Everybody poops, including our pets. While dealing with this poop may be the least glamorous aspect of pet ownership, poop can be an important indicator of your pet’s overall health.
The first thing to remember is that every pet is different and your pet likely won’t have perfect poop every time. Many things can impact a pet’s poop, so variations in their number twos may not be a reason to panic. If you notice consistently unhealthy poops, or if their routine suddenly changes (e.g., they begin defecating outside of their litterbox despite having excellent house habits), please contact your veterinarian. This may be an indication of a health issue.
Shape – Healthy poop is usually log shaped. If it appears as small pellets it may mean that your pet is not getting enough water, or it could also be due to arthritis or pain making it impossible for them to hold the correct ‘pooping position’ for the time it takes to complete their bathroom duties. Poop that has absolutely no shape and resembles a puddle is diarrhea. If diarrhea lasts for more than a couple of days and nothing else has changed (food, environment, medications, etc.), contact your vet.
Colour – Normal poop should be brown. However, if your pet eats treats or food that has bright food dyes in the ingredients, it could result in an unusual bowel movement. Red in or on the stool could indicate blood, which would warrant a call to the vet right away. If your pet’s stool is black and looks tarry, that can be a sign of bleeding higher in the intestines and you should also contact your vet immediately. Stools that are odd colours (not caused by food dye) or extremely light in colour can be a sign of other serious illness, especially if the stool shows a consistent change from the normal colour.
Consistency – A doughy poo that can be picked up without leaving remnants behind is ideal. If your pet’s poop is very hard, it is possible your pet may be constipated or have a lot of fur in their stool. Large amounts of fur in the stool can be a more common problem for cats, who may ingest their fur while grooming. Problems with poop consistency (poop that is pudding-like, watery, or gelatinous) are often one of the key signs that a pet is not feeling well. This could be due to a number of things, including eating something they shouldn’t have, an illness, parasites, or food allergies.
Content – Does your pet’s stool contain things that aren’t poop? Foods that are harder for your pet to digest may reappear in their excrement. Large amounts of mucus or slime in a pet’s stool can indicate a digestive issue or digestive upset. If you routinely find foreign objects in your pet’s poop, it could be a sign that your pet has pica. Pica is a condition where a pet will habitually eat non-food items. Pica can often be managed by ensuring that a pet does not have access to the non-food items they like to eat. Pica can sometimes be an indicator of other medical issues, so if your pet is eating non-edible items frequently it is recommended that you get in touch with your veterinarian.
Stool can be a great indicator of potential health issues for pets, so our Animal Health and Animal Care teams at Calgary Humane Society spend a lot of time looking at piles of poop. We use a Fecal Scoring Chart to help determine if an animal is healthy or may need additional monitoring. You can print off this chart for your own use at home. An ideal score is 2 or 3 on the chart.
We hope this article will help you spot anything out of the ordinary when it comes to your pet’s bowel movements. If you are ever in doubt about your animal’s health, we recommend contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible.