Dealing with poo is part and parcel of being a dog owner! But what does it mean if your dog’s stools are more sloppy than normal? In this article we will explore what normal poo should look like as well as the various reasons your dog might be suffering from loose stools.

Normal Poo

Most healthy dogs should be passing faeces once or twice a day, though this does depend on their diet and exercise regime. This poo should be a uniform chocolate brown colour with no blood or noticeable mucus. It should also be well-formed with some segmentation and have a firm (but not hard) consistency. When you pick the poo up it should not leave much residue behind on the ground. 

Some vets will refer to a faecal scoring chart when discussing your dog’s stools. This allows the vet to grade your dog’s poo from 1 to 7, with 1 being a very firm, hard and constipated type of poo and 7 being watery, diarrhoea. A grade 2 is the ideal poo, that we described previously, and should be what you are aiming for with your dog.

Reasons why your dog’s poo might be sloppy

Diarrhoea is the term usually used to describe poo which is loose and watery. This can vary from soft cowpat type stools to liquid puddles. Your dog may also be going to the toilet more often than normal. In some cases, they can have other accompanying symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy and abdominal discomfort. Sloppy poo is a very non-specific sign and can occur due to many different reasons including – 

Dietary indiscretion 

This means eating things that they shouldn’t do, like discarded food items, compost and manure. Feeding a dog table scraps and leftovers could cause upset too, so try and stick to your pet’s normal diet where possible.

Parasite infections 

High levels of worms or other parasites like the microscopic protozoa called Giardia can cause loose stools. Regular preventative worming treatment will stop heavy worm burdens from happening in the first place, so speak to your vet if you need advice on what products to use for your pet. 

Bacterial and viral infections 

Bacteria like Campylobacter, E.coli and salmonella could cause sloppy poo, as could viral infections like parvovirus. Vaccinations will help keep your pet protected against the latter. 

Inflammatory bowel disease 

This condition can present as diarrhoea of varying degrees, with or without vomiting. It is often managed through changes in diet and possibly medication too.

Dietary sensitivities 

Some dogs are sensitive or allergic to certain foods which could cause loose stools. A strict dietary trial under the guidance of your vet can help to work out what they are sensitive to.


Inflammation of the pancreas could cause digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Some of these animals can become quite unwell and require hospitalisation for intravenous fluids.

Endocrine conditions 

A hormonal condition called Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism) could cause digestive upset. Other symptoms include vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite. Diagnosis is made through blood tests.


Some tumours or types of cancer could cause diarrhoea, particularly in older animals.

Medication side effects 

Medications including antibiotics and anti-inflammatories could cause adverse effects like loose stools. Always speak to your vet for advice if you think your dog is reacting to his medication. 

Treatment for sloppy poo

In many cases, episodes of diarrhoea are mild and self-resolving, and can be helped along by feeding bland food (like a sensitive stomach diet or cooked chicken, white fish and boiled rice). Over the counter probiotics can also be useful. However, if the diarrhoea is continuing or seems severe, then you should take your dog to a vet for a check over.

Your vet will examine your dog and may suggest some other tests like faecal samples to look for parasites and bacterial infections. Blood tests can be useful to rule out underlying metabolic issues, and conditions like pancreatitis. A strict dietary trial may be suggested to help pets with suspected dietary sensitivities or IBD. Sometimes diagnostic imaging like x-rays and ultrasound scans can be helpful to look for things like tumours. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best approach for your pet, with treatment depending on the diagnosis.


There are several causes for sloppy poo in dogs. In many cases this is mild and self-limiting, and a few days of bland food may help. But if your dog seems unwell with any other symptoms or the loose stools are continuing, then you must seek your vet’s advice in case your dog requires treatment for an underlying condition.

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