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How to treat yellow stool in dogs

Person picking up bowel movement from dog

The day started out fine, but on the morning walk you notice your dog's poop is yellow. This is odd and it's natural that you worry. Questions race through your mind. What does it mean? Should you be worried? And do you know how to treat yellow stool in dogs? This article aims to answer those questions.

Why does your dog have yellow stool?

Normal dog poop is brown, and a yellow stool is unusual. But what do we mean by yellow?

The yellow color can range from a browny-mustard through to a more vivid, almost fluorescent yellow. This color can either be down to something the dog ate that was yellow in color and poorly digestible (for example, that missing wax crayon) or due to the presence of bile. 

To tell the two apart, check out if the color is patchy or spread evenly through the stool. The scavenged yellow crayon is going to be in lumps with brown poop around it. Whilst the stool containing bile pigments is more evenly colored. 

What is bile and why is it passed in poop?

The liver produces bile, which is then stored in a little sac called the gallbladder. This sac empties via a small duct into the first part of the small intestine. After a meal, the gallbladder contracts to squirt bile into the gut to help with the digestion of fats. The job of bile is to break down fats into smaller units called fatty acids, which can pass across the gut wall. The bile is also absorbed from the gut, recycled in the liver, and stored once again in the gallbladder ready to go round again. 

As mentioned at the start, yellow dog poop is not normal. This is because the bile is recycled and shouldn't get as far as the stool. When it does, this means food has passed through the gut too fast for the bile to reabsorb. So the next question is to ask why the gut transit time (the time taken for food to get from A to B) has sped up. 

Anything that irritates the gut and causes inflammation or spasm, speeds up gut transit time. Some of the more common reasons are: 

  • Garbage gut
  • Gastroenteritis due to infection or parasites
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Food allergy¬†

Less common reasons include cancer, liver disease, or gallbladder problems. 

How to treat yellow stool

How to treat yellow dog poop in dogs depends on how well they are and how long the problem has been there. For waggy, happy dogs with yellow stools, the trick is to treat them for simple diarrhea. This is because diarrhea is simply faeces that passed through the gut too quickly, without giving enough time for fluid to be reabsorbed and make a formed poop. Since simple cases of yellow stool are also down to a super-speedy gut transit time, they should respond to treatment for simple diarrhea. 

This treatment includes:

  • Fasting the dog for 12 to 24 hours: This allows the gut wall to rest and inflammation or over-sensitivity to settle down. When you do reintroduce food, the intestine is better able to process it.
  • Ensuring fresh drinking water is always available: It is crucial the dog drinks water regularly to reduce the risk of dehydration developing. The latter is a serious complication. If a dog has diarrhea and isn't drinking, always contact the vet.
  • Feeding little and often: After resting the gut for a day, slowly reintroduce food. The secret to success is to offer little and often. Think of feeding the adult dog like a puppy again, and give four to six small meals spaced over the day. This works because the less the stomach is stretched, the weaker the messages to the gut to contract. Thus, a small meal is less likely to speed through as diarrhea.
  • Offering bland foods: Be gentle on the gut by offering bland, easy-to-digest foods. Topping the menu are white meats such as chicken breast, turkey, or white fish. Always offer white chicken meat rather than a chicken-flavored canned food, which contains other things beside the chicken. Bulk this up with simple carbohydrates such as boiled white pasta or rice.
  • Adding in probiotics: Doggy probiotics help fight bad bacteria that cause tummy upsets. Probiotics act like the cavalry coming to the rescue and help speed up recovery. Be sure to use dog probiotics, rather than human ones, since the bugs in a dog's gut are different to ours.¬†

How to treat yellow stool in dogs with a problem that has gone on for some time is slightly different. These dogs may have an underlying problem that needs veterinary help. By finding and treating this condition, this corrects the issue and makes for normal poop. The vet starts with a thorough history and examines the dog. This guides what further tests (if any) are needed, such as blood tests, faecal analysis, or an ultrasound scan of the belly. 

When to seek vet help

Yellow stool can be the result of a simple stomach upset, which causes the gut to contract and push everything along too quickly. These dogs may have diarrhea but are otherwise bright and bouncy. The problem often gets better within 24‚Äď48 hours with simple treatment for dog diarrhea. If the problem carries on longer than this, then the dog should see a vet (no matter what color the poop). Also, if the dog has a stomach upset but is not drinking, vomits, or is under the weather (or if you are plain worried), again, the dog should see the vet.¬†

Dogs that seem otherwise well but have a yellow stool should see the vet if the problem persists for several days. This can be a sign that the gut isn't working and needs investigation. Seeing the vet sooner rather than later means treatment is more likely to work well. 

So if your dog has a yellow stool, don't panic. Know that how to treat yellow stool may be simple‚ÄĒbut if the problem persists or the dog seems unwell, always contact the vet.

Read more about diarrhea in dogs

The article was written by Pippa Elliot, BVMS, MRCVS on October 25, 2020.

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