Your dog’s poop is like a window into their health. Not only can the color and consistency indicate issues with the digestive system, it can also change with problems nearly anywhere in the body.
Most owners rejoice when their dog is producing healthy dog poop, its an indicator that everything is functioning as it should do in that department. But as soon as owners notice a change in color of their dog’s poop, it’s important to think what might be causing it.
One of those colors that can be an indicator of issues in your pup is black dog poop. Black dog poop is something I have seen first-hand in numerous dogs over the years as a veterinarian.
This black color can look like streaks, chunks, or give your dog’s poop a uniform coloration. Here’s what you need to know about black dog poop:
What causes a dog’s poop to turn black?
A black coloring to your dog’s poop is most often due to digested blood.
This is referred to as melena and usually indicates internal bleeding in the upper digestive tract-anywhere from the mouth to the upper small intestine. (When blood is digested, it turns black, so bleeding in the lower digestive tract will be bright red rather than black.)
That being said, a black color can also be brought on by something your dog ate. Think dirt, crayons, or even some medications. In reality there are many potential causes of your dog’s black poop:
- Ulcers: Esophageal or stomach ulcers are a major culprit for black dog poop. Stress and bacterial infections are often to blame. Ulceration results in internal bleeding within the gastrointestinal tract; this blood in then digested resulting in black poop.
- Trauma: If your pup’s mouth, throat or stomach is injured in such a way to result in bleeding, you may see black poop. This is even true if they get a bloody nose or bloody gums from breaking a tooth.
- Diet: Eating raw food that contains blood may result in black dog poop. Along with that, dyes in commercial dog foods or eating indigestible, black objects can do the same as well.
- Medications: If your dog is taking some types of iron supplements or Pepto Bismol, you may see black stools. Other medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, can also cause bleeding that may show up as black dog poop.
- Toxins: Toxins that can lead to GI bleeding, such as rat poison, can cause black dog poop. These are immediate emergencies, so hopefully black dog poop isn’t your first indication that they ate something bad.
- Intestinal Parasites: There are numerous types of worms that can live in the digestive tract. They latch on to the stomach and intestinal lining, causing trauma and often bleeding.
- Infection: Bacterial or viral infections that affect the lining of the stomach or small intestine can cause bleeding that then results in black poop.
- Liver or kidney disease: Along with infections, chronic illnesses like liver and kidney disease, can create inflammation and irritation to the digestive system that can eventually lead to black dog poop.
- Foreign bodies: Dogs love to explore their world with their mouth and they sometimes get themselves into trouble by eating something that isn’t digestible. These objects can become lodged in the digestive tract, causing internal bleeding and irritation that creates black dog poop.
- Recent GI surgery: When your dog has a foreign body, they may need it surgically removed. This inevitably results in some bleeding into your dog’s gut. Along with other reasons for GI surgery, like tumors or strictures, you may see black dog poop for a few days following the procedure.
- Tumors: Both cancerous and non-cancerous growths in the mouth, throat, stomach or small intestine can bleed, and therefore, cause black poop.
- Blood clotting disorders: Blood clotting disorders can lead to spontaneous bleeding. When that’s in the digestive tract, it can lead to black dog poop.
- Metabolic diseases: Cushing’s and hypothyroidism are too examples of whole-body health conditions that can cause black dog poop.
When to worry about black stools in dogs?
If this is your dog’s first black bowel movement, there are a couple of paths you can take.
First thing’s first, watch your dog for other signs. Are they acting normal or are they lethargic, not wanting to eat, or acting like they’re in pain? Watch for vomiting, fevers, weight loss, and of course, repeat black bowel movements. Any of these signs could indicate that something more serious than eating a crayon is going on and you should see your veterinarian.
The other path to take is if your pup doesn’t have any other signs. They may be acting completely normal, just excreting a rather disturbing color of poop. If this is the case, double check that you haven’t started any new medications or diets or that your dog didn’t get into and eat something they shouldn’t have.
A couple of black dog poops without other signs may not mean that anything is wrong, but if it becomes a habit, talk to your vet.
Is black dog poop always a sign of a serious health problem?
Though all of this talk about bleeding in the digestive tract may be worrisome, not every black poop is the result of something that serious; some cases may be due to something your pup ate. Whether that be a new diet, a treatment for an upset stomach, or they invaded your art supply cabinet, these cases usually don’t have any other signs that come with them.
However, if you start to see that your dog’s poop is black more frequently than not or your pup starts acting funny or sickly, it’s time to see your vet.
Is black stool in dogs an emergency?
Some cases of black dog poop need immediate attention. These are pups that are showing pain, unwillingness to get up, pale gums, or that have collapsed. This could indicate that they are losing a significant amount of blood that needs to be addressed immediately.
Dogs that have knowingly eating any kind of rodenticide or rat poison should be seen immediately.
When a dog has black dog poop for more than a couple bowel movements or if they are showing any lethargy, inappetence, discomfort, or severe vomiting and diarrhea should see a vet as soon as possible.
How long does melena in dogs last?
The duration of black dog poop due to melena can vary based on the cause of the internal bleeding. Ulcers that are treated will usually clear up within a couple of weeks. Bleeding from trauma or surgery should clear up within a couple of days and bleeding from parasites or infections will clear up as soon as the issue is under control.
Be sure to ask your veterinarian how long you should expect to see black dog poop once you start treatment for your dog’s melena.
How do you treat black stool in dogs?
There’s not much you can do at home to treat black dog poop other than wait and see as long as your pup isn’t showing any other signs. If healthy dog poop doesn’t reappear after a few days then it’s best to seek veterinary advice.
If you end up seeing your vet, they will prescribe a variety of treatments depending on the cause. Those include:
- Giving medications to treat intestinal parasites.
- Supportive care and medications to treat infections.
- Surgery to remove foreign objects or tumors.
- Medications to treat ulcers.
- Inducing vomiting and giving activated charcoal and vitamin K for rodenticide ingestion.
- Blood tests and Medications to treat Cushing’s, hypothyroidism, and blood transfusions for serious blood clotting disorders.
- Medications and a diet change for liver and kidney disease.
- Giving your pup an all’s clear health assessment if their black dog poop is due to a new diet or approved supplement.
Why is my dog’s poop black when he eats raw food?
When a dog eats raw food, the stool can appear black due to the presence of digested blood in the feces. Raw meat, especially red meat, contained blood which when digested in your dog’s intestines, turns black.
Is it bad if my dog’s poop is black?
A one off occurrence of black dog poop isn’t necessarily of concern, especially if they eat raw meat containing blood. However, consistently black stools should be investigated as it could be an indication of gastrointestinal bleeding or ulceration.
What food causes black stool in dogs?
Certain foods that can cause black stools in dogs include raw meat, internal organs such as liver or kidney, and certain additives like charcoal or food dyes.