Books, periodicals and websites are full of warnings about abnormal dog poop. Tar-like stools, watery stools, stools covered in cloudy mucus – these are all flashing neon signs that a dog needs to go to the vet. Most dog owners are so familiar with what abnormal dog stool is supposed to look like that they can be confused as to what normal dog poop looks like.
No one wants to constantly take stool samples to the vet in order to determine if they are full of strange bacteria, blood or parasites. That gets expensive fast and also makes the vet staff give you very strange looks behind permanently frozen smiles.
Normal dog poop is usually light brown or even gold when it is fresh. This shade of brown or gold depends upon what type of food he has been eating. For example, my dog Pony’s usual kibble is Science Diet Naturals. It’s not the healthiest dry dog food on the market, but she eats it. It turns her fresh poop a bright golden-brown. Unfortunately, healthy dog poop is not worth its weight in gold but it is a reassuring sign that all is well with Pony’s digestive system.
Normal dog poop will darken to dark chocolate or black as it dries. When it has been setting on the ground for a few days, it will then turn white. But you really want to pick up the poop long before then, especially if your local laws require it.
Some medications may turn a dog’s fresh poop black. As long as the stool is firm and the dog seems otherwise healthy, the dog should be okay. When in doubt, please check with your vet.
Some food dyes in dog treats can also make for some festive dog poop. One of the most popular American dog treats is Greenies. It will make your dog’s poop turn a dark, leafy green. Again, as long as the poop is firm and the dog seems healthy, there is no need to panic.
Normal dog stool should be firm and leave very little on the ground or grass when you pick it up. It is normal for some dogs to have firm stools in the morning and then slightly softer stools as the day wears on. You need to spend time with your dog in order to determine what the normal poop consistency is.
Healthy dog poop should never be completely liquid, covered in blood or colored mucus or look like thick black paint or tar.
Dogs and puppies have remarkable appetites. George Carlin made many jokes about what his dog Tippy would eat and how it came out mixed in Tippy’s poop. (Unfortunately, I cannot reproduce any of those jokes here.) If a dog has recently torn apart a plastic toy, expect undigested bits of that toy in your dog’s poop. Dogs also eat grass and swallow strands from rope toys, so those long strands are not worms, but grass or strings.
Dogs also cannot digest corn or some vegetables very well and they may come out entire in the poop. But if a dog seems to have worms in the poop, it probably does. If the puppy or dog has recently been given worming medication, those are dead adults that will no longer bother your dog.
The most remarkable object I’ve ever seen in my dog’s poop was a plastic cigarette lighter. My dog was only a puppy at the time and fortunately swallowed the lighter whole. It didn’t bother her, but it does show you that dogs, given the opportunity, will eat anything.
“The Veterinarians’ Guide to Your Dog’s Symptoms.” Michael S. Garvey, DVM, et al. Villard; 1999.
“Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.” Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, et al. Howell Book House; 2007.
How Stuff Works. “Medical Treatment for Dogs: Dog Illness Warning Signs.” Dr. William Fortnoy. http://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/medical-treatment-for-dogs-ga3.htm
The late, great dog Rusty, my first dog.
My current dog Pony.