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 or greenish stool — indicates rapid transit (small bowel)
  • Black, tarry stool — indicated bleeding in the upper digestive tract
  • Bloody stool — red blood or clots indicate bleeding in the colon
  • Pasty, light-colored stool — indicates lack of bile (liver disease)
  • Large, grey, rancid-smelling stool — indicates inadequate digestion or absorption (malabsorption syndrome).


  • Watery stool — indicates small bowel wall irritation (toxins and severe infections)
  • 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 aggs

    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. Jamia says:

    Yesterday my dog started pooping a runny tarry stool. She never has accidents in the house but this morning I woke up to accidents everywhere. She’s not eating. Hasn’t ate since Wednesday after she came home from the groomer but she is drinking water. On Wednesday her stool was formed and regular. Also, on Thursday morning. She is still barking and her pattern hasn’t changed. It’s just no eating and this dark runny stool. Almost like a burgundy color. She is a 6 year old Yorkie Poodle mix. Please help until I can get her to the vet on Monday.

    • isak says:

      The “tarry” color could be blood in her stool. Is it possible that going to the groomer stresses her or does she like it? Or maybe she ate something somewhere that doesn’t agree with her.

      If she is not eating, then I would guess her stomach is upset. You might try 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. This will coat her stomach. Do you have an oral syringe you can use to administer it? She is drinking water, so that is good.

  2. Glen Littell says:

    Good morning! I have a 11yr old rescue dog. She is part poodle and the rest is unknown. Her stool yesterday was watery, butterscotch in color and toward the end of the bowel movement there was a small amount of mucus and red blood.

    Today the same color and texture but no mucus or blood. She does not appear to be in any discomfort and still plays with our other dogs. Still eating and drinking normally. She is an “inside” dog but has access to a doggie door. We have a grass backyard. We feed her normal dried dog food.

    This morning I gave her a small piece of white turkey meat, no skin and snuck in an antibiotic; Amoxicillin.

    Not sure what else to do for her and any advice or guidance would be deeply appreciated.

    • isak says:

      While the mucous and blood in your dog’s stool can be an indicator of an underlying problem, usually, you need not worry about seeing a small amount in your pet’s stool. Dog stool normally contains some mucus — a slime-like substance made by the intestines to keep the lining of the colon lubricated and moist. And given your dog’s current happy attitude — eating, drinking and active — I’d say you can just watch it for now.

      But if you notice an excessive amount of mucus in the stool, or if it is accompanied with blood or a radical change in your dog’s bowel movements, visit your vet.

      Antibiotics generally kill all the bacteria in her gut. This includes the good bacteria as well and sometimes this will lead to soft stools. So you might give her some plain yogurt or sprinkle some acidophyllus on her food. It can be purchased in capsules where vitamins are sold. This will restore good bacteria.

  3. camille says:

    uhm hi. i have a 3 month old chihuahua pup and last night her poo was yellow. can someone tell me what’s the problem? i’m a little nervous cause its my first time taking care of a pup. ps her food is rice & sometimes i mix it with a small amount of soup. any advice with the food i give her? thank you so much!

    • isak says:

      Do you have her on regular puppy food or do you feed her just rice and sometimes soup? It would be best to feed her puppy food on a regular basis so her system can adjust to it. Also, as a puppy, she needs a puppy food for the extra nutrition it provides because she is young and growing. It’s not unusual for a dog to have a soft poop now and then. It is a problem if it persists.

      I think it would be good to get her on some puppy food. If you feed her kibble, wet it first and let it sit for a bit to soften the food. Good luck.

  4. Mario says:

    Hello, my little prissy has had diarrhea for a day now. Originally it was yellowy-brownish and foul smelling (she let loose on my face and sheets the other night while I was asleep). I immediately changed her diet to rice and water, the issue now is that her diarrhea is yellow and full of partially undigested rice. Please help!

    • isak says:

      Not the best way to wake up.

      This is a dog, right? If so, have you tried administering 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.

      Also sprinkling some acidophyllus on her food will boast the good bacteria in her stomach to combat what ails her. Acidophyllus comes in capsules that you can pull apart and is sold generally where vitamins are sold.

  5. Katy says:

    Hey there, I have a 5 month old lab/hound puppy mix. It’s 3am and he just started having this runny green diarrhea, that smells absolutely terrible. He went and pooped allllll over the whole house with this green, foul smelling diarrhea. We put him outside now. I’m not sure what the problem could be. Please help me.

    • isak says:

      One common cause of green diarrhea is a parasite called giardia. It lives in open groundwater, such as creeks, ponds and puddles. Giardia is common in rural areas where there are many mammals sharing space. White tail deer are carriers, as are coyotes, wolves, rabbits, raccoons and any mammals that share a groundwater source.

