A healthy gut is often associated with an essential process like digestion. But did you know that the gut actually serves as a second brain in the body? It consists of a vast network of neurotransmitters that influence your pet’s brain activity and mood. This is in addition to the following important benefits:
- Important nutrients like calcium and vitamin K are processed in the gut. These minerals are essential for bone and joint health.
So, what does pet poop have to do with gut health? Poop is the end product of the digestive tract and can offer clues about your pet’s overall health. Learn all about abnormal pet poop below.
Watery stool is caused by a number of issues and often comes on suddenly and violently. Watery stool is never normal and should be addressed right way. Most acute cases are from toxicities (e.g., topical or ingestion), stress colitis, and systemic viruses and disease.
Parasites are a main cause of watery stool in cats and dogs. Giardia is fairly common in dogs and produces foul-smelling, bloody stool. It is often acquired from contaminated water, like a shared water bowl at the dog park, or stagnant water in nature or urban environments. In puppies and kittens, watery stool can be a symptom of a viral infection (e.g., parvovirus in dogs) and should be addressed immediately. Watery stool causes severe dehydration and can be deadly for young or compromised pets.
Loose or Soft Stool
Loose or soft stool can occur at random due to food intolerance or stress, but chronic loose or soft stool is not normal and can worsen over time, causing discomfort, malnutrition, and further gastrointestinal upset. If your pet is showing symptoms of food intolerance, talk to your vet about changing their protein or grain type to a hypoallergenic option. Greasy, loose stool might indicate pancreatic issues (acute pancreatitis) or maldigestion, which occurs when enzymes that digest fat are not being adequately produced in the body.
Kittens and puppies with prolonged episodes of soft stool need to see a vet. While it’s not uncommon for young animals to have irregular poops, the sudden onset of bowel changes might be viral in origin. Unvaccinated or under-vaccinated puppies are especially at risk of acquiring parvovirus or canine distemper. Kittens are at risk of acquiring feline coronavirus in crowded environments like shelters. Feline coronavirus generally resolves on its own but can cause mild fever and diarrhea.
Hard stool, straining, and slowed intestinal mobility is known as constipation. Constipation causes great discomfort in pets and might be coupled with vomiting and dehydration. Common causes of constipation include intussusception, neurological issues, kidney issues, or foreign body impaction.
Constipation is particularly dangerous in cats. Cats are especially prone to developing impactions of hair in the GI tract from grooming. Mucousy stool is also an indication of further inflammation in the colon.
Changes in the quantity of a pet’s poop can point to several things. An increase in volume can simply be due to lifestyle (e.g., accidental double-feeding). Alternatively, cats might withhold poop because of a dirty litter box or not enough litter boxes, and then pass a large bowel movement. Pets can also become stressed due to changes in the household or might refuse to potty because something startled them in their environment.
The color of your cat or dog’s poop reveals a lot about what is going on internally. Healthy poop is typically brown, but the following colors can indicate health problems:
- Black or dark stool: Dark, tarry stool contains blood that has been digested, and is often an indication of bleeding higher up in the GI tract from ulcers or human medication toxicity.
- Bright red stool: Bright red stool indicates bleeding in the lower GI tract. This can be caused by inflammation of the colon, injury, and even tumors.
- Bright yellow or orange stool: Yellow or orange stool can indicate liver issues or an accumulation of bile. Yellow poop can be caused by food intolerance.
- Green stool: Green stool is generally a symptom of gallbladder problems or might simply be diet-related, like from the ingestion of plant matter (e.g., wheatgrass). On a more serious note, green stool can be caused by rat poisoning or parasites.
Inclusions of white debris in poop might mean that your pet has parasites. Indoor-outdoor cats and dogs that are not on preventatives can easily acquire the following parasites:
- Tapeworms, which resemble a grain of rice (caused by flea infestations);
- Hookworms, which cause dark, tarry stool;
- Roundworms, which are spaghetti-like in size and shape (cause a pot-bellied appearance, weight loss, dull hair, and diarrhea); and
- Whipworms, which cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration.
If your pet is suffering from any of the aforementioned gut problems, talk to your vet right away. Many issues can be diagnosed and resolved with adequate veterinary care.