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What’s the Scoop: Your Pet’s Poop Can Tell the Story    

By: Dr. Al Townshend

As responsible Guardians, we are constantly on the lookout for signs of health in our pets. One clear sign of our pet’s everyday health is their poop (veterinarians often refer to poop as stool). We have to clean the litter boxes and/or take our dogs out for walks on a regular basis so we can see and clean up our pet’s stool at least once a day. A quick evaluation is one great way to determine the internal, digestive health of a pet.

So, what should we look for in the poop that is an indicator of our pet’s general health? A normal bowel movement should be quick and easy for the pet. Too much straining or discomfort can indicate there is a problem.



Ideally, the poop should be a firm, formed, and tube-like shape that is easy to pick up. A soft or watery consistency can indicate irritation or inflammation is occurring in the digestive tract. Too hard a stool might suggest the pet is constipated or has too little fiber in the diet to produce a normal poop.



The stool of both dogs and cats should have a dark brown color. A cat’s poop could be slightly darker because they are usually eating a recipe that has a higher meat content than a dog’s typical diet.

  • A soft, dark, almost black stool can indicate there is some bleeding occurring in the upper digestive tract, possibly as a result of an ulcer. If you see this occur, contact your veterinarian.
  • Bright red, fresh blood in the stool would suggest bleeding in the lower digestive tract or around the rectum. Any time you see blood in the stool, contact your veterinarian.
  • A hard, solid white stool can indicate poor water intake and constipation. Soft, watery light, yellow stool also suggests a potential problem that may involve the Gallbladder or liver.
  • Grey, clay-colored stools are a sure fired sign of a lack of pancreatic digestive enzymes.



We don’t often try and break down the stool and look inside it, but if there is a problem with the color and/or the consistency it would be a good idea to take the time to look deeper.

Pets, especially dogs are notorious for getting into things like garbage. Cats too can eat things that are not normal and cause issues. Aluminum foil, wrapping paper, small bones are just a few items from the garbage that are not intended for pets that can cause common dietary indiscretions. Cats love string and some favor wool from our clothing. Both of which can cause problems. Seeing an abnormal stool and recognizing something that is not in the normal diet would suggest there needs to be a change in order to prevent the problem from reoccurring.



No matter what you feed your pets, their poop will smell. A stronger and more pungent smelling stool is a warning sign that something is amiss in your dog’s gut. Many times, it is the wrong bacteria that causes the foul smell. Any time there is a problem with the pet’s bowel movement that does not go away quickly, you should contact your vet.

There are occasions when you are aware of the cause in the abnormal poop. Holiday celebrations are often opportunities for a pet to get into things, or be fed items it would not normally eat. In most cases, that can lead to an episode of diarrhea. Having the right items in your pet’s first aid kit can resolve the issue quickly at home without a visit to the veterinarian.

Probiotics and digestive enzymes can resupply the gut with the needed support to resolve a loose stool and smelly poop. Added fiber found in canned pumpkin can firm a stool and soothe an irritated digestive tract. Natural laxatives can resolve an unusually firm stool before the pet becomes constipated. Hairball remedies can prevent and treat issues cats often have for grooming.

Don’t forget to take advantage of a free nutrition consultation at your local Pet Planet store.


Additional Resources

Assessing Dog Poop
Get the Scoop: What Your Pet’s Poop is Telling You

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