      If your dog’s stool is bright green or neon green, the dog may have eaten rodent poison, or a rodent that had eaten the poison. The consistency of diarrhea from giardia is often like pea soup. A flare-up is usually accompanied by abdominal pain, tenderness and gas, and will often progress to blood and mucous in the stool. A single fecal sample may not show any cysts, and samples need to be taken for two to three days to get an accurate check.

      The medication given for giardia is metronidazole. It kills down the population during a flare-up, and it seems to boost the dog’s immune system.

  6. jeni says:

    My 9 year old lab has had diarrhea for the last 22 hours.(I was out from 9am-2pm and it started during that time). He never has accidents, and he went near the door. It reeked. Was completely liquid with little white specs (not worms) yesterday, also a little blood. I first thought it was vomit. He got up every 1 hr 20 minutes to go all night. It has gotten a little more solid today. He is alert and hungry. I made him rice with chicken for breakfast, but he just passed some of it (orange and rice consistency) with some blood. I don’t know how long to wait to go to the vet. He is sleeping now, but that’s normal for him. I have another dog and she is fine and symptom free. He always eats things he shouldn’t, like socks and paper towels.

    • isak says:

      A little blood can be normal when their digestive tract is in stress like this. You could give him some acidophyllus or even some plain yogurt to add good bacteria back into his gut. Plain pumpkin can help firm his stools, too.

  7. Carmen says:

    My 10.5 yr old Rott has had diarrhea more than a week. The episodes have been like water. We took him to the vet in which they did all tests and all were negative for cancer, infections, worms…etc..they kept him for 2 days and did several X-rays that did not show any obstructions at that time. They sent him home with several antibiotics and a deworming liquid. And a weight management diet. He didn’t want to eat at first,but he ate chicken and rice for 2 days followed by diarrhea,. This morning it seemed as though there was some blood in one of his episodes of diarrhea. The vet said to let medicines work, but we are now on 5 days with no sign of improvement. What the next step we should follow? We plan to take him back to vet who took our money with no diagnosis….any ideas?

    • isak says:

      I always recommend acidophyllus to people in this circumstance because it works well for me. It comes in capsules that you can pull apart and sprinkle on your boy’s food. It can be purchased where vitamins are sold. I imagine some of the diarrhea might be related to de-worming and the antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy all the bacteria in the stomach, including the GOOD bacteria. Acidophyllus is good bacteria.

      Have you tried pepto-bismol? That’s pretty fast working for me, too. Did the chicken and rice slow him up at all? Traces of blood in his diarrhea could be a result of having diarrhea.

      Is he drinking a lot? If he is drinking more than normal, this may be contributing to the diarrhea, too. Good luck.

  8. Caitlyn says:

    Also she is a chewer, but is usually crated when we are not home so she can’t get into anything. She usually chews on blankets. Her level of anxiety is up right now because she doesn’t feel well so she had chewed parts of two blankets in the past two days… And she is still on her anti-anxiety meds.

    • isak says:

      Well, you would think the blanket parts would have slowed things down. Have you checked to see if the anti-anxiety meds have any side effects, like soft stools?

  9. Caitlyn says:

    I was giving her ground beef and brown rice for days and it didn’t help at all. She is now on prescription food for GI problems but that isn’t helping either. I want to get her probiotics, not just acidophilus. There are so many more good bacteria strains in the gut and I fear that she has now lost all of them.

    • isak says:

      It does sound like her food is passing through too quickly.I’m surprised the rice didn’t slow things down.

      I have had a lot of good results with acidophyllus so I am quite pro-acidophyllus/probiotics for their gut. Good luck.

  10. Caitlyn says:

    1 year old German Shepherd/Whippet mix. Began having diarrhea 2.5 weeks ago suddenly. Had been on same food, same brand, same flavor since January. Only difference is that I bought this new bag at a different store and she started with the diarrhea within 24-48 hours of eating the new food. Also we had a water main break nearby the night before her diarrhea started. But I didn’t give her any of the tainted water. I gave her water that we had from the Keurig tank and bottled water until it was safe to drink again. Have been to the vet twice now. Stool samples show nothing. She is on her second course of Flagyl and is now on special food but it is not helping. Her stool is still watery and disgusting. Doesn’t seem like she is absorbing anything. She is still acting like her normal self but I’m worried sick about this. It needs to stop. Please does anyone have any insight?

    • isak says:

      You might try some boiled chicken and rice for a couple days. The rice is slower to digest and should slow the diarrhea until her stomach gets straightened out. Also sprinkle some acidophyllus on her food. It can be bought in capsule form usually where vitamins are sold. Just pull the capsule apart, sprinkle the powder on her food and stir it in. It will add good bacteria back into her gut and smooth things out. Plain yogurt will also help, but the powder is usually easier to get in them and seems to work faster for me.

