Maxwell poopin'

What Canine Stools Tell You About Diarrhea

By isak, June 10, 2009

Maxwell poopin'Diarrhea is the passage of loose, unformed stools generally occurring in more frequent bowel movements. It is the most common sign of an intestinal disease.

Diarrhea can be classified as acute or chronic, depending on its duration. Acute diarrhea comes on suddenly and is finished in a short period. Chronic diarrhea often comes on gradually and persists for three weeks or longer, or has an episodic pattern of recurrence.

Chronic diarrhea requires veterinary investigation.

Food in the small intestine takes about 8 hours to reach the colon. During that time, the bulk of the food and 80 percent of the water is absorbed. The colon concentrates the remainder. In the end, a well-formed stool is evacuated.

Transit time in the intestinal tract can be speeded up for a variety of reasons resulting in a large, loose, unformed bowel movement. This accounts for the majority of acute diarrheas of short duration.

To determine the cause of the diarrhea, it’s impoprtant to decide where the disease is located: small intestine or colon. This is done by examining the color, consistency, odor and frequency of the stools, as well as the condition of the dog:


  • Yellow stool — indicates rapid transit (small bowel). When the stool is loose, full of mucus and is yellow in color, it is typically the result of a food intolerance. Did you change foods recently?
  • Green stool — It could mean your dog has eaten a large amount of grass. It can also be intestinal parasites, rat poisoning or other internal issues.
  • Orange stool — It could indicate a liver issue or biliary disease, or it could just mean that your dog’s poop moved too quickly through the GI tract to pick up the bile which changes poop to the normal brown color we expect. If your dog has orange diarrhea, contact your vet.
  • Black, tarry stool — indicates bleeding in the upper digestive tract. It may be a sign of a gastrointestinal ulcer or a stomach ulcer. Many human medications can cause stomach ulcers in dogs, especially aspirin, so never give human meds without consulting your vet.
  • Bloody stool — red blood or clots indicate bleeding in the colon. Streaks of blood may be colitis (inflammation of the colon), a rectal injury, an anal gland infection or possibly a tumor.
  • Pink or purple stool — Anything that resembles raspberry jam could indicate hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE). A large number of dogs die each year from HGE but most will recover with prompt treatment. Seek medical attention.
  • Pasty, light-colored stool — indicates lack of bile (liver disease). While it could be a sign of liver or biliary disease, it could simply mean that your dog’s poop moved too fast through the GI tract to pick up the bile which changes the color to the normal brown you recognize.
  • Large, grey, rancid-smelling stool — indicates inadequate digestion or absorption (malabsorption syndrome). Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is commonly referred to as maldigestion. Essentially this means the pancreas is not functioning properly. It is a common issue for German Shepherds and Collies. The good news is that this is a very treatable condition, but it is serious, so take your dog to the vet right away.
  • White specks — Worms often look like white grains of rice in your pup’s stool. Your dog needs to be de-wormed.


  • Watery stool — indicates small bowel wall irritation (toxins and severe infections). When the stool is watery, it can be a sign of an upset stomach due to dog food or GI tract issue. If it continues, see a vet.
  • Foamy stool — suggests a bacterial infection
  • Greasy stool — often with oil on the hair around the anus: indicates malabsorption
  • Excessive mucus — a glistening or jellylike appearance; indicates colonic origin.

ODOR (the more watery the stool, the greater the odor)

  • Foodlike, or smelling like sour milk — suggests rapid transit and malabsorption: for example, overfeeding, especially in puppies
  • Putrid smelling — suggests an intestinal infection.


  • Several in an hour, each small, with straining — suggests colitis (inflammation of the large bowel)
  • Three or four times a day, each large — suggests a malabsorption or small bowel disorder


  • Weight loss, malnutrition — suggests small bowel disorder
  • Normal appetite, minimal weight loss — suggests large bowel disorder
  • Vomiting — small bowel origin, except for colitis

Common Causes of Diarrhea
Intestinal parasites are a common cause of acute and chronic diarrhea in puppies and adults. The greatest problems are caused by roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, threadworms, and giardia.

Most cases are caused by an irritation of the bowel lining from ingested substances or infections agents — in other words, something they ate. Any change in your dog’s diet could be the trigger: unfamiliar water; intolerance to certain foods like beef, pork, chicken, horsemeat, fish, eggs, spices, corn, wheat, soy, gravies, salts, spices, fats, and some commercial dog foods; excitement or emotional upset.

Dogs are scavengers and sometimes tend to eat things they can’t digest like:

  • dead animals, rodents and birds
  • garbage and decayed food
  • rich foods, table scraps, gravies, salts, spices and fats
  • sticks, cloth, grass, paper, etc.
  • parts of flea collars

Toxic substances causing diarrhea include:

  • gasoline, kerosene, oil or coal tar derivatives
  • cleaning fluid, refrigerants
  • insecticides
  • bleaches, often in toilet bowls
  • wild or ornamental plants, toadstools
  • building materials: cement, lime, paints, caulks
  • fireworks containing phosphorus

Many of these are equally as irritating to the stomach and will cause vomiting.

