Dog Poop Decoded – The Four C’s and One S

Holy crap. Pardon the pun but, yes, your dog’s poop is the holy grail of a canine’s health. This doggy insider info is not really welcome since we humans have been trained from young to think of faeces as disgusting and taboo.

However, if you want to keep your dog peachy and perky, there is no avoiding the task of scrutinizing its droppings. Taking a peak and quickly dumping the poop is not enough, unfortunately.

You’ll have to study the 4 C’s – Colour, Consistency, Content and Coating – of your furry kid’s leftover package. Last but not least, the Smell!


The normal colour of any dog’s stool regardless of breed, size or age is chocolate-brown.  There may be slight variations but it should not deviate from the brown range.

What makes dog poop brown?

Bile is produced by gallbladder, essential for the digestive process. It starts out as yellowish green in colour but as it moves through the digestive system, bile goes through a chemical change and turns brown. That’s what makes faeces brown in colour.

What makes dog poop colour change?

This colour of faecal matter doesn’t change unless there is an imbalance in a dog’s health or its digestive system. Sometimes, though, poop colour may change temporarily due to dye in the dog’s food.

If you didn’t feed your pet anything that has natural or unnatural dye, yet its poop changes colour twice in a row, this may indicate a problem. A persistent change in color could be caused by a change in diet, eating something it shouldn't have, or a problem with its intestines, pancreas, liver or another internal organ.

Here are examples of abnormal stool colours which you should take particular note of:

White or light grey

Too much bone in the diet can cause this within a day after ingestion, so at the most, this may cause a bit of constipation. Stop feeding it bone and this should stop the poop from turning pale.

However, if the poop is this colour although you haven’t given your dog any bone, there could be more serious problems. You should bring it to the vet to check its liver, gallbladder, intestines or pancreas.

Barium can cause white stools for a day or so after a dog ingests it. Barium is given for radiographic (x-ray) contrast studies, to help calm an inflamed gut or to stop gastro-intestinal bleeding.


If your dog was given activated charcoal, such as for toxin ingestion, you can expect its stool to turn a dark black within the same day or the next. If you didn’t give it charcoal, its poo shouldn’t be pitch black.

Tar-coloured stool indicates bleeding high up in the digestive tract like in the stomach or small intestines. Upper gastro-intestinal bleeding could be the result of stomach, intestinal irritation, a tumor, ulcer, liver dysfunction, ingestion of poison, internal bleeding or cuts in the small intestines.


Once again, if you didn’t give your dog beet or any food with red colouring, its stool shouldn’t have any hint of red. Even streaks of red is a red alert because it is a likely indicative of blood. If it’s bright red and looks like fresh blood, the bleeding might be in the large intestine or from anal glands.

Bleeding can be caused by a worm infestation, inflammation of the lining of the large intestine, a tumor in the large intestine, a foreign body (something stuck) in the large intestine, trauma or a variety of other problems within the large intestine.


Light ochre to yellow is a step towards whitish stool if it is caused by issues with the pancreas, liver or gallbladder.


If your dog didn’t eat carrots the day before, its poo should not have an orange hue the day after. Orangish stool is a cause for concern as it frequently indicates inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).


Both green-coloured chews and greenish-blue rat poison can turn a dog’s faeces green. The former is harmless but the latter can be fatal. If a dog is feeling unwell, it might munch on grass and that could make its poop a little green too.

There is another cause which is lesser known, called rapid bowel transit. This happens when a gut movement is so fast that bile pigments have no chance to go through the chemical change that they’re supposed to undergo. 

2. Consistency

How do you gauge consistency and what does that even mean? Consistency means hardness. There is a standard measurement for healthy dog poop.

Some veterinarians use numbers 1 to 7 – 1 is for very hard stool and 7 is for watery. Here’s a more visual explanation for each ‘grade’. 


Number 1: very hard and dry turd, feels almost like little stones

Number 2: slightly segmented, holds its shape and hardly leaves any traces on the ground when it is picked up

Number 3: no segments, tube-shaped, softer and leaves some traces on the ground

Number 4: similar to 3 but is sticky and leaves a lot of residue on the ground

Number 5: very soft, has no shape, very gooey (think chocolate Sundae)

Number 6: thick blobs that cannot be picked up easily

Number 7: literally watery brown poop aka diarrhea

3. Content

If you stare at your dog’s poop for a couple of seconds, you might notice some things that shouldn’t be there.

