Making Sense of Your Dog's Poop - Lemonade Insurance (2023)

Gross but true: Your dog’s poop can provide one of the first warning signs of health issues. And while we’re not normally ones to talk shit, when it comes to helping you keep your dog healthy… we’ll do just about anything.

We reached out to our favorite vet, Dr. Stephanie Liff, to get an expert-overview of how you should handle things when your dog’s stool seems funky, suspicious, or otherwise out of the ordinary.

Like with any family member, you should keep an eye on whatever symptom’s your dog is exhibiting. If you’re worried, don’t just turn to the internet—contact your vet! You should always rely on the advice of your dog’s medical provider if you have concerns or think they may have eaten toxic foods. (And speaking of vet visits… have you gotten your furry friends pet health insurance for dogs yet?)

Here’s what we learned when we asked Dr. Liff to school us in the finer points of canine defecation. Take notes, and you too will be a dog poop pro before you know it (#lifegoals, right?).

Here’s what we’ll decode about your pup’s #2’s:

  • The color
  • The shape
  • The frequency
  • The smell


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Making Sense of Your Dog's Poop - Lemonade Insurance (1)

Decoding the color of your dog’s poop

Like any good pet parent, you’re keeping a close eye on your dog, and part of that means having an eye on their pooping habits. If something’s off, the first thing you might notice is a change in the color of your pup’s poop. Used to chocolate brown and getting more of a cafe au lait?

If your dog’s poop is lighter than normal…
This is a sign of maldigestion, which is just a scary way of saying something’s upset their stomach. It could be that your furry family member ate something they shouldn’t have, and it will usually resolve on its own. No need to panic!

If your dog’s poop is darker than normal…
This could be because of a change in your dog’s diet, and is typically not a cause for concern. Unless it’s really dark…

If your dog’s poop is black and tar-like…
This could be a sign that there’s blood in your dog’s stool, which could mean a serious gallbladder-related issue.

This black poop is called melena and it can be a sign of intestinal bleeding… or it could just be that they ate something black. Either way, you’re going to want to contact your vet right away.

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If your dog’s poop looks like raspberry jam…
This is a signal that your dog could be suffering from colitis, pancreatitis, or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

Dog owners who overdo it with meat and bones for their pups are most likely to encounter this. If so, it’s time to talk to your vet about your pet’s diet. When a dog’s large intestine is inflamed their stool reflects it with excess water, blood, and mucus. If you’re seeing this, or bright red blood, you should let your vet know immediately.

If your dog’s poop is white, it’s called acholic feces.
It usually means your dog is suffering from an exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, which basically means their pancreas isn’t producing enough digestive enzymes.

If your dog’s poop is orange or yellow…
It could be a sign of an issue with their liver, or biliary disease. This might mean that your pup’s liver isn’t outputting enough bile their feces will move through the GI tract without collecting the stuff that gives it the normal chocolate brown color you might be used to. But don’t leap to conclusions here—it could just be an upset stomach.

We know what you’re thinking: ‘I wish there was a dog poop chart I could print out and tack to my bulletin board!’

You’re in luck. Here’s a cheatsheet to what the color of your dog’s poop means. Before you pick up the phone, keep in mind that Dr. Liff says it’s generally okay to wait until the second time you see an unusual poo before reaching out to your vet.

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Color of poopWhat it meansCall the vet?*
Chocolate brownThat’s a healthy dog!No
Lighter brownYour dog has an upset stomach.No
Darker brownYour dog may have eaten something without you knowing.No (unless it’s black)
BlackThis is a sign of blood in your dog’s stool, and it could be a gallbladder issue.Yes
RedCould be colitis or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.Yes
WhiteCould be acholic feces.No
Orange or YellowCould be a sign of biliary disease, or that poop is moving too quickly through the GI tract.Yes
Rice-like grainsCould be a sign of tapeworms. Yes

Decoding the shape of your dog’s poop

Yup, the actual shape of your puppy’s poo can help you hints about your dog’s health.

If your dog’s poop is solid and well-formed…
You’re in the clear. That’s what healthy dog poop looks like.

