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The ultimate guide to your puppy's poo

And what to do if they, er, like to eat it

Written by Dr. Steph Wenban

May 23, 2019

Dog poo. It’s smelly, yucky, and not particularly pleasant to pick up. But getting up close and personal with your best bud’s brown stuff does have one big benefit… it can help you keep very close tabs on your puppy’s digestive health.

If eyes are the window to the soul, poop is the window to the gut. Which is why understanding what constitutes a healthy number two versus an unhealthy number two is such an important skill for pet parents to have.

Luckily, just like your pup’s poo, this skill can be very easy to pick up. All you need is a keen eye and the 4 C’s. Colour. Consistency. Coating. Contents.

So, what does a healthy poo look like?

The perfect poo will be...

  • Brown in colour

  • Between a 2 or 3 on the consistency scoring chart

  • Free of any unusual coating

  • Have nothing abnormal in its contents

If your puppy produces more than 2 poos that don’t fit this description in the space of 24 hours, contact your vet as soon as possible. They’ll be able to advise you on what may be causing the issue, and how to fix it.

What will an unhealthy poo look like?

There are many different elements that can make up an unhealthy poo. But with the help of the 4 C’s, you should be able to sniff out each and every one of them.

Colour

Colour alone provides great insight into how well your puppy’s health is faring. If you notice any unusual shades in your pawed pal’s number twos, check them against the chart below to see what they might mean.

Consistency

Consistency is another great benchmark for assessing the quality of your puppy’s poo. For this, look no further than our charming pictorial chart below.

Hard, dry nuggets

Constipation

Firm, slightly segmented log

Poop perfection!

Soft log that holds shape when picked up

Poofect again!

Mushy log that loses shape when picked up

May be a sign of problems in the colon

Mushy logs stacked up in a pile

May be a sign of problems in the colon

Undefined pile that’s too runny to pick up

May be a sign of problems in the small intestines

Flat, watery puddle

May be a sign of problems in the small intestines

Coating

When picking up your best bud’s brownies, keep an eye out for any unusual coating on the surface.

And what do we mean by unusual? The two things to look out for are:

  • Mucousy slime

  • Streaks of fresh blood scattered over the surface of the poo

If you notice either of these abnormalities, it could be a sign of a problem with their colon.

Contents

Puppies are curious creatures. And sometimes, their curiosity leads them to sniff out and slurp down the strangest of objects. Gravel. Decapitated toys. Soft furnishings. There’s no limit on what some puppies will put in their mouths.

And while you might not always be able to catch them in the act, you will be able to catch the items they’ve hoovered down… when they come out the other end.

If you do notice any unusual object in your puppy’s poo, consider what might have motivated them to eat it in the first place.

  • Are you feeding your puppy enough?

  • Could they do with a little more playful stimulation?

  • Are you leaving too many enticing items lying around?

In some instances, the underlying cause might be health related. For example, if your puppy consumes a lot of grass, it could be that they’re feeling nauseous. Or, if they suddenly start chowing down on their fur a lot, it might mean that they have fleas or are suffering from an allergy.

Bottom line: always keep your eyes peeled for any contraband items in your pup’s poop. And if you ever notice them struggling to pass something, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Is it normal for my puppy to eat poo?

Yes, it is. But only in the very beginning.

Eating poo is one of the first behaviours puppies learn. They pick it up from their mothers who go around cleaning up after their young by… yep, you guessed it… hoovering down their number twos.

For most puppies, this unsavoury habit will clear up by the time they reach adolescence. Depending on the breed, this will be some time between 6-12 months.

However in some cases, it can continue into adulthood. The reason for this will either be medical or behavioural.

For instance, if your puppy suffers from a disorder that robs them of nutrients (like exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, diabetes, or worms), they will be left feeling constantly hungry. And this hunger can drive them to eat their poo.

On the other hand, your puppy may be prompted to eat their poo out of stress, boredom or anxiety. In some cases, a puppy may even eat their own poo as a way to cover up for the fact that they’ve just gone to the toilet inside the house.

Should I be worried if my puppy eats poo?

If your puppy eats their own, it’s unlikely to harm them. That said, this behaviour could stem from a medical issue - so it’s worth looking into.

However, if your pawed pal has a tendency to consume poo from other dogs or animals, they could be at risk of picking up nasty parasites, bacteria or viruses.

Regardless of whose poop your pup is woofing down, you should always take measures to stop it.

Paws vet Steph’s 5 tips to stop your puppy from eating poo

  1. Clean up your puppy's poo immediately Whenever your pup does a number two, clean it up straight away. Just be careful not to rush over to it in such a way that your puppy thinks you’re playing a game as this might encourage them to pursue the poo too.

  2. Avoid punishing them If you catch your pup chowing down on some ‘stinky’ stuff, refrain from shouting at or punishing them. A strong negative reaction like this could make them anxious and end up reinforcing their bad behaviour.

  3. Use positive reinforcement Whenever your puppy follows your instructions to leave a poo alone, be sure to shower them with praise.

  4. Introduce poo-deterrants into their diet Believe it or not, there are some foods you can feed your puppy that will actually alter the taste of poo for the worse… because apparently, for some pups, it doesn’t taste bad enough already. These foods include pineapple, chamomile and parsley. Just be careful not to go overboard on any of these as they can cause diarrhoea.

  5. Feed your puppy a high-quality diet Lastly, be sure that the food your feeding your pup is of high-quality and rich in protein. There are many dog foods out there that contain excess fat, artificial preservatives and mystery ingredients (like beaks, hooves, feathers). But because this information isn’t printed on the label, it’s always been a battle to know which foods cut the mustard.

Recently, however, Paws developed a Dog Food Checker that can help you get to the bottom of exactly what’s in your puppy’s food. Just punch in your pup’s preferred brand and you’ll get a traffic light rating for how well it ranks in all the key areas: meat, fat, carbs, nasties and calories.  

If your puppy continues to graze on poop after you’ve tried each of the steps above, contact your vet to see if there are any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the behaviour.

The takeaway

Poo ain’t pretty. But it’s one of the best tools we have for gauging the state of our puppies’ insides. So when you bend down to pick up your bestie’s brown stuff, always take a moment to check for the 4 C’s - Colour, Consistency, Coating and Contents.

Sources:

Marks, S.L., Rankin, S.C., Byrne, B.A., Weese. J.S. (2011) Enteropathogenic Bacteria in Dogs and Cats: Diagnosis, Epidemiology, Treatment and Control. Journal of Internal Veterinary Medicine. 25(6), pp1195-1208. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.00821.x

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