FAQ: What Does It Mean When Your Dog's Poop is Yellow?

by K Marie Alto January 19, 2023 9 min read

FAQ: What Does It Mean When Your Dog's Poop is Yellow?

Pet parents are generally quite familiar with what comes out of their fur babies, so it can be concerning to see something unusual. For dogs, one of those unusual exports is yellow poo. What causes it, and is it reason to be concerned?

Poop consistency and color can tell a lot about a dog’s health, so if you see a color change and it becomes a recurrent problem, it’s important to bring it up with your vet to identify the underlying cause.

Let's dig in. Or, well, no, that sounds a little gross. Let's investigate. There, that sounds better!

What Can Cause a Dog to Have Yellow Poop?

When you notice an odd or unusual color coming from your fur baby's rear end, you might be concerned, or you might panic, or you might think it's just normal variations.

Different colors can mean very different things, so what does yellowish poop say about your dog and their health?

Puppy Having a Bowel Movement Image by Toe Beans

Luckily, yellow poop is one of the least dangerous non-brown colors a dog can expel. While there are a few potentially dangerous causes, the most common is simply a food intolerance. In a way, it's similar to the impact on the body that you might experience eating dairy when you're lactose intolerant, though with the, er, consistency issues.

Other potential issues that can cause yellow stool in a dog are digestion issues, infections, issues with particular organs, and food coloring. Only a few of these are potentially dangerous; the others just mean you might need to pick a different food or treat for your fur baby.

How Does Diet Cause Yellow Poop?

Diet issues generally come down to food. A change in poop color often crops up when you've changed the food your fur baby is eating, and their tummy doesn’t agree with the new food. They might be allergic to one of the ingredients in the new food, or they might have an intolerance to it.

Whatever the case, their body reacts poorly to eating it, and their poop will be yellow in color or laced with yellow bile since their body didn't process it in its hurry to get it out. You’ve probably heard of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is triggered by something in the diet. Don’t confuse IBS with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), which is a chronic condition, which will likely need medication to manage.

This can be accompanied with stomach pain, indigestion, or diarrhea. Luckily, it tends to be transient, so if you changed food recently and your dog started having yellow poos, it's easy enough to change back.

Pro tip: Switching to a new food should be done gradually over a week to 10 days to avoid stomach upset.

The biggest issue is when you're changing food for a particular health reason or at your vet’s recommendation. You'll need to find a different food that eliminates the issues the current food causes, whatever those issues may be. It can take some trial and error before you narrow down what ingredients are causing the digestive upset.

Dog Eating Food Image by Toe Beans

The best option is to look at the old food and write down all of the ingredients. Then look at the new food and write down anything that wasn't on the first list.

That's your short list of potential ingredients causing the problem.

With this list in hand, you’ll want to try new foods that eliminate at least one of those ingredients. You still need to transition slowly, so give it some time to see how your pup responds to the new food.

If you don't have the time, money, or luxury of being able to diagnose this yourself, you can also take your fur baby to the vet for some testing. Dog allergy tests can help narrow down what ingredients to avoid. It won't work for sensitivities, though. Sadly, there's always the potential risk of contaminated food, and that's not something you'll find on ingredient lists.

If you opened a new bag of food, the same brand you’ve been buying, and suspect it’s the culprit, do a quick search to see if the lot was recalled. It happens more often than you probably realize.

When in doubt, a homemade meal of chicken and rice is usually hearty enough and has the right balance of nutrition to keep your fur baby going while you work on introducing other foods to figure out what one is causing the problem. Remember to lay off on the spices. Things like onion and garlic make food taste yummy to us, but they are harmful to your pup.

What Infections Can Cause Yellow Poop?

Infections are one of the more potentially dangerous sources of yellow tint in dog poo. Bacteria, viruses, parasites, and even fungal infections can throw the body off kilter and leave your fur baby pushing more bile and other bodily fluids into the intestines, rather than using it the way it's meant to be used, giving the stool a yellow color.

Parasites are of special concern in puppies as they may not have been vaccinated yet. There are multiple types of worms that can cause soft, yellow stool. The good news is these parasites can be easily identified with a stool sample analysis done by your vet.

With infections, yellow won't be the only change you notice, though. There may be streaks of blood, it may be extra soft or extra firm, or even almost watery. In cases of parasites, you might even notice bits of worm in the poo, which is a surefire sign of a parasitic infection.

Vet Checking For Infections Image by Toe Beans

In most cases, a trip to the vet – even a televet visit or a phone call – can be enough to get the medication you need prescribed and give it to your fur baby. Typically, some medications (antibiotics for bacteria, antivirals for viruses, antifungals for fungi, and antiparasitics for worms) will run their course, take out the infection, and leave your fur baby recovering in short order.

If you notice other signs of your fur baby being sick, like lethargy, trouble eating, vomiting, sniffling, pain, or other behavioral changes, you'll want to take your fur baby to the vet for a full examination.

Is Yellow Poop an Organ Issue in Dogs?

One of the rarer causes of yellow poo – and one of the reasons you need to be especially vigilant and talk to your vet just in case – is that it can be a sign of organ issues. Specifically, there are a few organs that can lead to yellow stool.

