of the day is always the “healthiest” looking, and as the day progresses, it gets softer, weirder… and just  now at 12pm, he did a totally drippy poo. I am starting to see instances of black poo (= blood) which freaks me and makes me wonder if I should rush him to the vet, but then his poo would switch back to normal a few hours later, so… what does this all mean? Should I be worried?

There is a book titled “What’s Your Poo Telling You”?” I think someone, preferably a veterinarian or dog nutritionist, should produce a similar but serious book about dog poo analysis. Seriously.

Please feel free to discuss your dog’s poo and share your thoughts on dog poo in the comments!


Check out this Fecal Scoring Chart ! (Thanks, Patricia Tirrell!)

Boogie’s first poo of the day would be a #2 or #3.  Then for the rest of the day, it varies. Sometimes #1 (really hard and pebbly, especially if I feed only Stella & Chewy’s with nothing else mixed in), or #5 (like  toothpaste consistency) or #6 (drips out). #5 and #6 are happening more frequently than I am comfortable with. Poor Boogie.

I think I will consult the vet again, ask about possibilities of infection or colitis, and also look for a pet nutritionist. I am starting to wonder if Boogie’s GI  issues and skin issues (which are not getting better) are RELATED and I really want to believe I can ‘fix’ this problem on a nutrition/lifestyle level rather than have to continually rely on antibiotics and steroid meds and high vet bills which I hate so much.

Also: Monica Segal: Stool Chart

Entry filed under: Food, Poop.

Catching up. Notes about Behavior/Training. Happy Holidays!

36 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ace's Mama  |  November 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    I too am mystified by Ace’s poo’s reincarnations. I have noticed a similar pattern with her as you describe with Boogie (your drawings are remarkably accurate), where her first poo is the “healthiest” appearing and then it goes downhill from there. I also feed her the same thing every day. I have recently added canned pumpkin to her meals to try to firm up her poo, because she has issues with LEAKY ANAL GLANDS when her poo is not firm enough to empty them. Ugh. So the pumpkin worked for about a week, and now her poo and glands are back to the same pattern.

    I don’t really have anything useful to add, but wanted to validate your feeling concerned. Like leaves in tea, we could probably read all sorts of things into their various poos. I think when you’ve had a chronically ill dog you become hypervigilant to some extent. I know I have!

    • 2. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 12:35 am

      Thank you, Ace’s Mama. Yes, I am hypervigilant because Boogie used to have major food sensitivity issues. When I first adopted him, he used to vomit every single day and I went through so many different kinds of dog food to find something that he would eat and keep down. So when I see odd inconsistent (and black) poo, I wonder if his GI system is doing OK.

  • 3. Yani  |  November 21, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    For your poo on the right side that was relatively close together, I’ve always found that the poo that comes out first is firmer, and progressively gets softer. I wouldn’t be concerned about that. The stuff that comes out first has been in there longer and is a bit dryer.

    For the “yesterday” poo, if it’s black just that one time, I wouldn’t worry. Your dog probably ate something you weren’t aware of, or got a little bug. But if it continues, I would definitely talk to your vet about it. Could be a number of things, so I’d hate to speculate what it might be.

    Good poo luck!!

    • 4. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 12:29 am

      Hi Yani,
      Ok, I get it now. Yes, the poo that comes out first is often firmer. As for the black poo this is a new thing. It has only happened 3 times so far… in the past couple of weeks. The only thing I can think of is that I am feeding him Ziwi peak dry dog food as treats (http://www.amazon.com/ZiwiPeak-Grain-Dried-Venison-2-2lb/dp/B002AY5BHG) which looks quite dark, almost black. But I am baffled if this is the case why Boogie has produced black poo only 3 times. If it’s a bug, I hope it’s nothing major…

      • 5. Lauren Fetterman  |  November 22, 2012 at 3:31 am

        I feed that to my dogs as treats as well and they don’t get black stool. I would drop a sample off at the vet. Good luck and keep us posted!

  • 6. Wendy Jordan  |  November 21, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I see differences in my dogs all the time. However I don’t worry about it because my dogs eat a varied diet. They are fed prey model raw, and do get grains and “junk” in their training treats. Because their food is slightly different on a regular basis so is their poop. Hard and dry if they ate too much bone, darker and funnier after a meal of organ meats. But always very small in size and low in odor unless they’ve had too many commercial treats with grain in them.

    • 7. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 12:31 am

      Wendy, thanks for commenting. Yes I have noticed different foods producing different poos. Boogie mainly eats Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried patties (= very hard small poo) and The Honest Kitchen (= very long, medium firm poo). He gets quite a large variety of treats … I might narrow down the selection here.