If your dog’s poop is shaped like a ribbon…
It’s usually a sign that something’s compressing their colon. That could mean swollen lymph nodes, an enlarged prostate, or other factors that cause your pet’s waste to come out skinnier than usual. Tell your vet!

If your dog’s poop comes out in a bunch of small pieces, or like little pebbles…
It usually means they’re constipated. If you’ve recently switched your puppy to a new food, you may want to reconsider… your dog’s diet has a big impact on their overall health, and bowel movements are just a small part of that.

If your dog’s poop is softer than usual…
It could be a sign of an intestinal issue. What do we mean by “soft”? Loose stool is hard to pick up with a plastic bag… check with your vet to be on the safe side that there’s no bigger gastrointestinal issue at play.

If your dog’s poop is watery, formless, or coming out like soft-serve ice cream…
It’s considered to be diarrhea. (We’re sorry if we just ruined ice cream for you.) It’s important to pay attention to the consistency, because these specific details can help identify what’s causing your pooch to be sick.

Here’s a cheatsheet to what the shape of your dog’s poop means, and remember… Dr. Liff says you only need to call the vet if you see these occur more than once.

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Shape of poopWhat it meansCall the vet?*
SolidThat’s a healthy dog!No
Ribbon-likeSomething is pushing down on your dog’s colon.Yes
Pebble-likeYour dog is constipated.No
Softer than usualAn intestinal issue.Yes
Watery or formlessAn issue with the large intestine.Yes
Soft-serve styleSmall intestinal dysfunction.Yes

Decoding the frequency of your dog’s poop

The average dog poops at least once a day; anything more than four times a day could be considered excessive. But what happens when you notice a change in your dog’s typical frequency?

Making Sense of Your Dog's Poop - Lemonade Insurance (2)

☻If your dog is pooping more often than usual…
It could mean there’s a large intestinal issue. There’s a chance your pooch has colitis, especially if they’re having diarrhea. This is a good reason to call your vet.

If your dog is pooping less often than usual…
It could just be the result of constipation. It could also be intestinal maldigestion issues reflecting some irritation in your pup’s digestive tract.

Your dog could also be pooping less because they’re eating less…
This is always a reason to check in with your vet. The solution could be as simple as adding probiotics to your dog’s food!

Decoding the smell of your dog’s poop

We’ve tried to keep the yuck in this article to a minimum, but there’s no way to dress up the smell of dog poop… so here we go.

Your dog’s poop probably always smells, but if it’s really foul…
This can be a sign that your dog has a worm infection. Tapeworms and roundworms can take your dog’s stink to the next level, so if something smells extra bad it’s worth getting checked out.

☻If your dog’s poop has a new metallic scent…
It could be a sign that there’s blood in their stool. This is always a reason for pet owners to visit the vet.

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You made it! Now wash your hands

That was some tough crap—but we reached the end!

Making Sense of Your Dog's Poop - Lemonade Insurance (3)

Now that we’ve reviewed the main things you can learn about your dog’s health from their poop, it’s time to move from stool samples to something a little more fun.

Give your pup a belly rub from us, then check out this article on the best pet cameos in music videos… and don’t forget to get your furry friend hooked up with Lemonade’s pet health insurance!


How do I know if my dog is pooping enough? ›

A good rule thumb is that dogs should poop at least once a day. Some may poop up to five times, others two or three. Anything over five could be worth keeping an eye on.

How much poop is needed for a dog stool sample? ›

A stool specimen should be less than 24 hours old and be kept refrigerated (NOT FROZEN) until submitted. It is best to have at least a teaspoon of feces for submission to the lab. It does not matter if leaves, debris or litter is mixed in with the sample.

What smell do dogs like to poop on? ›

Dogs prefer the smell of things more odoriferous and complex like garbage, carcasses, rotting food, poop, and anything else stinkier and more pungent than the “lavender” shampoo smell.

Why is my dog's poop like soft serve ice cream? ›

That's the easy part, once you know what to look for. Not only is this not “normal” but if your dog has consistent soft-serve type poop, there is a significant chance that his anal glands are not getting released appropriately, if at all.

How long after eating does a dog poop? ›

Most dogs will poop about 30 minutes after eating, or immediately after waking up. These are both great times to plan walks or exercise for your dog. Of course, all dogs have different schedules, so you'll learn what works best for your dog.

