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As a dog owner, or if you have a cat that uses the litter tray, you're probably more than familiar with your pet's poo. This is important to help you identify when their poo is abnormal, and can give you valuable insight as to what's going on inside their bodies.
Your pet's poo should be firmly formed into a log shape. It should be slightly segmented in appearance, but not fully separated into chunks. It should be easy to pick up, and not too sticky, so that it doesn't leave a 'residue' on the ground.
Pets have something similar to the Bristol Stool Chart – aka a dog poop chart – which labels each poop on a score of 1-7, depending on its firmness. Normal, healthy dog poop are a score 2. Any score higher than 2 indicates varying levels of diarrhoea, whilst a '1' indicates constipation.
Any poos that are harder than normal are considered constipated (score 1). Constipated stools may be darker than usual and are broken into hard, dry, crumbly balls.
Constipation can be caused if the stool moves too slowly through the digestive system due to an upset. It may also be caused by diseases that cause chronic dehydration, such as kidney disease – especially in cats. I've also seen constipation in pets that refuse to toilet because 'assuming the position' is too uncomfortable, due to arthritis or spinal pain.
'Normal' diarrhoea is anything softer than a score 2 poop, varying in appearance between simply unformed to a 'muddy puddle'. It can be acute (meaning it comes on quickly due to an upset) or chronic, usually due to an underlying health complaint such as food intolerance. 'Normal' diarrhoea is brown to pale brown in colour – so pay particular attention to other colours.
Orange or yellow dog poop can simply be down to food dyes, but if faeces are regularly unformed and orange-yellow, especially if they're stinky, you should investigate. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency and liver disease are both worries with orange poop.
If you notice red streaks in your pet's poop, there are a couple of possibilities. Whilst one streak may just indicate that the rectum has been damaged (usually due to straining), more than a single streak suggests a more serious problem, so do get in contact with your vet.
Any colour of diarrhoea can also be accompanied by 'jelly' (or mucus) which suggests your pet's diarrhoea is starting lower down his digestive tract, in his colon (colitis). This isn't anything to panic about, but does suggest your pet may need some symptomatic relief, or further investigation.
Black and tarry cat or dog poo is a sign of intestinal bleeding and may require urgent investigation. This may be due to a tumour or foreign body, although it can be normal after an extremely bloody or meaty meal.
If your pet has a mild upset stomach, it can usually be managed effectively at home – although the advice is no longer to starve dogs or cats when they have diarrhoea, as this can damage the gut further. A home-cooked bland diet has also fallen out of fashion, as it's deficient in many essential nutrients and puts your pet under further strain.
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2016 and began working as a small animal veterinarian. She is passionate about education and helping owners to do the best for their pets. Joanna especially enjoys working with older dogs both physically and behaviourally, protecting both the pet-owner bond and the animal’s welfare.
Find out more about Joanna Woodnutt.
Healthspan pet supplements are not intended to replace a well-balanced diet for your pet.