  • 8. Susanne  |  November 22, 2012 at 12:55 am

    I have always been fascinated by the idea that our dogs stool should be completely uniform. Our own stool is not and its consistency can depend on many factors unrelated to what we put in our mouths. So it seems to me that our dogs should be similar. All the stool a dog puts out has not been digested the exact same amount of time, for example at night my dogs might have a stool after dinner and then not produce another stool until the next morning, so much of that matter has been in the digestive tract for quite a while. During the day, material seems to move faster through the system to reflect the dogs activity and if our dogs engage in very vigorous activity the gut becomes more motile as well. This more rapidly processed stool can have different traits too and not be abnormal. Plus, the environment that digests the food is not always the same, the beneficial bacteria in the gut for example have life cycles too. Our dogs eat an extremely variable diet, with a base kibble, and lots of fresh food plus training bait. I have noticed that their stool “cycle” is the same even on days where they have had only kibble, there is no change in stool on those days where they might take in an extra cup or even 2 cups of training bait. I have observed their stool changes most if they consume a medication or dietary supplement (such as a nutracutical) they are not used to and when they have been exposed to very high physical activities such as running. Such an interesting topic, to dog folks anyway!

    • 9. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Susanne… you make a good point. Boogie has been on a few new supplements in the past 2 months. I wonder if these affect his stool.

  • 10. Katie DeGarmo Goering  |  November 22, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Not a weird subject at all! In fact, I have an Excell spreadsheet that I’ve kept for over a year now, documenting diet and stool of each day (I’m pretty sure that would constitute obsessed). Mainly I note what was fed in the AM and PM and what the consistency the stool was in the AM and PM. My pup also has a finicky stomach so this was a great tool when trying to see what foods worked best for his system. Through process of elimination, we found that food with a high fat content gave him softer, more frequent stool. Also when he was on a kibble diet, he would defecate more frequently and there was a lot more of it. We tried adding pumpkin and it would help for about a week, but then stool would go back to being soft and more frequent. Now he’s on a frozen raw lamb diet (lower in fat than other meats) and he no longer defecates more than twice a day (morning and evening), the stool is consistently firm, it’s not smelly, and there’s less of it. As far as treats go, I either make home made treats with pumpkin as a main ingredient or purchase ones with pumpkin or sweet potato in it to help keep his tummy in check. Of course there are days when he isn’t feeling well for one reason or another and it’s reflected in his stool, but overall it’s taken about a year to find something that worked for us. It sounds like you’re on the right path but if the consistency remains squishy/drippy or black for more than a few days, I would take him into the vet just to be safe.

    • 11. Aims  |  November 22, 2012 at 2:34 am

      Oh my gosh, Katie, you’re awesome and I totally appreciate your level of obsession/geekyness. 🙂

    • 12. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 8:25 am

      ha! I used to keep a spreadsheet too when I was testing out different foods for Boogie. But it wasn’t a daily thing 🙂 Boogie had a blood panel done not too long ago and everything looked good and normal according to the vet. Nothing has changed in his diet since then, though.

  • 13. Aims  |  November 22, 2012 at 2:32 am

    You’re right, this isn’t weird at all to dog parents. 🙂 It’s actually a super important topic because it’s an obvious indicator of a dog’s health.

    From my 4 years of studying dog excrement (though not scientifically, just as a dog handler of a wide variety of breeds on a wider variety of diets) I agree with what everyone above says. Basically, the longer food stays in the digestive tract, especially the intestines, the more moisture that gets sucked out of it, and therefore will cause the stool to be more solid. So as someone above pointed out, the closer together the bowel movements are, the softer each successive one will be.

    This is not the only reason for soft stool though. Diet is a huge component, but so are stress and illness. It took me 2 years to find a combination of foods that agreed with my girl’s stomach and that she would be willing to eat. It turns out that only red meats agree with her and mainly beef. Poultry is no good, grains are hard on her and even other red meats such as lamb or kangaroo (I live in Sydney right now) don’t seem to sit as well. She’s a very anxious dog, so when she has a particularly stressful or exciting day, her stool is affected and comes out much softer. She also gets more gas. Colour is highly influenced by what the dog has consumed throughout the day or last few days.

    Judging by your drawing and descriptions, it could be as others have mentioned, that Boogie may be fighting a bit of a bug, though it could also be more serious. Continue to keep a close eye on it, especially that dark black stuff. You should be able to just drop off a sample of fresh stool at your vets and they can run tests on it for you. If you see the dark stuff again, that may be your best course of action. If the results come back with anything of concern, then you can get Boogie a full check up.