How long after eating should I take my dog out to poop? ›

According to vets, there is a clear answer to this particular question. They advise that you should wait at least two hours after your dog has eaten a meal before walking them. That's because walking your dog straight after a meal can cause your dog to bloat, or even lead to gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

How fresh does a stool sample have to be? ›

Stool samples should be handed in to your GP as soon as possible. If you can't hand the stool sample in immediately, you should store it in a fridge, but for no longer than 24 hours.

How much is enough for a stool sample? ›

if you've been given a container, aim to fill around a third of it – that's about the size of a walnut if you're using your own container. put anything you used to collect the poo in a plastic bag, tie it up and put it the bin.

What is considered a fresh dog stool sample? ›

Fresh samples(within 24 hours) provide better and more accurate results so try your best to snag a sample as soon as your pet poops. You want the poop sample to be soft, not hard and crumbly.

Why do dogs walk around before they poop? ›

The Root of the Behavior

When a dog circles round and round before he poops, he is doing several things. He is ensuring his safety, cleaning his spot, and leaving his calling card. Dogs communicate a lot of messages through their excretions and setting it up is important.

Why do dogs walk in circles before they poop? ›

Dr. Bekoff says dogs may circle in attempts to get good footing or to be sure they can see who's around when they're in the act, which is a somewhat compromised position. Circling could also be linked to the dog's attempt to spread their scent, says Dr.

What are dogs smelling for before they poop? ›

It's About Communication and Territory

This process of determining where to poop has much to do with your dog's instinct to tell other dogs who and where they are. They leave their scent by way of scent glands located in the inside of the rectum.

What is the best dog food for dogs with soft stool? ›

If your dog has diarrhea, try to give him bland foods. Some great options of dog food for diarrhea include cottage cheese, yogurt, rice, cooked oatmeal, and cooked macaroni. If your pup needs protein, opt for chicken without any skin or some eggs.

What food will harden my dog's stool? ›

If you have checked the feeding amount is correct, cut out treats and spaced the meals and your dog is still producing soft poo the addition of just a couple of tablespoons of cooked carrot, sweet potato or squash to their meal can work wonders in firming up their poo.

What is the best dog food for firm poop? ›

The 8 Best Dog Foods for Firm Stools
  1. Ollie Fresh Human-Grade Dog Food – Best Overall. ...
  2. Rachael Ray Nutrish Limited Ingredient Lamb Meal & Brown Rice – Best Value. ...
  3. Hill's Prescription Diet Gastrointestinal Biome Dog Food – Premium Choice. ...
  4. ACANA Puppy Recipe Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food – Best for Puppies.
20 Sept 2022

How long can a dog hold their poop? ›

Most healthy, adult dogs will readily go to the bathroom an hour or so after a meal. They can, however, hold their stool much longer if necessary. In fact, for the most part, a healthy adult dog can hold their stool for 12 hours or more. If you get stuck in traffic or at the office, your dog could be OK.

How often should a dog be bathed? ›

Generally speaking, a healthy dog with a short, smooth coat and no skin problems doesn't need to be bathed often. In most cases, dog baths are more for the benefit of their pet parents than for the dogs themselves. Even so, it's a good idea to bathe your pooch at least once every two to three months.

How many times should a dog eat a day? ›

Dogs should eat at least two meals each day, about 12 hours apart. But a breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule is an equally great option. If more than 12 hours elapses between meals, the stomach can become hyperacidic causing nausea.

Is 4pm too early to feed a dog? ›

Learn more about our COVID-19 response and guidelines. Is 4pm too early to feed a dog? They would far prefer to have a meal like this then to have their own nuggets of dry dog food. Most experts recommend feeding dogs no later than two hours before their bedtime.

Is it better to feed dog before or after walk? ›

It is always advisable to feed a dog after the walk but not immediately after the walk. Leave a considerable time, say half an hour to 45 minutes, before you give him his meal. Feeding your pet while he is still warm and panting from his walk can cause digestive problems.

Should I feed or walk my dog first in the morning? ›

DF: I have found that the best feeding and toilet pattern for dogs is going out for a morning walk or yard run and eating a light breakfast, and then taking a walk about noon to 2 p.m. Before an evening meal (between 5 and 6 p.m.), go on a long walk or run.

