Anyone who has ever sat on a toilet knows that the sound “plop plop” is a whole lot better than the sound “fizz fizz.”
When the Alka Seltzer ad execs penned that jingle in 1976, they dropped a bomb. And, oh, what a relief it is.
The Scoop On Poop
Color, consistency, urgency, frequency, gas and odor are all key indicators. Everyone knows it. Your health is revealed by how the aerial strike on Porcelainistan goes down.
Admit it. You look into the lake after you release the brown trout. Heck, your dog thinks you’re nuts.
She walks deep into the woods to lay down a log that she will not revisit. Then she watches as you traipse into the briars searching desperately for her dookie. If you didn’t step in it, you take mental notes on its characteristics. Then you scoop it up and carry it with you like you’re going to save it in the family photo album.
Clearly, she’s thinking, it would be much simpler if you just sniffed my butt.
What does the scent tell you, as your family member makes room for lunch?
Anyone living in a house with more than one person per bathroom enjoys the health of their housemates even more than their own. Is your kid baking brownies in that bathroom or laying a stink pickle?
One of the first things parents notice when they change their dog’s diet from kibble to species-appropriate fresh whole foods is the change in poop. The stool becomes darker, less voluminous, less frequent, well formed, and dare I say it… odorless.
The holy grail of the daily mail. Unoffensive poop. It is the one thing that every sentient creature on this planet enjoys.
Know what else is associated with that winning lottery ticket? A Get Out of Vet Bill Free card.
Ignoring or tolerating GI irregularities and signs of an irritable bowel dramatically increases the likelihood of many disease states including various cancers and auto-immune conditions, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, lipoprotein metabolism disorder, kidney disease, arthritis, dementia, stroke, hypertension, and others.
While feeding ultra-processed kibble and canned foods today may result in a lower food bill, that choice often comes at the cost of a higher vet bill down the road, or a shortened lifespan. The AVMA reports that one in four dogs will develop neoplasia. Other multi-year studies report that dogs are living shorter, not longer, lifespans.
So, let’s get to it. We know that squeezing out a sausage is better than liquidating some assets. But what does the color, size, shape and aroma tell you about your dog’s health?
What Does the Color of Dog Poo Tell You About Your Dog's Health?
Color Me Dark Brown Please
With occasional exceptions, as we will discuss, the color of healthy, normal dog poo is chocolate or coffee brown. Dark coffee brown poop is associated with a protein-rich diet – especially one that includes organ meats like liver and kidneys, and blood-filled muscle meats like heart. The dark brown color is a sign of digested blood. Consequently, pets fed raw or lightly cooked meats tend to have the darkest stools as there is more blood in those ingredients.
When switching from an ultra-processed diet (kibble or canned) to a gently cooked or raw diet, stool color can become very dark as a result of a shift in enzymatic activity in your dog’s GI tract. As long as the stool is firm (not tarry) this is normal and healthy.
Poop that leans toward the lighter brown color of chocolate milk is associated with diets that contain more fillers and carbohydrates. The average dog or cat food is 40% - 50% carbs, largely from corn, white potato, rice or other grains.
Exposure to these ingredients should be minimized for many reasons. They are sources of glycotoxins, aflatoxins, and pesticides like Round-Up; they raise insulin contributing to obesity and diabetes; and they are highly inflammatory.
As noted above, dogs on high protein diets can have very dark stools. However, tarry black poop warrants a call to the vet as it can be a sign of bleeding in the GI tract.
Dogs fed raw bones can have white, gray or ashy colored poop, which can be normal. This color is generally associated with a lot of calcium / bone-matter in the diet. If this color is unusual for your dog and persists for more than a day or two, we suggest talking with your vet.
If your dog’s diet contains dark leafy green vegetables or fruits like blueberries then you ROCK as a pet parent! These ingredients may also create a greenish cast to your dog’s doodoo. This is healthy and normal. Green poop that is sudden in onset and unrelated to what you’re feeding, however, can be a sign of trouble. Gallbladder issues, giardia, or exposure to a toxin are potential explanations that warrant a call to your vet.
Yellow or Orange Poop
Yellowish or Orangey poop is usually a sign of either temporary GI upset, or a gut imbalance like a food intolerance, pancreatitis, liver issue or another inflammatory condition. The yellow comes from bile. A healthy gut excretes bile during digestion to help break down fats. This bile is then reabsorbed by your dog’s body. A yellow stool can come from bile that isn’t reabsorbed because the food passed too quickly through the GI tract. This increased transit speed is not normal and can also result in slimy or loose stools.
If the postal carrier or dog walker fed your dog some unsanctioned morsels, or Fido visited the all-he-can-eat deer poo buffet, then chances are the upset will resolve with time and a little TLC from you. If you fed your dog a lot of pumpkin, sweet potatoes or carrots (i.e. beta carotene rich foods) and his stool is otherwise normal, then the issue could be benign and resolve with a return to a proper diet. If the problem persists for more than a poo or two – especially if it is associated with loose stools – then it’s time to call your veterinarian.
