What's in the Poop? (Part III)

Continued from part II

In the previous parts of our poop series we covered consistency and color. What else does one look at when examining a dog's poop? 

What’s in the coating?

Healthy poop should not have any coating on it.

Sometimes you’ll find stool that is  covered by a slimy substance - mucus. Mucus is produced in the intestine to lubricate and protect the gut lining but normally it isn’t noticeable on feces.

Mucosal surfaces in the gut are part of the immune system, designed to detect and kill pathogenic organisms that may be trying to make their way through the gut lining.

When the large intestine isn’t happy and battling  parasites, bacterial overgrowth, food allergy or intolerance, or even tumors (basically anything that irritates or inflames the gut wall), it can result in an increased production of mucus, which then becomes apparent on the stool. Even stress can cause mucus-coated stools.

One or two slimy stools don't warrant rushing to a vet. 

However, if this becomes a regular occurrence, or it is combined with other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain, the situation in the gut has gotten out of control and it’s important to have your dog seen by a vet.

What’s in the content?

Just like with vomit, the contents of your dog stools can sometimes provide an inkling as to what may have upset your dog’s digestive system.

Pieces of plastic, toys and other non-food items, tell you that your dog ate stuff that was not intended to be eaten, which could be behind the problem. One question left unanswered, however,  is whether all the foreign material has passed or some still remains within the digestive tract.

If you find bits of undigested food, it’s either a reflection on the food or your dog’s ability to digest what they eat. 

Things like pieces of raw carrots can appear in the stools in more or less pristine shape. Dogs are not designed to digest chunks of raw vegetables. Once I tried giving my dog a freeze dried raw food with chickpeas in it. Chickpeas are nutritious and seemed like a good ingredient. However, the chickpea grit came out exactly the same as it went in. Clearly, there wasn’t much nutritional benefit to be gained from feeding something that just goes through unchanged.

If food that dogs should normally digest well comes out untouched, then you have a serious problem on your hands.

If your dog's stools look greasy, you might be looking at a condition that prevents the intestinal tract from absorbing nutrients normally (malabsorption).

What’s in the smell?

Poop does not smell like roses. It's supposed to be stinky. But some abnormal smells are an indication of a problem.

Food-like, or smelling of sour milk — suggests rapid transit, malabsorption and/or irritation of the bowel; it can be a sign of overfeeding, particularly in puppies

Putrid smelling — suggests possible intestinal infection

Rancid smell — might indicate improper digestion

One bad poop, no bad poop

Bad poops happen, particularly since dogs tend to eat all kinds of things some of which are not meant to be eaten. If my dogs get a bad poop, I watch for other signs of a problem such as changes in appetite, drinking, vomiting, lethargy or anything else that seems off. If the dogs look fine and the next poop is the way it should be, I just file the event in the back of my mind (and in Cookie's case on her chart).

If it develops into diarrhea, I generally give it 24 hours to resolve. If it doesn't, or if it becomes severe, or accompanied by other signs mentioned above, I see a vet.

There are a number of things that affect stool quality and diet is definitely one of them. In an otherwise healthy dog, it can even be as simple as determining the right amount of dietary fiber for that individual. This can be quite a balancing act, particularly in large breed dogs. But before you make any assumptions and start playing with your dog’s diet, see a vet to make sure you KNOW what you're dealing with.

Don’t forget the sample

Your vet can get a lot more information from your dog’s poop than you ever could. Not only do they evaluate all the above aspects, they can further analyze it and take a detailed look at what’s in the poop that is hidden from view. (a microscopic fecal analysis)

If you have any concerns, bring a poop sample with you.

Just like with urine sample, the fresher the better.

As always, understanding what poop should or should not look like is important to knowing when you should see a vet. If you do notice consistent abnormalities, see your vet sooner rather than later. It might save you headaches down the road.

Related articles:
What’s in the Poop? (Part I - Consistency) 
What’s in the Poop? (Part II - Color)

A Tale of Many Tails—and What Came Out From Underneath Stories from My Diary-rrhea (part I)
Acute Small Intestinal Diarrhea
Acute Large Intestinal Diarrhea (Acute Colitis)
Chronic Large Intestinal Diarrhea
Chronic Small Intestinal Diarrhea

Veterinarians Answer: 10 Main Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog 
Symptoms: Recognition, Acknowledgement And Denial 
When Is It An Emergency? 
Don't Panic, Don't Panic: Know What Your Job Is   

Excessive Panting
Excessive Drinking 
Changes in Urination/Urinary Accidents 
Changes in Behavior
Bad Odor 
Excessive Drooling  
What Can Your Dog's Gums And Tongue Tell You? 
Excessive Head Shaking 
Excessive Licking
Lumps and Bumps
What Is That Limp? 
Nose Bleeds (Epistaxis)
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Head Tilt 
Unexplained Weight Loss
Unexplained Weight Gain  
Loss Of Appetite  
Fever (Pyrexia)
What Happens in a Dog's Body with Severe Vomiting?
Gastroenteritis is when ...  


  1. The first time I saw mucus in Delilah's poop I freaked out and naturally called the vet. Since then I just keep an eye on it. If she has it more than once or diarrhea more than once I call the vet or I'll put her on boiled beef and rice for a meal to two. If it persists, to the vet we go!

    1. Every first is scary. But sometimes bad poops happen. If it just a fluke occurrence, it's nothing to worry about. If it persists or repeats chronically, it's time to investigate.


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