      Given her young age, is there something she is getting into that you don’t know about yet?

  11. Kim says:

    I forgot to mention my pup is a garbage picker, she is always looking for something to get into.

    • isak says:

      Then giving her some acidophyllus once or twice a week may be a good idea for her. It keeps the good bacteria active in her gut.

  12. Kim says:

    My 7 yr old miniature poodle mix had been vomitting and regurgitating food for a few days it took a few for me to figure out which pup was getting sick since we have 2 and neither seemed to look ill. I started feeding her boiled chicken and rice 2 times a day in place of her normal kibble. The vomiting has stopped but now she has loose mustard yellow stools. She seems to have perked up a bit but you can still feel her tummy rumbling. Is there anything else I should be doing or is it time for a trip to the vet. Thank you

    • isak says:

      You can sprinkle some acidophyllus on her food– about 1/2 capsule once a day. It can be bought in capsule form usually where vitamins are sold. Just pull the capsule apart, sprinkle the powder on her food and stir it in. It will add good bacteria back into her gut and smooth things out. Plain yogurt will also help, but the powder is usually easier to get in them.

  13. Lyndsey says:

    Hi there, I have a 3 year old pit rotty mix and is in very good health she is very active and upbeat. Yesterday she was very whinny and began to have diarrhea. Today it continues and has gotten to point where she needs out every 2 hours to poop. And now her poop is simply a slimy yellowy Orange Mucas looking substance . Any idea of a cause and should I wait 48 to 72 h to see if it passes or is this more serious then a case of the blues pooes

    • isak says:

      I think you can give her some powdered acidophyllus or plain pumpkin or even some plain yogurt to see if this helps firm things up over the next day. You might also feed her some boiled chicken and rice. It’s bland and rice slows things down.

  14. Lou And Apollo says:

    I have 2 standard poodles. Apollo is rescue I’ve hS him for about 2 years Now, he has been having soft orange poops, for a couple weeks now. Took him to the vet fecal showed nothing,
    his sister same age (3 years old) always has perfect poops.
    ((( What could cause poops that are orangy looking, very stinky like vinegar smell almost, consistency of canned pumpkin – I have not given him any pumpkin for a few days now))))

    • isak says:

      Prior to giving him the pumpkin, where his bowel movements regular? I am wondering if he was constipated and this is the pumpkin finally passing through. I always recommend adding acidophyllus to a pet’s food on a regular basis. I buy it in 4-lb containers and sprinkle it on my pets’ food a few times a week. You can also buy it in capsule form from most any store that sells vitamins, then break the capsule open and sprinkle the powder into his food. It adds good bacteria to their stomach and helps keep them regular.

      Because vinegar is acidic, it sounds like his stomach may be a bit too acidic. The acidphyllus will help balance the acidic levels. Plain yogurt will work too, but it doesn’t seem to be as fast working to me as the capsules.

  15. Miller says:

    My 10 week old puppy is having diarrhea every other night, about every hour for 4-5 hours and then relatively normal stool during the day. I’ve stopped giving him any treats, just the same food he’s been on, but no change. The stool is mucus-y and foul smelling but the vet said the fecal was negative (although he’d just come off a ‘good’ night for the one I took in). Any ideas?

    • isak says:

      I suggest you add acidophyllus to his food to balance out the good bacteria in his stomach. It can be purchased in capsule form from almost anywhere that vitamins are sold. Just open a capsule, sprinkle some of the powder on his food and stir it in. As this is beneficial bacteria, you can add some to his food fairly regularly.

      Once you get the diarrhea issue worked out, you might try a different food in case there is something in the food you are feeding that he is reacting to. Maybe there is grain in his food that his system doesn’t like? I don’t know, but given the consistency of the diarrhea, that would be a possibility.

  16. Michael says:

    Year old beagle, lethargic, shaking, vomiting bile, bowel movement is greasy and slightly bloody. Very little scent. Help

    • isak says:

      Given the age, it could be something he/she ate that is disagreeing. Make sure the dog stays hydrated — maybe some pediolyte or Gatorade — and you could add some plain yogurt or powdered acidophyllus to a meal of boiled chicken and rice. Let us know how things progress.

  17. Travis says:


    we recently brought my dog to the vet because she had diarrhea. they prescribed her an antibiotic and probiotic. all tests were normal. we are feeding her boiled chicken and rice so its easy on her stomach. she just had a bowel movement and the stool was neon yellow. should I be concerned?