If there are bright red streaks in your dog’s doodoo it’s time to evaluate a few other symptoms before sounding the alarm. Is her stool fairly well shaped? Is her appetite good? Is her energy level normal? If your answers to these questions are “yes” then you can step away from the ledge. Small bright red streaks in the stool of an otherwise healthy, happy dog are usually a sign of some kind of disturbance in the blood vessels in the large intestine. Some probiotics may help resolve the issue. If the problem is persistent, or if her energy, appetite or stool quality deteriorates, then call your veterinarian.
Unless your dog's diet includes some seeds which may pass and be visible in her doodoo, poop with little white speckles in it that look like rice grains indicates parasitic infection. You may also notice something that looks like white threads coming out of your pet’s anus. Your dog probably got it from a secret, unsanctioned snack in the great outdoors. This condition is usually straightforward and resolved with a prescription available from your veterinarian.
Pink or Purple Poop
Bright pink or purple poop is not normal and warrants a trip to the closest veterinarian emergency room for prompt medical treatment.
Does Your Dog’s Poo Smell Mild or Wild?
Face it. No one loves the smell of napalm in the morning. If your dog’s poop always stinks, then here’s a solution: roll up a newspaper and hit yourself over the head with it.
A healthy dog does not have routinely offensive-smelling poo. If you dog’s poop makes you breathe through your mouth, of if his farts clear the room or bring tears to your eyes, then there is likely only one explanation and one creature responsible. Like it or not. It’s his diet and the human in charge.
Foul gas and odorific poop are a result of poor digestion. Your dog cannot properly digest what you are feeding him. Not only is this making your life unpleasant and your dog uncomfortable, but improper digestion and nutrient absorption can lead to nutrient deficiencies and inflammation.
Frequently, excessive carbs are the gas-causing culprits. If you are feeding your dog a kibble or processed canned food, then try switching to a human-grade gently cooked formula that is high in quality protein and low in carbs. Goodness Gracious makes a variety of options all with a glycemic load of one.
Raw feeders have their hearts and heads in the right place. For many dogs, raw diets are the gateway to optimal health. If you’re feeding a raw food and your dog has stinky poo and pooters, then it could be because something in that raw food is too difficult for her to digest. Gently cooked food is easier to digest and retains high levels of bioavailable nutrients. Perhaps it is time to rotate in some lightly steamed vegetables in place of the raw ones and evaluate if the gas and odor improve as a result.
Seasonal influences can also play a role. Reaching for cooling proteins and bitter green veggies in the summer and warming proteins with small amounts of steamed carrots or sweet potato in the winter could alleviate gut imbalances.
Remember, the more rigidity with which one approaches pet food, the more humble pie one must eat.
It That Mucus I See?
Mucus in dog doo can occur at any time and it is generally not a cause for concern. Stool normally contains a small amount of mucus — a jellylike substance made in the intestines that keeps the lining of the colon moist and lubricated. If mucus is excessive and associated with excessive gas, soft or loose stools, inappetence, lethargy or discomfort then call your veterinarian.
Volume Matters. Is Your Dog a Prolific Pooper?
One of the fastest changes that happens in a dog’s body when they switch from ultra-processed kibble and canned foods to gently cooked (or raw) whole foods is decreased poop production. This observation is supported by both scientific and anecdotal evidence.
Why do dogs poop less on whole foods diets? Because their bodies are absorbing and using vastly more of the ingredients in the food. More nutrients are being ingested rather than discarded.
Kibble and processed canned foods are loaded with carbs that cannot be digested. Most of them pass through the GI tract and result in copious amounts of POOP! The next time you buy a big bag of kibble, consider that you will be traipsing through those briars to collect and dispose of 70% of it.
To reduce the amount of carbs in your dogs diet, and the amount of poop you pick up, look for foods that are high protein, moderate fat, and low carb. On a dry matter basis (which requires a calculator and is not printed on the label’s guaranteed analysis) look for foods with protein that is 60% or greater, fat that is less than 20%, and carbs below 15%.
What does it look like when you unloose the caboose? Ideal poop can range from firm to softish. It can be smooth or have some segmentation. It may leave some to no residue when you scoop up the doo. The big thing is that you want it to maintain some shape, but not be too hard. Dry crumbly stool is a sign of dehydration. Loose, mushy, runny or unformed piles are no good either.
The moisture content of kibble is around 10% compared to around 75% for whole foods. Dogs on kibble often live in a mild state of chronic dehydration.
Dogs fed whole foods often source a lot of their water directly from the foods they eat. When you switch your dog from kibble to a whole food diet you may notice that she drinks less water. This is completely normal.
The Last Woof on Poop
So what's the key take away to eliminating the odor emanating from your dog's tuchus, reducing your foraging for stink pickles, stabilizing her gut, combating inflammation, and supporting her long life span?
Species-appropriate whole foods. If you're replacing as little as 10% of a processed pet feed diet with whole foods, then you're having a positive impact on your dog's body. Darn tootin'!