Diarrhea is a symptom. The first step in treating it is to identify and remove the underlying cause, if possible. If the diarrhea is caused by overeating, cut back the food intake and feed 2-3 times a day in controlled portions. If unfamiliar water is the problem, carry an extra supply with you. In the case where irritating or toxic substances have been ingested, an effort should be made to identify the agent as specific antidotes may be required.

Food allergies can be cleared up by removing the problem food. Sometimes changing a dog’s food can trigger diarrhea. The new food should be introduced slowly over a couple weeks to avoid this kind of diarrhea.

Most cases of diarrhea can be treated at home:

  1. Withhold all food for 24-48 hours. If your dog appears thirsty, give a small amount of water or ice cubes to lick.
  2. Administer lomotil at a dose of one tablet per 25 lbs of dog, three times a day. Or Kaopectate at 1/2 – 1 tsp per 5 lb, to a maximum of 2 Tbsp every 8 hours. Or Pepto-Bismal at 0.5 ml per lb or 1/2-1 tsp per 5 lb, to a maximum of 30 ml or 2 Tbsp.
  3. As the dog starts to respond, feed an easily digested diet that contains no fats:
    • boiled hamburger (1- to 2-parts cooked rice; discard the broth)
    • cottage cheese
    • cooked macaroni or soft-boiled eggs

    Prescription diets are available from your vet.

  4. Continue the bland diet for three days, even if your dog seems better.

A diarrhea that persists for more than 24 hours, a bloody diarrhea and diarrhea accompanied by vomiting, fever and other signs of toxicity should be checked out by your vet immediately.

Source: Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook


  1. Zach Hardy says:

    I have a 13 week old German shepherd puppy and his stool has been really really light brown, almost yellow and on and off it is really runny. We changed his food when we got him but kept the type of protein and the content the same, this was just over a week ago. Even though it’s runny it seems like he is having trouble getting all of it out because he tries 2-3 times to complete his bowel movement. Sometimes if we don’t see it or does it out of sight he will eat his own business, will this perhaps make it runny? Also my backyard is full of firewood and he tends to chew on birch bark, could this effect it?

    • isak says:

      Lots going on, eh? The softness could be from the food change as there are other products in the food that could cause a reaction. If he is new to your household, some of it could be the change in his life, too. For the consistency of his stool, you might sprinkle some probiotics on his food. This will add good bacteria to his gut. Second, you can put a little canned plain pumpkin (no spices) on his food to firm up his stools.

      Some dogs are poop eaters. It seems to be related to the smell. There are products on the market that you can add to their food to discourage this action and I recommend discouraging it as soon as you can to break this habit. Eating poop can and often does extend beyond their own poop or even other dog poop to include cat poop, rabbit poop, etc. Parasites eliminated in an animal’s poop will be ingested by a dog eating that poop and infects that dog. So given your pup’s young age, you should find a way to break that habit now.

      Pups will chew on just about anything. It’s a good idea to provide them with a variety of options so you can control what they are chewing on. There are hard rubber chews and sanitary bones and various cloth toys. Provide your pup with variety and keep him away from the firewood.

      Good luck. This is a fun time in his life. Enjoy.

  2. Karen says:

    Hi I have an 8 yr old Pomeranian. She’s been eating the same food since I got her 3 years ago. About once a month lately she’s been having loose gooey yellow diarrhea. Should I change her food? We live in an area where there are lots of dogs. Is it possible that when she’s sniffing the ground she’s picking up contamination of some sort? She has had all of her shots etc. Thank you.


    • isak says:

      You could sprinkle some probiotics on her food and see if that helps. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria for the stomach. It will not hurt to add it to her food daily.

  3. Dita says:

    I’ve never heard of an animal communicator before. I’ll google more into it. Thanks for your suggestion.

  4. Shelby says:

    My puppy Felix is apporximately 6-7 months old (he was a rescue), and starting two days ago, I notice a decline in appetite until yesterday when he would not his food at all. I got him to eat some chicken and broth as well as some of the dog food soaked in broth and he seems to have more energy. However, is poop is green and foamy and is straight liquid. After being on a bland diet and pepto, he’s not better. The vet said he could have just eaten a frog, but I think it may be more than that.

    • isak says:

      If the foaminess continues, it could be an indicator of a bacterial infection. The green could be from eating grass due to a stomach upset. Given his age, he could have eaten something he shouldn’t have and ate some grass to settle his stomach. It could also indicate internal parasites. Has he been de-wormed recently?

      Try offering food he cannot resist — even canned cat food (my dogs will eat Friskies Turkey) and either add some plain yogurt or mix a capsule of acidophyllus (sold where vitamins are sold) into it. This will add some good bacteria back into his gut.

      Is he drinking water?