    Have you ever found out what Boogie’s intolerances are? If he’s allergic to food, he may also be be allergic to environmental things which could cause the differences in his stool as well.

    • 14. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Hi Aims, I haven’t done any allergy testing with food but no doubt he is allergic to something in the environment as reflected in his skin issues (flakiness, itchiness.. almost like dermatitis) He eats grain free, takes probiotics, an immune system supplement, and fish oil daily.

  • 15. Carol  |  November 22, 2012 at 5:13 am

    An excellent article in Whole Dog Journal provides lots of information: October 2006 Issue
    Determining Your Dog’s Health Through His Feces

    • 16. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Thanks, Carol. Will read this.

  • 17. Sarah  |  November 22, 2012 at 5:18 am

    My first thought would be his food. He might benefit from some digestive enzymes and/ or probiotics. My current dog is on a prey model raw diet but my previous dog, a Chihuahua, was on Solid Gold (grain-free, high protein, Barking at the Moon formula) and pooped once a day. He had a picky spell and would only eat a ProPlan sample I had for about 2 weeks and pooped 4-6 times per day.

    • 18. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 8:29 am

      Sarah, which probiotics do you recommend?
      Boogie is on Acidophilus probiotics (same kind that I take, from Rite Aid) and Canine Immune System Supplement powder. He eats grain-free freeze-dried/dehydrated raw.

  • 19. teresavet  |  November 22, 2012 at 8:58 am

    With that pattern, normally is something about parasites, allergy, anxiety of some of them combined. But sometimes I think if the dog has a “defecate then treat” pattern, some dogs defecate more often to get the treat, so the latter ones are softer (no much time to reabsorb the water).
    With Boogie’s history, I would think is a little food allergy or intolerance + some anxiety (some studies are finding links between these two now).

    • 20. lili  |  November 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

      Teresa – I wish I knew what the intolerances are. it is hard to know when I feed him so much variety. Is it a bad idea to feed too many different proteins at the same time? Could this affect his poop? ( Is it better to just stick with one protein?)

      • 21. Aims  |  November 23, 2012 at 2:05 am

        Just like with humans, variety is supposed to be better. You could try isolating the proteins for a week or 2 st a time (ie feed beef for one or 2 weeks, then chicken, then salmon, etc) to see if some sit better than others. That way, you can remove any that may be causing extra stress on his digestive system.

  • 22. Jessee  |  November 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    My dog does pretty much the same consistency all the time – if she gets the same food. A friends dog will do one normal crap, then move along about 20m and while his owner is not looking – because she’s picking up the first poop – he will do a second poop – very runny like the 9am today poop in the picture. if my dog eats something spikey like bone fragments, her poops get a viscous slime coating – ew.

    • 23. lili  |  November 23, 2012 at 8:05 am

      I see that viscous slime coating quite a lot!

  • 24. Pup Fan  |  November 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    You’re so right… someone does need to make a dog version of that book!

    I hope Boogie’s okay.

  • 25. wendy schilling  |  November 23, 2012 at 12:27 am

    change his diet to raw meat and bones and give him some slippery elm powder, that will heal his gut and his poo will become firm, light coloured and not smelly, also he wont be doing it 3 times a day!

    • 26. lili  |  November 23, 2012 at 8:06 am

      Hi Wendy, I have tried raw meat. He won’t eat it. Or he throws up. I do feed dehydrated/Freeze-dried raw, though. (The Honest Kitchen, Stella & Chewy’s)

      • 27. Aims  |  December 3, 2012 at 12:34 am

        Lili, I had the exact same problem with my girl and I tried different meats, different brands, everything. She eventually ended up refusing all of it. Now she eats a combo of a high quality dry food (no grains, different meats as the first 3 ingredients, etc) and a variety of wet food (same brand, great quality). Since we discovered this combo, she is exuberant about meal times and at her healthiest with mostly firm shaped stool and way less throwing up.

  • 28. laughlin  |  December 1, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I’ve got a Boston who has a history of similar problems: Bizarro poo, throwing up (mostly in the morning), and skin issues. I’ve spent a fortune trying to treat each individually, and I think I’ve finally found a combination that works.

