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Black Dog Poop: What it Means

Dog head tilted outside looking at owner
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One of the less pleasant things about being a pet parent is dealing with dog poop. While we may find poop disgusting and hate having to pick it up, keeping an eye on your dog’s poop is a good way to monitor his overall health. 

In general, dog poop should be firm and dark brown in color. However, every dog’s stool color and consistency will vary slightly. That is why it is good to know what normal looks like for your dog. 

So what does it mean when you see black dog poop? This article will explain the most common causes of black poop in dogs and will let you know when you should be alarmed. 

Black Dog Poop: Deciphering Color and Consistency 

Dog looking up to owner outside

If your dog’s poop is black, it may indicate a very serious, or even life-threatening illness. However, not all poop that appears black may be abnormal. When looking at your dog’s poop, it is important to take note of the stool’s consistency in addition to the color. 

Unless there is an obvious cause for your dog’s black poop you should contact your veterinarian. Knowing the consistency of your dog’s stool–i.e. hard, crumbly, liquid, soft and sticky, etc.—can help your veterinarian to determine how urgently your dog should be examined, if at all. 

It is also helpful to take a picture of your dog’s abnormal poop so that you can show it to your veterinarian. 

Why Is My Dog’s Poop Black? 

Dog looking up at owner walking outside

Black dog poop could be caused by:

  • Internal bleeding
  • What your dog eats
  • Medications your dog takes

Internal Bleeding

The biggest concern with black dog poop is that it may indicate digested blood coming from somewhere in the body. 

If your dog’s stool is black and tarry or sticky, he should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away as this is a serious symptom–called melena. Bleeding anywhere in the mouth, esophagus, stomach or small intestines can cause melena. Stomach ulcers are a common cause of this. 

Dogs may develop ulcers as a side effect of taking certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; ex: carprofen, meloxicam, grapiprant) or steroids (ex: prednisone, prednisolone). Certain bacterial infections and parasites can also lead to bleeding ulcers. Other signs of stomach ulcers include vomit that contains blood or what looks like coffee grounds, decreased appetite, and decreased energy levels. 

Black dog poop can also be caused by bleeding tumors located in the stomach, small intestines, esophagus or the mouth. Rat poison ingestion is another cause of bleeding that can lead to black tarry stools and must be treated by your veterinarian right away in order to prevent deadly consequences. 

Other causes of black stools related to bleeding include: 

  • Bleeding disorders (Ex: Von Willebrand’s Disease, immune mediated thrombocytopenia)
  • Foreign bodies or objects located in the gastrointestinal tract 
  • Trauma that leads to internal bleeding (Ex: being hit by a car or falling down the stairs) 

Diet

If your dog’s poop is black in color but it is normal in consistency—especially if your dog is acting normal, carefully evaluate your dog’s diet. If your dog likes to eat dirt or compost that could cause his poop to turn black. While this may not cause him any harm, eating soil can cause an upset tummy and may lead to infestations with intestinal parasites. 

Feeding your dog dark foods, foods with black food coloring, or bloody raw meats can also turn your dog’s poop black. 

Medications and Supplements

In addition, iron supplements and Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) can lead to black colored stools in dogs. 

Another medication that is sure to cause your dog’s poop to turn black is activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is usually administered by veterinarians when dogs have eaten something potentially toxic. The activated charcoal helps to bind to the toxins and prevent them from being absorbed by the body. 

Why Does Dog Poop Turn Black in the Sun? 

Puppy outside in the sun looking sad

Your dog’s poop may look normal when it is fresh but then you may notice that it turns black if left out in the sun. This is a normal change and is not a cause for concern. The cause for this color change isn’t well known. When checking your dog’s poop for color, consistency, and any abnormalities, make sure you are looking at a fresh sample. 

What to Do If Your Dog’s Poop Is Black? 

If your dog’s poop is black for the first time but the stool appears otherwise normal in consistency and your dog is not having any other abnormal symptoms, you should monitor your dog closely. If the poop later returns to a normal color, it is likely not due to anything concerning. 

However, if your dog’s poop continues to be black despite normal consistency, it is best to get him checked out by your veterinarian. Be sure to bring in a stool sample with you to your appointment. 

If your dog has black soft or liquid stool—especially if your dog has other abnormal symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, vomiting, bruising, or pale gums—you should immediately take him into your regular veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital. 

Blood work, X-rays, abdominal ultrasound, fecal testing and other tests may be warranted to determine the cause of the black stool. Since black stool is often due to bleeding somewhere in the body, timely diagnosis and proper treatment is critical.

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