Indigestible objects

Dogs are naturally inquisitive and are sometimes downright greedy. The occasional appearance of plastic bits can mean that Fido got curious and wanted to taste them. There have been cases where dogs ate stones because they were covered in barbecue grease.

Some cases are more serious where it becomes an almost daily event. This is a condition called pica, which could be caused by a behavioural disorder, nutritional deficiency, or some other underlying medical condition.

Raw vegetation can be found especially when a dog has a tummy upset. Its natural instinct is to chew on grass to treat indigestion.


It’s important to observe fresh poop because if it has been outside for hours, any live creepy crawlies that were there might have wriggled away. You should look out for white specks which could be the eggs of any number of parasites.

Thin white threads could be live or dead worms. Shorter rice-shaped white segments that move are likely tapeworm. You would want either of these addressed as soon as possible.

Fur or hair

Hairballs are common and normal among cats but not for dogs. If you see clumps of your dog’s own fur, it could suggest overgrooming, which can happen secondary to stress, allergies, skin disease or even boredom.

If, however, you see the occasional hair or two – yours or a family member’s – there is no need to panic. It just means your dog accidentally lapped it up from the floor.

4. Coating

This means a layer of anything which covers part of the poop or the whole thing. Usually, the coating is in the form of mucous. Think Slimer from Ghostbusters. A coating of clear mucous suggests large bowel inflammation, and often occurs concurrently with diarrhea, or there is a problem with the large intestine.

Another type of coating is grease. This type of stool often indicates that there’s too much fat in your dog’s diet. It could also mean it has a gallbladder, pancreas or intestinal problem; perhaps an overall problem with fat digestion or absorption.

5. Smell

Any creature’s excrement would have smell but a healthy dog’s poop should not stink too much. Stinkiness is indicative of poor food absorption. The less smelly it is, the better. Raw food proponents claim that their dog’s poop is less smelly after being fed a raw meat diet.

What should my dog’s poop look like?

Ideally, it should be chocolate-brown and have the consistency of number 2. It shouldn’t contain any parasites, indigestible objects or hairballs, nor coating of any sort.  

When should I be concerned about my dog’s poop?

If you notice a sudden change in your dog’s poo today, you need to answer a few questions first:

  1. Did you feed it anything that has the same colour yesterday? If yes, it’s likely caused by the food. Just observe him for another day. If no, proceed to question 2.
  2. Did you leave any kind of pest poison around the house, or do you allow your dog to roam the outdoors freely? Is your dog vomiting? If answers are yes and yes, the possibility of poisoning is in the picture. Bring it to the vet immediately.
  3. Is the colour of the poop reddish or have streaks of red? It’s time to bring your dog to the vet’s immediately.

When a pet stops eating, drinking and behaving normally, these are clear signs that something could be seriously wrong.

9 types of problem poop

Here are what the 9 types of poop can indicate.

1. Bloody streaks or blood clots – sign of serious health problem and requires immediate vet attention

2. Soft or water stool with white specks (eggs) or worms – clear indication of parasite infestation

3. Soft stool with mucus – presence of parvovirus or parasites

4. Water stool – stress, viral or parasitic infection

5. Black tarry stool – presence of blood in digestive tract

6. White chalky stool – too much calcium or bone in diet

7. Greasy-looking stool – too much fat in diet or enzyme deficiency

8. Soft shapeless stool without visible mucous – dietary change, indiscriminate eating, food intolerance, intestinal parasite or irritable bowel syndrome

9. Half firm, half soft stool – small bowel diarrhea 

How long does it take for a dog to digest food?

Food moves through a dog’s intestines faster than ours. It takes only 6 to 8 hours for waste to be expelled as compared to a human’s which could take 20 to 30 hours. This means that whatever you fed Fid will likely be processed and expelled within a day or just slightly later, depending on the time of feeding.

How much poop does the vet need?

If you suspect something is wrong with your dog’s poop, bring the said sample (if possible a fresh sample) with your dog to the vet’s. You don’t need the whole load.

Just 2 sugar cube-sized or one short strip will do. The easiest and most hygienic way of doing this is by using a small plastic bag. Then tie it up securely and double bag it.


Vigilance is the key here. Many dogs have died from poisoning or internal organ issues. Our furry babies can’t speak for themselves but their poop can.


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