    First, after rotating through MANY different commercials foods, I’ve settled into a home cooked diet that has worked really well. Every time my pup got sick, the vet would tell me to go on a plain chicken and rice diet until he was back to normal. Aside from going bananas over a bowl of chicken stew, this seemed like the only food that agreed with him. Rather than try to find a commercial food that mimicked what I was cooking, I worked with my vet to come up with an affordable and easy to cook recipe that provided all the nutrtition he needs. The recipe has been consistent for the past year or so – boiled chicken thighs, rice, sweet potatos, normandy vegetable blend (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers), a multivitamin supplement and a few other things I sometimes add (eggs + egg shells, olive oil). I get the chicken and frozen veggies at Costco, and the total cost comes out to about $2-3 a day. On this diet, the food issues have pretty much cleared themselves up – although to take care of the vomiting I either have to feed a small snack just before bed, or serve breakfast as soon as we get up in the morning.

    Aside from food sensitivity, my dog has a very long history of allergies. He has some skin issues recently that seemed to be getting worse, and after consulting with my vet she said it was possible it was an allergic reaction to something – and suggested I do an allergy panel to see what. It was pricy, but gave me some useful info… specifically that he’s allergic to rice. I’ve swapped out the rice in the dog food for barley and oats, and I give him a dose of benadryl a couple times a day as well. This seems to have worked out pretty well, as he doesn’t throw up anymore, and his skin has stopped any signs of flareups too. As an added benefit, the sweet potato in the food seems to do wonders in reducing the stinkiness of his gas.

    There is no guarantee that any of the above is relevant to your dog – for example, food allergies are actually less common than environmental ones. It can’t hurt to try simplifying your dog’s diet, and possibly seeing whether he’s responsive, and using a mild antihistamine like benadryl if very low risk and could could help determine whether the systemic health issues you’re seeing might be allergy related. All of the bully breeds are especially susceptible to allergies, so my own anecdotal experience isn’t unusual.

    Good luck, and thanks for your amazing art! I’m going to pick up a print of Boogie playing the organ and hang it at eye-height for Chang Noi, my little guy.

    • 29. lili  |  December 23, 2012 at 10:17 am

      Thanks, laughlin. There is so much info out there and you are right – every dog is different. I have been advised to eliminate chicken, rice, potato.. you name it. And I would prefer not to give him frequent doses of benadryl – half a pill knocks ME out! Imagine how doped out a little dog would be. Boogie is eating grain-free and potato-free food right now and I will be consulting with a pet nutritionist soon, so…. fingers crossed I can come up with a new perfect diet for him. Thanks for buying my art 🙂

  • 30. Karin  |  December 9, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Hi, I just came across your blog. Boogie is adorable. There is something so very special about the Boston Terrier breed.
    We recently had to put our beautiful 12 year old Boston to sleep. But I wanted to throw in my two cents about the importance of diet. For many years she had problems with her poo. It was soft and some days it was very runny. She also had skin issues. Always licking, especially her paws. After doing a lot of research, I finally figured out not only was she allergic to grains, she was allergic to chicken. I put her on a quality no grains kibble and canned food that I purchased from our vet (she loved the venison and the salmon) and it was a miracle. Perfect poo ever time. Her skin looked fantastic too. No more licking and the occasional brown staining down the sides of her nose were completely gone.
    Also, towards the last few months of her precious life, I cooked all her food. It consisted of white fish (cod, haddock or pollock) with sweet potato, white potato, celery and zucchini. She loved it. Again, perfect poo.
    Not to scare you but as far as the black poo goes, it would concern me. In humans it’s either too much iron or old blood (possible internal bleeding).
    Take care.

    • 31. lili  |  December 23, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Hi Karin, the black poo happened only 3 times. It hasn’t happened again. Touchwood. Thanks for sharing about your BT. Hugs.

  • 32. Pet Sitter Diaries - Pacific Tales  |  December 18, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for the scattalogical update. Poop definetely holds the answeres to all lifes mysteries…or at least the last 24 hours!


    • 33. lili  |  December 23, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Of course 🙂

  • 34. Michelle K  |  February 25, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Hi! I just came across this. Nicely done, by the way. I face a similar issue with my 18 month border collie though his is never diarrhea (just very soft at times). Honest Kitchen Perfect Form has really helped. He was diagnosed with IBD, but I am reluctant to give him all the medicines. I have switched foods from kibble (he is on honest kitchen dehydrated food) and I am in the process of trying different proteins. I haven’t had any diarrhea or vomiting since moving to Honest Kitchen in August. I still see soft stool some times during the day and am quite puzzled as to what is wrong. The vet has been unhelpful at this point and am thinking about looking for a holistic vet.

  • 35. verylongrun  |  April 27, 2018 at 10:20 am

    i understand this post is a few years back now but when you say grain-free does that mean grass-fed meat? or just no grains in his food. well basically I’m wondering if its ok to buy my dog grain-fed beef

    • 36. lili  |  June 17, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      No grains means no grains. (Meat isn’t a grain)


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