What can ruin a stool specimen if it is included? ›

3. Stool specimens should be collected in a clean, wide mouthed plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. The specimens should not be contaminated with water or urine because water may contain free-living organisms that can be mistaken for human parasites and urine may destroy motile organisms.

How do vets keep stool samples fresh? ›

So we suggest you get the sample from it's source as soon as possible, seal it well in a plastic baggie to protect the sample and store in a cool location for up to 12-24 hours. If you're going over 4-8 hours, that means the refrigerator.

How long can a stool sample last without fridge? ›

Stool Collection for Culture and Sensitivity Instructions LEAVE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE DO NOT REFRIGERATE. Specimen must be returned to lab within 24 hours. Specimen's greater than 96 hours (4 DAYS) will be rejected.

Does insurance cover stool sample? ›

Most at-home colon cancer screening tests are not covered by private insurance. Many private health insurance companies will cover costs associated with the Cologuard at-home test.

How many hours do the stool sample? ›

Culturing the Stool

Stool can be cultured for disease-causing bacteria. A stool sample is placed in an incubator for at least 48 to 72 hours and any disease-causing bacteria are identified and isolated.

How many ounces is a stool sample? ›

Collect a sample or stool up to the fill line. If the stool is liquid collect about 1 oz (25 ml). Especially any area that is mucoid or bloody. Tighten cap securely and mix specimen thoroughly.

What do vets look for in stool samples? ›

Routine fecal examinations are used to detect intestinal parasites in your dog. These parasites may include worms (such as hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms) and microscopic parasites (such as Giardia or Coccidia).

What do vets check for in poop? ›

What do fecals detect? Fecals enable veterinarians to determine if your pet has intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia and giardia. Since intestinal parasites live in your pet's gastrointestinal tract, they are usually hidden from view.

How do you preserve dog poop for testing? ›

Store the sample in a fridge before the appointment.

This will help to keep the stool fresh enough so that any tests that are run on it will be accurate. Make sure that the sample you bring in was collected within 12 hours of the appointment.

Do dogs look at their owners when they poop? ›

Eye Contact

You'd think she'd look away in hopes of getting a little privacy, but she locks eyes with you instead. That's because when your dog is in that pooping position, she's vulnerable, and she's looking to you to protect her. "Your dog is instinctively aware of his defenselessness.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

Do dogs want you to look at them when they poop? ›

With you being the most important thing in the world to them, they want to know you're safe. This need for protection doesn't change while they're using the bathroom. If you're within sight while your dog is pooping, keeping an eye on you helps them relax. If they can see you, they know nothing bad is happening.

Why do dogs kick after they poop? ›

By kicking up dirt afterward, they're compounding the scent of the bathroom along with the pheromones coming from their feet glands to create one strong scent. In addition, the disturbed grass also serves as a visual clue to other dogs that they're walking on someone else's territory.

Why do dogs sit next to you on the toilet? ›

If your dog follows you into the bathroom, it's likely a result of their animal instinct and pack mentality. Canines who do this are referred to as “Velcro dogs,” due to their desire to be attached to your side. They may follow you around, even to the bathroom, to protect a part of their pack.

Why do dogs scratch their beds before lying down? ›

To mark territory – Like cats and many other four-legged creatures, dogs have scent glands on the bottom of their feet, which secrete a distinct pheromone. Scratching at something can be a way for your dog to show others they have marked a bed as their own.

Why do dogs smell your private parts? ›

Key takeaway. Dogs sniff people's crotches because of the sweat glands, also known as apocrine glands, that are located there. Sniffing these glands gives a dog information about a person such as their age, sex, mood, and mating probability.

What is the most sensitive part of a dog's body? ›

While the areas of the human body most sensitive to touch are the fingertips, the most sensitive part of the canine body is the muzzle. Dog's paws are much less sensitive than the human hand, and with good reason. Dogs use their paws to walk.

Why do dogs sniff your butt? ›

These glands release pheromones that convey all different types of information such as age, sex, mood, and if a mammal is able to mate. Dogs have apocrine glands all over their bodies, but the highest concentration is found in the genitals and anus, hence why they sniff each other's butts.

