It’s the part of dog ownership that everyone dreads: picking up their poop. Sometimes it seems like your dog spends more time pooping than doing anything else, to the point that you might even start wondering if it’s healthy to poop that much.
How much should your dog poop? When should you start being concerned? Why do they insist on pooping twice on a walk when they know that you only brought one bag? We look at these questions and more.
How Often Should Your Dog Poop?
There’s no one set answer to this question. Different dogs poop with different frequencies, and even the same dog will poop more or less at different times in their lives.
Many factors go into how often your dog poops. Their diet, health status, exercise levels, and age all play a part in how often they have to go.
Generally speaking, anywhere between one to five times per day is normal. They should go at least once or else they’re considered constipated, and any more than five times is considered more than normal (although this doesn’t necessarily mean that something’s wrong, especially if it’s normal for your pup).
Puppies will poop more often than older dogs, but by the time your pooch is an adult, you should have a good idea of what’s “normal” for them. Using that as a baseline, you can monitor any changes to see if there’s anything worrisome about their habits.
While it’s valuable to know how often your dog poops, other factors are far more important.
The Quality of Their Poop
“Poop quality” sounds like an oxymoron (what would “mint condition” poop look like, anyway?), but the 4 C’s — the content, coating, color, and consistency of your dog’s bowel movements — are much more important than the frequency at which they go.
Content is fairly self-explanatory. You shouldn’t see anything worrisome inside your dog’s poop. Worms indicate the presence of parasites, fur means they could be over-grooming or experiencing skin issues, and foreign objects mean they’ve swallowed something that they shouldn’t have (and more could still be inside them, so it’s time for an X-ray).
One of the most often-overlooked aspects of poop quality is its coating. Simply put, it shouldn’t leave a slimy trail behind once you pick it up. This slime is often mucus, and mucus-covered stool could be a sign of bowel inflammation. Take your dog to the vet if it lasts for longer than a day.
Most people understand that poop color is important, but they might not know how to interpret the various shades that can come out of your dog’s butt. Any color other than chocolate brown is bad news.
Consistency refers to how densely packed the stool is, as well as its overall shape. Loose, runny poop is clearly a sign of diarrhea, and that’s something you should monitor closely — if it lasts longer than a day or so, take them in. On the other hand, hard, small poops mean the dog is constipated, especially if they have to strain to go. Your dog should have firm, cylindrical poop — neither too loose nor too hard.
What Causes Changes in a Dog’s Poop?
How to Ensure That Your Dog Has Healthy Poop
If you’re worried about the quality of your dog’s poop, there are a few things that you can do to make sure everything comes out all right every time.
The first is to feed them a high-quality dog food. Look for one that’s high in protein and fiber, without troublesome ingredients like soy, corn, wheat, or animal by-products or chemicals like artificial flavors. A food like this will be more expensive, but it’s worth every penny, especially if it saves you a mint in vet’s bills down the line.
Make sure they stay current on all vaccines and medications as well. Many diseases that cause gastrointestinal issues are preventable, and parasites can be prevented with medication. This is especially important if your dog spends a great deal of time outside, but even indoor dogs need their shots and flea treatment.
Getting enough exercise is also important. This is more for staving off constipation, as exercise keeps everything moving through the digestive tract. If left too long, though, constipation can turn into a serious medical issue, so you don’t want it to develop in the first place.
Beyond that, it’s important to develop a good relationship with your vet. That means taking your pooch in for regular checkups so small problems aren’t allowed to blossom into big ones, as well as getting them examined at the first sign of illness.
Poop Is Surprisingly Expressive
While you might be tempted to close your eyes and turn your head away every time you have to pick up one of the presents that your dog leaves you, their poop shouldn’t be ignored. It’s one of the clearest and most reliable ways to get a gauge on their health, so you should take a good look at every bowel movement before disposing of it.
Featured image credit: Andre Valentim, Shutterstock