The first is the liver. The liver is a giant filter that takes in blood from the body and filters out toxins the blood carries away from the cells. If the liver isn't working right, it can lead to jaundice, which colors just about everything in the body yellow, including eyes, gums, and skin. Liver issues prior to jaundice can cause the poop to turn yellow too, and they're definitely something you need to have looked at.

Warning signs of liver issues and liver disease include yellowing of parts of the body, but also vomiting, excessive thirst, excessive peeing, confusion, and even seizures in extreme cases.

Dog Having a Bowel Movement Image by Toe Beans

The second organ that can cause yellow stools is the pancreas. Specifically, pancreatitis (the inflammation of the pancreas) happens when digestive enzymes work their way into the pancreas when they shouldn't be there. It's very painful, and your fur baby can end up with lethargy, a fever, and other similar symptoms. It should be treated right away, so call your vet if any of those symptoms crop up. Long-term pancreatitis can also lead to canine diabetes, so be on the lookout for that, too.

The third organ that can cause yellow poo is the gallbladder. The gallbladder produces bile for use in the digestive system, particularly in the intestines. When the gallbladder gets inflamed or blocked by gallstones (or a tumor), bile backs up or can overflow and lead to bile-laced feces, which will be yellow. This is both painful and dangerous and shares many of the same symptoms as the previous organ issues, with the same action needed: take them to the vet ASAP.

What Else Can Cause a Dog's Poop to Be Yellow?

One of the more common causes we haven't mentioned yet is just eating something yellow. Dogs love to eat just about anything that smells like something tasty, and their concept of tasty is very different from our own. That means they're prone to eating all sorts of things that they probably shouldn't.

In this case, anything that has yellow dyes in it can end up yellow in the stool. Rather than uniformly yellow poo, though, it will tend to be uneven in color and clumped up in certain areas. Your pup probably isn't thoroughly chewing their food, after all.

Dog With a Yellow Toy Image by Toe Beans

Common offenders here are often child toys, like yellow crayons, yellow chalk, yellow play-doh, and other such items. While these are often on the "safe" side of dangerous, they can still be a little hazardous to your pup, even if they're designed to be safe for children.

In most cases, though, once it passes through their system, their poo will be a normal brown again.

Is Yellow Poop Cause for Concern?

Sometimes, yes! Sometimes, no. It's tricky.

Food intolerances are by far the safest and the most common causes of yellow poo in dogs. Either they don't like something they're eating (biologically, that is, they may enjoy eating it), or they're allergic to it. This can be painful and unpleasant for your fur baby, but it won't be an actual problem as long as you stop feeding them the ingredient that disagrees with them.

The other harmless, or mostly harmless, cause of yellow stool is eating something like chalk. While this isn't exactly healthy, it's generally not going to be overly dangerous unless the thing they ate was toxic to them, in which case you'll see a lot more side effects than just yellow stool.

Vet Examining Dog's Health Image by Toe Beans

On the other hand, issues like infections and organ failure, gallstones, pancreatitis, or a bowel obstruction can all be dangerous or even life-threatening problems. These all warrant an immediate trip to the vet to get them looked at and treated.

The one saving grace here is that with something like food intolerance, it's typically pretty easy to diagnose. Did you feed them something new? Are they fine the next day? If so, you're probably in the clear and just need to pick a different food. While the stomach ache can be painful, it's not that dangerous except in extreme allergy cases.

On the other hand, if your fur baby has any symptoms other than yellow poo and maybe some diarrhea or abdominal distension and/or pain, you'll definitely want to take them to the vet.

What Other Colors Might Dog Poo Be?

Shades of brown is considered the normal color, and yellow is an abnormal color, but are there other colors that can appear as well? As you may have guessed, the answer is yes.

Small Dog Having a Bowel Movement Image by Toe Beans

So, what other colors of poop are possible, and what do they mean?

  • Black. Black poo is generally a sign of internal bleeding, usually somewhere in the upper GI tract. This can be something like stomach ulcers as well. Sometimes it can heal on its own, but it's usually best to bring them to the vet just in case since internal bleeding can be quite serious.
  • Grey. Grey means your fur baby can't break down the fat in the food they eat. It could be just that they're eating too much fat and can't digest it all before it works its way through them. Or, it could be a problem with their pancreas.
  • White specks. White specks in the poo are generally a sign of tapeworms, which shed segments when they get too long. Dewormer will clear it right up, but you should talk to your vet about regular worm medications as well.
  • Red. Red is a sign of fresh blood, meaning an injury lower down in the GI tract or actually on the rear end itself. It can also be an issue with anal glands or colitis.
  • Purple. Purple poo is rare, but it's a sign of severe gastroenteritis, especially if the poo has a jam-like consistency. An emergency vet is a good idea here.
  • Green. Green can be a food coloring issue, a sign that your fur baby is eating grass or houseplants, or a sign of some poisoning.
  • Yellow specks. This can be something like partially digested corn, or it can be worms again.

Any color other than brown can be a cause for concern, but when in doubt, ask your vet if you should bring them in. While you're at it, make sure you know other important details, like how often your dog is going each day, the consistency, and their diet.

Do you have any non-medically urgent questions about today's topic, or do you have any stories you think may be helpful to other readers? If so, be sure to leave a comment down below! I'll gladly answer any of your potential questions to the best of my ability, and if you leave a story, I'm sure the other readers would greatly appreciate your input!

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 30K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).

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