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by K Marie Alto August 10, 2022 11 min read
Let’s face it, we spend more time focusing on what goes into our pup rather than what’s coming out.
What's equally as or perhaps more important, though, is paying attention to what your fur baby leaves behind. The contents, consistency, and frequency of these droppings can be an important source of information about your four-legged friend's health.
But what happens when your pup has an atypical urgency to go outside to potty? Or when they don’t poop on their walk? It might make you wonder, how often is too often, or not often enough for my pup to poop? What is "normal," and what should be a cause for concern?
I’ve talked about recognizing good and bad cat poop before, and much of it applies to dogs too, but today we’re going to dig a little deeper; from general guidelines, to what factors affect how often your dog goes, to red flags and what to watch out for.
All the way at the bottom, there is a great entertaining as well as educational video on what causes bloody poop in dogs. This is a must watch. Today it’s all about poop.
Let’s dig in. I mean, let’s get the reading started! 😊
If you're just looking for a simple, broad answer, I've got it for you. How often should a healthy dog be pooping each day? Usually, between one and five times throughout the day. I know that’s a broad range.
In general, the younger a dog is, the more often they’ll go. Five times a day, or even more, is pretty common with young puppies.
Growing babies have to be potty trained, and it takes time for them to learn how to control when and where they go potty. Because they are growing, puppies need to eat and drink a lot, and that means they also have to poop and pee a lot.
Older dogs, meanwhile, tend to settle into a routine. Between training, a consistent diet, and the slower metabolism that comes with age, most adult dogs will need to go once or twice a day, with twice being most common.
What’s normal for one pup may not be the same for another, so if your fur baby regularly falls outside that range, don't worry too much.
There are other signs to look for to determine whether or not you should consult with your vet, either as a "give them a call" issue or a "bring them to the hospital" emergency. I'll go into that more later.
There are quite a few different things that will impact how frequently your fur baby needs to make a deposit.
1. Age is a big one. As mentioned, young dogs will go more often. This is partially due to a lack of potty training and partially due to the faster metabolisms and more responsive bodies of young puppies. The older they get, the more things will settle down, and they'll fall into routines.
On the inverse end of the scale, as your dog gets older, they may start to experience health issues or changes in habit. Sometimes, age-related cognitive decline can make them lose their potty training.
Sometimes, dysfunction in their health means they lose bowel control. Sometimes they just get more prone to abnormal bowel movements. It's an unfortunate fact of life that, near the end of life, these things start to falter and fail.
2. Breed. Different dogs work at different speeds, and a little pocket terrier is going to have much different habits from a mastiff. Even within breed, though, individuals and habits play a much more important role.
3. Diet, both planned and unplanned.
A planned diet means the food you feed them. What is your fur baby eating on the regular? Is it keeping them regular?
Sometimes, a diet might be lacking in certain nutrients or too rich in others, especially if you're making food at home. Your dog's body will get used to a diet, too, and if you need to change (for medical issues or just because the brand they like was discontinued), it can lead to digestive issues while they settle into a new routine.
An unplanned diet can disrupt bowel movements as well. Are they eating strange things when you aren't looking? That shoelace, that bit of homework, that other dog's droppings the neighbor never picks up; all of these can cause your fur baby an upset tummy.
4. Medication. You'll also often see changes in poo habits if your dog is on medication. Some medications cause constipation in dogs, but most will lead to the opposite problem, and until things settle down, you'll need to take your dog on walks a bit more often.
5. Stress. A common issue for both people and pups. This can include unexpected or unusual travel, major life changes or disruptions to routine, and even something as simple as a new schedule.
You may notice that your pup has a few days of disruption around daylight savings shifts if you don't adjust your schedule to stick with theirs.
Many of the simple causes of an irregular schedule of bowel movements are minor and will clear up after a couple of days.
And while frequency isn't, on its own, a cause for concern, there are a few factors you should keep in mind when taking your fur baby out for a walk to do their business.
I know, I just said frequency isn’t necessarily a concern, but a change from your pup’s regular pottying routine might be.
If your fur baby has been happily going twice a day for the last year and suddenly needs to go out three, four, or more times a day (or the inverse; they don't seem to want to go out at all), there's a chance there's something going wrong.
Having to go more frequently, or nearly not at all, can both be signs of a potential medical issue like bowel inflammation, intestinal blockage (if they ate something they shouldn't), or an infection.
Constipation can mean either an inability to go at all, or when your fur baby does go, they're hard, pebble-like bits and not the usual piles you're used to seeing.
Usually, the biggest culprit of constipation in dogs is dehydration. Constipation (in people and in dogs!) happens because there's not enough water to keep things soft as they pass through the intestines.
If it's summertime, it's hot out, and your very active dog just isn't drinking as much as they should, well, that's an easy fix.
Just give them more water! It’s best to make sure they always have some available and to swap it out if it’s left outside so it doesn’t get hot with the sun.
Other times there may not be an obvious cause. You may simply need to find alternative ways to work more water into their diet. If you feed dry food, you can, mix some water in with their food, so it's a little moist.
I recommend doing a small test before saturating a bowl of food. There’s no sense in letting a lot of food go to waste if you have a picky pup.. You might also want to mix something tasty, like a bit of gravy or some tidbits of meat, into their water bowl.