  5. Dita says:

    I suspected it’s stress too but it’s stressing me out even more. The transport agent mentioned that if I wanted to give her personal affects, I need to deliver it myself to the quarantine. Since I was already in New Zealand at the time of her departure until now, that wasn’t possible. I did manage to put her smaller bed inside the crate so she has that at least and there should be a little bit of my scent as I was always the one cleaning and tidying up her space. Too bad that this “transit” is necessary as she’s coming from a non-rabies free country. I can’t send her off directly to New Zealand. Praying for the best.

    • isak says:

      Yes, I can imagine your stress level is through the roof. It certainly seems like the quarantine could be done another way.

      As far out in left field as this may seem, have you contacted an animal communicator so they might let your dog know what’s going on? I used one a couple years ago when my deaf dog got out of the yard and took off — chasing a deer maybe. I live in a very wooded area. He’s deaf! I couldn’t even call out for him. The communicator told me he was near a garden where someone just put out new mulch. I was sure that was not something you would see in my neck of the woods until I saw a freshly mulched flower bed down the road a bit. I spoke with this communicator every morning for four mornings until I finally found him. Each morning, she told me what he was seeing. And it seems she was spot on. Incredibly, she lives about 1400 miles away and has never been to my town.

      But in your case, communication goes both ways. A communicator can speak on your behalf to your pet. Let her know she will be with you again soon.

      Just a thought.

  6. Savannah says:

    My dog recently started having diarrhea since last night/this morning. It started out a super soft solid poop (last night) that slowly became a watery yellow diarrhea (this morning). I did switch her brand of food a few days ago…could this be the reason why? I only want to make sure because I feel like she should have already had diarrhea when I changed the food sooner rather than now. I also have a second dog that adjusted to the new food with no problems whatsoever.

    • isak says:

      We all react differently to food, so it’s quite possible that it’s related to the change in her food. You could add some probiotics to her food. This will put good bacteria into her gut to even things out. You can do this by adding some plain yogurt (not flavored as it has sugar in it) or mix a capsule of acidophyllus (sold where vitamins are sold) into her food.

  7. Dita says:

    Not sure how to reply to your reply, but here’s my reply.

    I ended up sending a vet to analyze her. She’s under medication now and he also prescribed her some probiotics. She didn’t touch her food the other day but today I received an update that she’s eating again. Hopefully she will continue to get better.

    She needs to be in quarantine for 30 days. She’s half way to the release date which is May 11th.

    • isak says:

      Thanks for the update. This may all be related to her stress — separated from her family, in an unfamiliar place and also the trip there. That’s a lot. Does she have something that smells like you with her, like a t-shirt or a pillowcase or blanket? Are you able to visit her? Two more weeks…

  8. Ashley says:

    My 7 week old puppy started having diarrhea yesterday very early in the morning. Every hour on the hour. It was green and foamy. I’ve been giving him a little rice and ground turkey every couple of hours, about 1/4 cup each time. The consistency changed the green and lumpy. This morning it’s been straight yellow and watery! But not as often! Help!

    • isak says:

      Keep him on the rice and turkey and maybe add some plain yogurt or acidophyllus to put some good bacteria in his gut.

      Is he drinking and playing normally?

  9. Dita says:

    Hi.. My dog is currently transiting in Singapore and in quarantine. She’s a 3 year old Maltese. She’s been in for 2 weeks already. Today I was informed that she’s been having diarrhea since yesterday, yellow color and watery, but no blood, appetite is still normal, and that’s all the info I got. I’m wondering what could cause the sudden diarrhea? I was thinking because of change of food (Science Diet Small & Toy Breed prior to shipping her to Science Diet Lamb & Rice at the quarantine) but if she’s having upset stomach because of that, shouldn’t she be having diarrhea much earlier? I doubt that it’s hygiene issue, but I’m worried if it’s something more serious than it seems. Is it crucial that I send a vet right away or should they observe her for another day or so?

    • isak says:

      It could be the change and being separated from you and her normal routine. If it is stomach related, some probiotics in her food may help. Sprinkle some on her food and monitor her for another day. If that helps, it will not hurt to keep her on probiotics.

      How long does she have to be quarantined?

  10. Jessica Murphy says:

    I believe my dog has over eaten she’s been throwing up and have loose stool. She is in heat as well could that also be a source of this ?

    • isak says:

      There are a number of reasons why a dog throws up. Over-eating is one of them. It could be that something she ate is not agreeing with her. Did you notice anything unusual in her vomit or her diarrhea that might point to something else? Has she been wormed?

      You said that she is in heat. Could she be pregnant? Morning sickness affects some dogs, but only for a few days during the 3rd or 4th week. (It’s caused by hormone changes.) Your pet may seem tired, and she may eat less than usual. Some dogs throw up a little.

      Are you planning to breed her? If not, please keep her inside and away from male dogs for about 2 1/2 weeks. There are so many dogs in shelter and rescue that are looking for homes.

  11. Paul says:

    cooked macaroni or soft-boiled aggs

    Please advise:: what are AGGS? or is it supposed to be EGGS?



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