Why You Should Always Look at Your Dog’s Poop


Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our June-July issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

By paying attention to your dog’s bathroom habits and eyeing each load, you can get veterinary care for minor health issues before they possibly erupt into major, expensive ones.

If your dog’s poop looks odd, smells foul, occurs too often or too little, is red (possibly blood) or pale yellow (possibly issues with the pancreas or liver), pay heed. These are clues that something is wrong with his diet, or there’s a medical condition brewing, such as constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, or even colon cancer.

“If your dog assumes the normal posture to poop, but there is no result, he or she could be constipated, could have a foreign body obstruction somewhere in the GI tract, could have swollen anal glands, or something else,” said Trisha Ballard, D.V.M., a holistic veterinarian who has practiced in the Dallas area for the past three decades.

Pug pooping by Shutterstock.
Pug pooping by Shutterstock.

Why the need to bring in a poop sample on your veterinary visit?

“Poop provides us veterinarians with a wealth of information, and, in fact, we rate the texture of poop on a scale of 1 to 7 with 3 being a normal healthy stool,” she said.

“Healthy poop is chocolate brown in color, the shape of a log, passed one at a time that is easy to pick up.”

The poop master

Now, I won’t promise you will become a “poopologist,” but you can fortify your knowledge with these insights:

Toilet friendly — You can flush your dog’s doo doo in your toilet. It won’t plug your toilet like litter-laced cat feces. Just don’t put the disposable bag in the toilet or you’d better have your plumber on speed dial.

Just yuck! — Dogs eat poop from cats, rabbits, squirrels, and other dogs because of boredom, a diet lacking key nutrients, it is already digested (so it’s very aromatic), it acts like nature’s probiotics, and because it tastes good.

Bad for veggies! — Never compost dog waste to be fertilizer for your vegetable garden because canine feces can contain heartworms, tapeworms, Salmonella, Giardia, and other foul, nasty parasites that will wreak havoc on your health when you consume your homegrown veggies.

Compost by Shutterstock.
Compost by Shutterstock.

Whip out this ID — Doggie poop DNA technology makes it nearly impossible to get away with not picking up after your dog in your apartment complex. Companies like PooPrints are thriving because they analyze poop samples sent from housing complexes and are able to identify the “poopitrator.” Residents in these complexes must submit cheek swabs of their dogs to create this DNA registry.

There is a side benefit of having your dog’s poop DNA on file, said Chesleigh Winfree, senior scientist at BioPet Laboratories, the company that oversees PooPrints based in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“Their pet’s DNA is on file as an unalterable form of identification, and this DNA fingerprint has been beneficial in more than a few lost-and-found cases,” she said.

No friend to Mother Earth — Dog poop is causing an environmental stink. Bagged dog poop takes up 4 percent of the average landfill. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, people toss about 10 million tons of dog waste that end up in landfills every year.

Stormy weather effect — Your dog’s temperament as well as the weather can impact his daily deposits.

“Anxious and aggressive dogs tend to have constipation or harder stools most of the time. Rainy or damp weather as well as stressful situations that create worry in dogs can manifest as loose to cow patty stools. Stress is a huge cause of loose stools in dogs,” Dr. Ballard said.

Changes in routine, like going on vacation and boarding your dog, acquiring a new pet, or relocating can take a toll on your dog’s otherwise healthy constitution.

Parting tip on scooping poop — To avoid stepping on a gooey, stinky canine landmine when cleaning your yard, steer clear of this task when it’s too sunny to see the grass because of the sun’s glare. And scan the area directly in front of you with the metal scooper before you take each step. Rushing the job can produce pungent results on your shoes — trust me.

Man picking up poop by Shutterstock.
Man picking up dog poop by Shutterstock.

What number is your dog’s poop?

Believe it or not, there is a fecal scoring system that veterinarians all over the country use to size up the health of doggie doo. It’s based on a scale from 1 to 7 with:

  1. Hard, small pellets resembling Milk Duds. Diagnosis: constipation.
  2. Tootsie Roll in color and texture. Diagnosis: Dog could have a hard time passing.
  3. Ideal: Chocolate brown-colored logs easy to pick up and slightly squishable. Diagnosis: normal.
  4. Chocolate, gray, or tan-colored logs with slimy coating. Diagnosis: Inflammation or irritation.
  5. Moist, slimy logs that fall apart when picked up and leave a residue. Diagnosis: Inflammation or irritation.
  6. Shapeless plops of poop often dropped in multiple locations. Diagnosis: reaction to food;
    stress; health issue.
  7. Watery, reddish brown or tan-colored puddle. Diagnosis: reaction to food; stress; health issue.

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