In this instance you’ll want to watch your pup to see if they drink up the now flavored water. If not, dump it because bacteria will start to grow if you leave it brewing.
Another option you might try is adding a bit of fiber to their diet. Fiber, which they can't really digest, absorbs water and works through their intestines with it, keeping things soft and moving. Giving your pup a carrot treat gives them some bonus water with some fiber too!
“Without changing your dog’s food, the easiest way to increase their dietary fiber intake is to add a topping, like canned pumpkin or brown rice. When adding something like canned pumpkin, make sure there aren’t any other ingredients than pumpkin. Also, avoid sugar-free canned pumpkin which can contain xylitol, a deadly artificial sweetener for dogs.” Care First Animal Hospital
If your pup is trying to go but can’t, combined with vomiting, it’s time to head to your vet. An intestinal obstruction might be the cause and this is an urgent situation.
Overly runny stool or full-on diarrhea can be caused by stress, a change in diet, medication, or an infection.
Just like we get the stomach grumblies from time to time, so do our fur babies, and it's usually something that will pass on its own in a few days at most.
Just make sure there's nothing else going wrong and that they have plenty of water available, and things will probably settle. If it lasts longer than a few bowel movements, you'll want to consult with your vet.
Diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration, so it’s extremely important to make sure your pup has plenty of water available at all times. You can also try switching your pup to a bland diet to help their system rest.
“If a pet stops eating, is lethargic, the diarrhea is black or tarry in quality, there is associated vomiting, or the diarrhea doesn’t resolve in 48-72 hours then veterinary care should be sought.” Dr. Meredith Miller, DVM
Blood in the stool is, of course, never a good thing. If it's red and fresh-looking, it can be a sign of an abrasion in the colon, which usually isn't too bad and can heal on its own. It's also often related to constipation. Solve the constipation and the blood should resolve.
If it's darker (or if their stool is black), it can be a sign of something more serious. Bleeding in the upper digestive tract, organ issues, or an infection are all common causes of black stool.
If blood in the stool persists for more than 2-3 bowel movements, grab a stool sample next time you go out and bring it to your vet. The sample, along with an examination, will help diagnose what's wrong.
Check out this video by Dr. Lindsay Butzer, DVM on what causes bloody poop in dogs:
You might be surprised to learn that it’s really easy for a dog to get worms. There are several types of worms, but most can be picked up simply by playing in the grass.
Worm eggs can survive long periods of time on grass just waiting for a furry friend to lick them up. Fleas can also transmit worms, so preventatives are so very important.
A lot of different internal parasites are mostly invisible until they reach a kind of critical mass where they affect the health of their host, i.e., your fur baby.
Often, the first sign you'll notice is seeing bits of them in your dog's poop. If that's the case, it's often as simple as getting a stool sample checked and receiving some medication from your vet.
When it comes right down to it, bowel activity with dogs is a matter of health, diet, and training.
Young dogs fall outside the spectrum for all of these, so they'll probably be going quite often, as frequently as they need to, and more because of how quickly their little growing bodies are consuming energy.
Once your fur baby is old enough to be trained and start building their adult habits, you'll likely see them settle down into 1-3 bowel movements per day.
How often they go will largely depend on the right balance of all of the above factors and can even shift gradually over time.
Anything unusual or outside from your pup’s norm can be caused by any number of different factors and is often only a cause for concern if it lasts more than 48 hours.
As your pup starts to age, health issues can begin to cause changes, some sudden and others gradual.
They might start to lose control and need to go more often, or they might seize up and not be able to go half the time they normally would. Health issues should be ruled out first and then it’ll come down to modifying your routine to accommodate your pup’s new needs.
Speaking of your vet, most of the time, unusual pooping habits aren't cause for immediate concern.If you do have a concern, give your vet a call and see what they have to say.
S/he will likely ask a few questions and tell you whether or not you should bring your fur baby in for a checkup. If you need some visuals, check out this link which gives examples of problem poops.
It's generally only in times of extreme, sudden changes or when their bowel changes are accompanied by other issues (like vomiting, signs of pain, blood, or other problems) that you need an emergency vet trip. Obviously, err on the side of caution – nobody wants to see their fur baby suffer.
Let's be real here; half the time when our fur babies are going off schedule, it's because they got into something they shouldn't.
Finding a delectable treat in the trash or taking more than a sniff at that bit of roadkill seems pretty disgusting to us, but it's just part of experiencing the joys and wonders of life for a canine.
Unless they ate something dangerous or they picked up a parasite, it will usually pass harmlessly after a day or so.
After reading today's article, do you have any questions or concerns that you'd like to bring up about your furry friend's bowel movements? As I mentioned, when in doubt, it's always best to be safe and take your pup to the vet. But if you have any non-serious or general questions about anything we mentioned above, be sure to leave a comment down below! I'd love to help you out however I can!
Additionally, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is unique, made right here in the USA (or anywhere but in China) , 100% pup and cat safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
As always, if you found this content useful, all blog posts on toe beans are social media shareable. So, what are you waiting for to spread the love? Go ahead and hit any social media icon of your preference around the post for instant sharing with friends and family. Sharing is caring!
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 40K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).
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