No one enjoys picking up dog poop while out on a walk. In addition to the smell, there is always the fear that the bag will have a hole in it and you will end up with poop on your hand. Ugh.
But, this gross chore is actually one of the best things you can do to monitor your dog’s health. Changes to dog poop—whether it’s the color, consistency, coating, or contents—may indicate a change in your dog’s health.
And if you’re wondering what yellow dog poop might mean, we’ll help you make sense of your dog’s stool color.
What Color Should Dog Poop Be?
First things first—dog poop should be brown. The exact shade depends on what your dog eats. Sometimes if a dog’s food contains strong food dyes then the feces may be stained a variation of that color.
Feces is brown because of the breakdown of a substance called bile, which is an important part of digestion. Bile is made in the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and secreted into the intestines just as food exits the stomach and starts its way through the intestines. Most bile is reabsorbed as the food material is digested, but some gets trapped. It then undergoes changes as the food material is further digested into feces which cause the originally green material to turn yellow and then brown.
Digestion of food into feces is a complex process. In addition to color, the consistency, coating, and contents are all important features of poop to consider when evaluating your pet’s health. Consistency evaluates whether it is firm, formed, soft, or liquid. Coating refers to whether there is mucus, blood, or both on the surface of the feces. The contents of feces should be fairly uniform, for example finding blades of grass or pieces of a toy would be abnormal. All of these characteristics should be taken into account when evaluating your dog’s fecal health.
While most people know that consistency is important, dog poop color variation is often overlooked.
Why is My Dog’s Poop Yellow?
Of all the colors poop can be besides the normal brown, yellow is usually one of the least concerning.
Red or black poop is an emergency, while yellow poop is more like a warning sign. Here are some of the more common causes of yellow dog poop.
What your dog eats impacts the color of his feces. Some formulations of dog food have ingredients that make feces more yellow or a lighter shade of brown. Similarly, some types of food processing can alter the hue of feces. Switching between canned or moist food and dry kibble can also make feces look more or less yellow.
An upset stomach—from changing dog food or a dog eating something he doesn’t normally eat—can cause irritation in both the stomach and intestines. One of the ways the body handles this is to push the material out faster. Veterinarians refer to this as decreased transit time: the time it takes from eating a food to passing it as feces.
Decreased transit time leads to softer feces that is yellow. The bile that is normally brown in feces hasn’t reached that stage yet and is still yellow (mustard-yellow to yellow-green). Similarly, this is why loose stool or diarrhea may be more yellow than usual.
If your dog eats something yellow that isn’t food it will end up in his feces (if you are lucky and it doesn’t cause an intestinal blockage). For example the yellow fuzz from a tennis ball does not get digested and exits the body in feces looking the same color as it went in.
A slimy coating of yellow mucus on dog poop is due to intestinal inflammation. In healthy intestines there is a protective mucus layer between the food material and the intestinal lining. When there is inflammation or damage to the intestines, this mucus layer can be shed onto the food material and eventually the feces.
The yellow color is from the bile that is involved in digestion. Intestinal inflammation can result from parasites, bacterial infection, food intolerance, or sharp objects such as sticks, rocks, and bones that the dog ate. If the intestinal damage is more severe the mucus may have streaks of red blood or look an orange-yellow color.
Yellow Specks or Strings
Yellow specks or dots could be partially digested food such as corn or could be tapeworm eggs. Usually they are described as looking like white rice but they may also have a yellow color. Yellow or white strings could be intestinal worms. If you see something that you think is abnormal in your dog’s feces, take a picture or bring the actual sample to your veterinarian.
What to Do if Your Dog’s Poop is Yellow
If your dog’s poop is just a little more yellow than normal but you have recently changed his food or he has been eating something different then close monitoring is a reasonable approach. If your dog is otherwise normal—eating and drinking and acting like himself—then monitoring at home is okay.
If, on the other hand, yellow poop is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, not eating or eating less, reduced energy, or not acting normal then you should have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian. Or, if the yellow poop turns into watery diarrhea then it’s time for your dog to be examined.
Yellow dog poop that starts to turn orange or red means your dog needs to see the veterinarian immediately.
Dogs with liver disease or other serious underlying disease who have yellow feces should be examined by a veterinarian because it could indicate worsening disease.
By monitoring your dog’s poop (color, consistency, contents, and coating) you can take a proactive approach to their health. Feces is one of the first signs of disease in many of the most common ailments of dogs.
So, instead of seeing picking up after your dog as a chore, think of it as an important part of being an active, vigilant pet parent.
Don’t miss the next pet food recall!
Stay up to date with pet-related recalls and alerts so you can help keep your dog or cat safe.