Two things are universally true: everybody poops, and poop stinks. It doesn’t matter if you are a pauper or a prince, privately everyone hopes no one will enter the bathroom immediately after a double-flush. And your dog can be the cutest, sweetest, most enjoyable pup on the planet, with a science-based, veterinarian-approved, home cooked, organic, gluten free, keto-friendly (it’s endless, right?), high-quality diet. But even their tightest, neatest poop arrives with an earthy whiff of something unmistakable and at least slightly unpleasant.
Why does dog poop stink? Why does it sometimes really, really, really reek? And when should you worry? Take a seat and let’s get to the bottom of it! (puns are just too easy in this lane).
Even healthy poop stinks, more or less
Even the most perfect pup on the best diet can’t help that their poop has a mildly unpleasant odor. Pup-generated poop contains about three-quarters water, some undigestible matter from food, and lots and lots of intestinal bacteria. Those bacteria are essential to digestion, breaking down food and helping to create that less-than-appetizing aroma.
A nice healthy firm poop is firm but not dry or hard, and is uniform in color -- usually an unalarming shade of brown. Because a “good poop” doesn’t make a gassy exit, and is low on surface area and residue (compared to messier poops) it doesn’t spread a lot of that unfortunate digestive smell. Healthy doogies are also easily scooped up. Once it’s in that handy poop bag the stink is (mostly) contained – unless you forget your dooloop and put that bag in your pocket or leave it on the floorboards of a sunbaked car for future funky discovery.
But sometimes the smell that wafts up from your pup’s poop can be downright eye-watering. What causes stinky poop, and when should you worry about it?
Why does my dog’s poop stink so bad?
If your dog’s bowel movements have an unusual or powerfully bad smell, are pudding-like or watery, or you’re suddenly assailed by dog farts when your binge-watching Netflix together on the couch, something’s probably up with your dog’s innards.
Your dog’s diet. If a poor-quality diet isn't meeting your dog’s nutritional needs, or your dog has a food allergy or dairy-intolerance unusual bowel movements and smell will probably be one of your first signals. Food allergies can cause inflammation in the gut, causing your dog to be bloated, gassy, and create watery poop. A rapid change in diet can also cause stomach upset, so if you are changing your dog’s current food to a higher-quality diet, it’s best to introduce it slowly over several days. If you notice changes in your dog’s stools, start keeping notes on what your dog is being fed at home. Take a quick pic for your veterinarian of the labels of the foods and treats you are feeding your dog (a snapshot of the poop itself can't hurt, either) and be sure to ‘fess up to any table scraps you sneak under the table.
Health Tip! If you stop sneaking leftovers to your dog, you’ll avoid tummy aches and unpleasant smells, as well the danger of unintended canine poisoning by foods that cause no problems for people -- like chocolate, onions, and grapes -- but are toxic to dogs.
- Roundworms and hookworms are common intestinal parasites that your dog can pick up by snuffling around where other infected pups have pooped. Coccidia and giardia are single-celled protozoans that also impact the digestive tract. All of these – plus other less common parasites -- can cause smelly, loose bowel movements. Grab a poop sample (as dirt-free as possible) and take it off to your veterinarian for a fecal check. They’ll be able to identify the critter that’s causing your dog’s digestive woes and provide you with the proper medication.
- Bacterial infections -- what we commonly cause “food poisoning” – can also impact dogs. Two causes that will sound familiar are E. coli and salmonella. Dogs (and people) can be infected by ingesting raw or undercooked meat or drinking contaminated water – two things curious dogs love to lap!
- Malabsorption is the inability to absorb nutrients from the food your dog eats. It can be caused by several different diseases, including problems with the pancreas, a glandular organ near the stomach.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract that can occur in both people and pets, interfering with the ability to absorb nutrients. It’s actually a syndrome (a group of health symptoms) rather than a specific disease and can be triggered by parasites, a bacterial infection, or food intolerances, among other causes.
Certain medications can cause gastrointestinal upset. If your dog has been prescribed a medication and they suddenly have a change in the smell or consistency of their stool, check with your veterinarian to determine if it’s a side effect of the medication versus an additional health concern.
These are only a few of the most-common causes of smelly stools. If you notice your dog is failing to gain or maintain weight, is suddenly eating a lot more or a lot less, starts eating feces, dirt, or other non-food objects, has undigested food or blood in the stools, or begins to suffer from loose or watery poop, flatulence, or vomiting, don’t put off a visit to the veterinarian.
Poop perception is a good way to monitor your dog's health
It's actually quite lucky for us and our dogs that their poop is such a big part of our daily canine responsibilities. It means we have an early warning system to alert us when something’s up. If you don't personally witness your dog's output because you let them run free in a large securely fenced yard to do their daily “dooty,” follow along or leash them up once a week at least, so you can check on the state of their poop fresh from their bum.
Let the smell and sight of your pup’s poop be your guide to keeping them happy and healthy!
Fun facts about feces
When we humans struggle with noisy, smelly bowels, some of us run the bathroom water faucet to mask the sound, light a candle, and turn on the fan to clear the air. However, when your pup is experiencing an especially smelly or messy bowel movement, there’s no hiding it from the neighbor you happen to be chatting with. You may as well wow them with some fun facts to divert their attention. Here are a few conversational nuggets that may distract your audience (by being perhaps even a little more gross) from your struggling dog’s current activity.
- All mammals take just about 12 seconds to poop
- It takes about 6 to 8 hours for a dog to digest food. Humans can take from 20 to 72 hours.
- When opossums are threatened, they not only play dead, they release a dump that smells like rotting flesh, which repels the fresh-food loving carnivore attacking them.
- Rabbits eat their own poo. The grass and weeds they eat are hard to digest, so they eat their poop a second time to ingest and absorb the remaining nutrients.
- A wombat’s poop is square because part of their large intestines has horizontal ridges.
- Hippos spray their poop with a whirling tail to mark their territory
- Some sperm whale poop contains a substance called ambergris, used in high-end perfumes. It is so incredibly expensive it has been replaced by synthetic chemicals.
If your dog’s poop session becomes the center of attention, you may as well make the most of those twelve seconds by sharing some useful info. You’re welcome!
Two positive uses for smelly dog sh*t
There also a good side to stinky dog poop – besides being a barometer of your pet’s health.
- Researchers discovered the odor of domestic dog feces was highly repulsive to sheep – even more repellant than lion poop. The odor of dog crap could end up protecting agricultural crops from the devastation of browsing sheep in regions where they wander unfettered by fences.
- The stink of dog poop also helped inspire the dooloop! Juggling warm smelly bags along with tangled leashes of then traumatized dogs, made leisurely dog walks impossible. Putting those bags in my coat pocket, which was the easiest option at the time, wasn’t going to happen. I needed both my hands for leash management, this was a BIG incentive behind the birth of the dooloop poop-bag holder. The nifty simple shape is perfect for one-hand ease getting that bag onto the leash, out of whiff-range. But it also keeps it in direct eyesight, so you’ll remember to dispose of it properly at the first opportunity. No more forgotten stink bombs!
So, while dog poop won’t ever equal the value of whale poop has to the perfume industry, it’s good to know the smell has positive aspects.
Banish the stink with a dooloop!
A dooloop is incredibly affordable (especially when compared to that whale ambergris), so shorten the impact of your dog’s daily doo on your sniffer by picking up a dooloop or two. You can shop for yours, here!