    • isak says:

      Not yet, but keep an eye on her. What you may be seeing is the tail end of what has been bothering her. If it continues, then call your vet. You can keep her on probiotics regularly in the form of acidophyllus capsules that you can open and sprinkle on her food. They sell them wherever they sell vitamins. It keeps good bacteria in her gut so it generally helps with a dog’s stools.

  18. Jennifer says:

    Hi my puppy is a chihuahua , he is only 2 months & isn’t getting up , isn’t eating , is drooling , and has diarreah I am scared for the worst someone please help me I am scared he may die :'(

    • isak says:

      If he is drooling, it sounds like he may have eaten something that is not agreeing with him. If so, this could be the cause of his diarrhea. It could also be why he doesn’t want to get up — because he just plain feels bad. I’m sorry I am just getting your comment. How is he doing now? If he still has diarrhea, you could try some plain pumpkin or some plain yogurt mixed into his food. If he won’t eat, try giving it to him with an oral syringe. You can usually buy them for less than $1 at many pharmacies or a feed store.

      Also make sure he is getting liquids. They can dehydrate easily with diarrhea.

  19. Jason says:

    4 month old boxer has had what I guess is diareha for a few days. She is eating fine. Happy and bouncy. She eats all natural lamp and rice food. 2 weeks ago she had all her booster shots. Deworming,Lyme, kennel cough. Etc. Stool is a little slimmy at times. Smells like poop. Lol. Normal colour. Not sure what to do.

    • isak says:

      You can give her some plain pumpkin or plain yogurt or break open an acidophyllus capsule and sprinkle that over her food. All those meds probably killed the good bacteria in her gut. Glad her poop smells like poop. :)

  20. Kaileigh says:

    My 5 month old lab/german shepherd mix just today started showing some blood in her bowels. The first time she passed was right after she ate and it was very compact, yellow in color and very rotten smelling. There was just trace amounts of red (blood) on the outside of the bowels. Next was about 6 hours later and it was 2 separate piles. The first was compact like the first and the second was runny, still yellow in color with the blood more mixed in. She has not had a change in diet or gotten into anything that I know of. This weekend was her first weekend home with me at my parents house (I live up at school) and my parents have 3 dogs of their own and 3 cats. I don’t know if it’s something I should be concerned about or if it is just caused by the stress. About a month ago she was having problems with diarrhea and the vet prescribed an intestinal medication that was given orally and seemed to solve the problem. Hoping for some input, thanks!

    • isak says:

      I think at this point, it’s a “watch it” thing. By compact, do you mean hard? If so, that may be contributing to the blood you are seeing. You might sprinkle some acidophyllus on her food (capsules can be bought where vitamins are sold) or add some plain yogurt to her food to add some good bacteria to her gut. This may even things out. Is she drinking plenty of water?

  21. Jennifer says:

    I have a 6 year old, 9lb Chihuahua who has bright green diarrhea. Last night it started. He also vomited 2 times last night. Mostly just liquid, frothy from drool. This morning he did push out a little diarrhea again, just 3 small little spots. Should I be concerned?

    • isak says:

      It sounds like his stomach is upset. At this point, I think you can “wait and see” if it improves. If you have some plain yogurt or some acidophyllus (can be purchased in capsule form wherever they sell vitamins), add that to his food to put some good bacteria beck into his system.

  22. Emily says:

    My pup is a year and a half. He’s 120 lbs and is pooping orange diarrhea. It’s been 36 hrs and he’s still going even tho I with held food and tried immodium and rice. What does ‘pumpkin orange’ stool mean? And a very sour sauerkraut type smell.

    I’m so tired of cleaning rugs…
    Thanks Emily

    • isak says:

      Given his young age, could he have eaten something you did not notice? You might actually feed him some plain canned pumpkin for his diarrhea and sprinkle some acidophyllus or plain yogurt on top to add good bacteria into his gut. Give him boiled rice and boiled chicken for 72 hours, then slowly re-introduce his regular food.

      I certainly understand getting tired of cleaning rugs. Good luck. Keep an eye out that he does not get dehydrated from the excessive moisture loss.

  23. Marissa says:

    My 2 year old mix breed woke me up last night 2 times and both times went diarrhea. This AM she went diarreha again. I stayed home and fed her rice with water and a little bit of her food. I took her temp (101.4) and she played ball and drank lots of water. When she went this evening, she had creamy yellow diarrhea and was mildly moaning while pushing it out. She’s still lively and temp is the same but what should I do now? I am going to withhold food until tomorrow morning (which will be 24 hours). Any advice? Thank you so much.

    • isak says:

      You might feed her some plain boiled rice with some boiled chicken. The rice will slow down her digestion. You can also give her some plain yogurt or sprinkle some acidophyllus (found where vitamins are sold) on her food to put some good bacteria into her gut. Also plain canned pumpkin helps — just a tablespoon in her food.

What do you think?

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