What’s in the Poop? (Part II - Color)

Continued from part I

Healthy poop is typically brown. 

What makes poop brown is bile, a fluid released from the gallbladder that aids in the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins and helps eliminate certain waste products from the body.

There can be some variation in color depending on what your dog ate, particularly when you’re feeding a variety of foods.  Some manufactured diets will make dogs produce what might otherwise be considered abnormal stool (like the extremely light feces that are formed when dogs eat a prescription, soy-based, hydrolyzed diet), but if your dog is consistently on one type of food, you’ll get a feel for what’s normal for them.

Unless your dog just ate a box of crayons (yes, it can happen, it happened with Roxy), poop that is any color other than shades of brown is often a red flag that something is wrong.

Changes in color usually go hand in hand with changes in consistency. 
Pale or clay-colored stools (acholia) can develop as a result of gallbladder, liver, or pancreatic disease.

For example, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) may result in clay-colored diarrhea, caused by the pancreas being unable to produce the enzymes needed to digest food and inflammation and swelling blocking the passage of bile. Pale stools can indicate a lack of bile production or flow, suggesting liver and/or gallbladder disease.

Orange stools can be seen when a dog’s biliary system is blocked or when his or her blood cells are rupturing within the circulatory system.

Yellow or greenish stools are sometimes produced when material is passing through the intestinal tract more quickly than normal . It can be seen with Giardia,  intestinal parasites or infections, and many other conditions.

Black, tarry stool (melena) signifies bleeding in the upper digestive tract or respiratory tract (with the blood being coughed up and swallowed). The black, tarry appearance is due to the presence of digested blood.

Potential causes range from GI ulcers, trauma, foreign bodies, infections, tumors, blood clotting disorders, kidney failure and more.

Bright red streaks/bloody stool (hematochezia) indicate bleeding in the lower GI tract and can be caused by enteritis (inflammation or infection of the small intestine), colitis (inflammation or infection of the colon/large intestine) or conditions affecting the anus or anal glands.

Jasmine sometimes got blood in her stool when her IBD was acting up. Enteritis and colitis can be caused by IBD, intestinal parasites, infections, foreign bodies, stress, and more.

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) is a common cause of bloody diarrhea in dogs. This is a serious condition that can occur very quickly and be fatal if left untreated.

Bloody diarrhea in puppies could mean the dreaded Parvo, particularly if your pup is also vomiting and lethargic. In older dogs it could be sign of cancer.

Bright green stools could mean that your dog ate certain types of rat poison (the green dye is added to aid in its identification).  This means an immediate trip to a vet.

Polka dot stools – if you find rice-like specks or spaghetti-like strands, you’re probably looking at worms.

Stay tuned for more poop talk.

Related articles:
What’s in the Poop? (Part I) 

Symptoms to Watch for In Your Dog: Diarrhea
A Tale of Many Tails—and What Came Out From Underneath (part I)
Acute Small Intestinal Diarrhea
Acute Large Intestinal Diarrhea (Acute Colitis)
hronic Large Intestinal Diarrhea
Chronic Small Intestinal Diarrhea

Further reading:
What You Should Know About Your Pet's Poop
The Scoop on Poop 
Black, Tarry Feces due to Presence of Blood in Dogs 

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?

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An award-winning guide to better understanding what your dog is telling you about their health, Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, is available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.


  1. I know our dogs' poop very well, because I spend a lot of time cleaning the yard and examining poop from afar. There is so much you can learn by understanding poop as gross as it may seem.

    1. I got very used to examining poop too. Unless it's particularly stinky, it doesn't even gross me out any more.

      One time hubby got some cheap poop bags; I picked up the poop, the other end of the baggie burst open and I ended up with the poop in my hand. "Ah, there is poop in my hand," I said and wasn't even upset. Found a puddle (fortunately there were some), washed up and on we went.


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