Is Scrambled Egg good for dogs with diarrhea? ›

Scrambled eggs are a good option for dogs with diarrhea because they are easy to digest and packed full of protein. Dogs who have been vomiting or eating stool may not be able to handle the high-fat content but scrambled egg is one of the best options out there.

What helps soften stools in dogs? ›

Remedies and Treatments for Dog Constipation
  • Pumpkin puree. ...
  • Canned dog food. ...
  • Dietary fiber supplements will increase fiber in their bodies, which will help soften their stool and regulate their bowel movements. ...
  • Access to fresh water makes sure they are well hydrated. ...
  • Exercise. ...
  • Stool softener or laxative. ...
  • Enema.
1 Dec 2020

Is wet or dry food better for dogs with diarrhea? ›

“Dry foods often have more fiber [and] bulk which can be good for many gastrointestinal diseases,” Dr. Youello says. “Dogs with chronic diarrhea, for example, may do better on a dry food formulated with more fiber.

What foods stop dog diarrhea? ›

What to Give Dogs With an Upset Stomach
  • Plain Rice. Plain rice is one of the best foods you can feed a dog with diarrhoea. ...
  • Simple, Lean Protein (Eg. Plain Chicken) ...
  • Potatoes (Either Plain/White or Sweet) ...
  • Pumpkin. ...
  • Porridge Oats. ...
  • Carrots. ...
  • Specially-Formulated Dog Foods.

What is a natural stool hardener for dogs? ›

You can also try adding some fiber to your dog's diet by mixing a little oat or wheat bran into its food. If your dog's soft stools persist, take it to the vet to rule out any other health problems.

What do vets give dogs with diarrhea? ›

If your dog's diarrhea is severe, your veterinarian may want you to also give them some loperamide (Imodium AD™). This can help to reduce fluid loss until the rice-water fast, white rice and acidophilus, and the dog's own healing system can overcome the diarrhea.

What dog food produces the least amount of poop? ›

The 9 Best Dog Foods for Less Poop
  1. Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food – Best Overall. ...
  2. Royal Canin Dry Dog Food – Best Value. ...
  3. Ollie Fresh Dog Food – Premium Choice. ...
  4. Nulo Grain Free Dog Food. ...
  5. Wag Amazon Brand Dry Dog Food. ...
  6. Honest Kitchen E2 Chicken Dog Food. ...
  7. Natural Balance Diets Dry Dog Food. ...
  8. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Dog Food.
21 Sept 2022

Does banana firm up dog stool? ›

Fiber: Bananas have a high fiber content important to your dog's digestive system. Fiber moves food along the intestinal tract, helping to resolve constipation, diarrhea, and some blockages that can occur.

Does white rice help firm dog stool? ›

Many veterinarians recommend a white rice diet as part of treating diarrhea in dogs. Rice can help firm up your dog's stool because it has less fiber than other grains and binds water in the bowel instead of drawing it out like oatmeal or whole-grain cereals.

How do I make sure my dog poops? ›

Rubbing your dog's belly and adding a bit of exercise can also help to encourage your dog to poop quickly. Add a command once your dog starts to go to the toilet and then reward them with treats after. This will help you to communicate what is expected of them in the future - making it quicker for both of you!

How often should I take my dog to poop? ›

Times Per Day

In general, a dog should move their bowels at least once a day. Many will go two or three times a day on the regular, but if you're wondering how often do puppies poop, it's closer to five times a day. But if your dog is pooping more than that, don't panic!

What smell stops dogs from pooping? ›

Citrus trees, fruits, or juices. Rue plants. Citronella plants or oil. Garlic.

Do dogs remember pooping in the house? ›

Soon the dog starts to realize that if there is an accident in the house he is going to get in trouble. It's not the fact that HE POOPED in the house; it is the mere fact that POOP IS IN THE HOUSE and you, the owner, are going to get mad. Dogs do have memories. He likely remembers that he was the one that pooped.

Do dogs know pooping in the house is wrong? ›

Even the most solidly potty-trained dog does not know that she has a moral obligation to keep your floor clean. Dogs don't think poop is yucky.


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