A Chihuahua is prepared to poop, wearing its waste bags around its neck.

The 4 Cs of Dog Poop

What is your dog’s poop telling you? More than you might think. While it usually takes tools and training for veterinarians to assess stool samples and diagnose health concerns, even first-time pet owners may be able to make judgments at a glance. It all comes down to the 4 Cs: color, content, consistency, and coating. It may not be pleasant, but taking a closer look at your dog’s poop while keeping those 4 Cs in mind can help you recognize health concerns early and address them more effectively.


Healthy dog feces should be chocolate brown. Watch out for the following hues, each of which could indicate a dietary concern or more serious underlying health issue:


As with human feces, medical experts often use a numerical scale to score the consistency of canine stool samples. The seven-point scale is slightly different for dogs than for humans. Ideal human stool is represented by a 3 or 4, while (fittingly enough) the number 2 represents ideal canine stool on the species’ modified scale:

  1. Hard, dry pellets that require considerable effort to pass. Stool leaves no residue behind on the ground or on objects that touch it.
  2. Firm, yet pliable, stool that appears in segments and leaves little-to-no residue behind.
  3. Stool is moist and log-shaped with little visible segmentation. Though it leaves residue on the ground, it maintains its shape upon handling.
  4. Moist, log-shaped stool that loses its shape when handled.
  5. Very moist, appearing in piles rather than logs. Resembling the “poop emoji,” it leaves considerable residue and loses its form when handled.
  6. Appearing as piles or small spots, this stool has texture, but no clear shape.
  7. Totally liquid, this stool is textureless and collects in puddles.

It’s not out of the ordinary for healthy dogs to have occasional bowel movements scoring above or below 2. Regular constipation or diarrhea, however, demands medical attention, particularly when it’s accompanied by other symptoms like behavioral changes.


No dog owner is eager to dig through their pet’s droppings. Fortunately, there’s usually no need to break out the scalpel and magnifying glass. Your veterinarian can scour for microscopic contents, but you may be able to spot the following warning signs with the naked eye:


A healthy canine stool sample will have no visible coating and leave behind no residue when it’s picked up. The presence of both mucus and blood should be considered a cause for concern. Heavy amounts of the former may result from inflammation, itself the result of allergies or other GI problems.

Tips for Healthy Digestion

Prevent both chronic and unexpected intestinal trouble with these expert tips:

  1. Feed your dog a complete and balanced diet, featuring the highest-quality ingredients possible. Your veterinarian will help you select a brand to suit your pet and budget.
  2. Offer treats sparingly and exercise caution around table food. Even many pet-safe favorites can lead to unwanted symptoms if they’ve been prepared with certain ingredients.
  3. Close trash receptacles carefully to keep pets from inadvertently ingesting spoiled food or hazardous non-food items.
  4. Pet-proof your home by keeping household chemicals, medications, and other potential poisoning risks out of reach. Also, avoid leaving pets unattended.
  5. Pet-proof your yard by familiarizing yourself with poisonous plants and protecting your dog against pests.
  6. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.