This article was updated on May 18th, 2023
We’re all aware that the normal color of dog poop is brown. It may come in different shades, and some slight variation in the brown color of your dog’s poop from day to day can be expected. What you may not be ready to find is black dog poop. Black dog poop isn’t an uncommon thing for veterinarians to see. And can be caused by many things, some that are potentially very serious. Here are the causes of black dog poop and how you can help your dog.
If your dog is a puppy, read our article: Puppy With Black Poop.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Black Dog Poop?
Black dog poop is most often an indication of blood in the feces. Blood that is digested will turn from red to black, giving the poop a black, tarry color. Causes that could lead to blood in the feces include:
Ulcers in the stomach or upper intestine can lead to bleeding that turns a dog’s poop black. Ulcers can be caused by a bacterial infection, medications, or ingesting a toxin. Along with black dog poop, you may also see vomiting with blood or what looks like coffee grounds, lethargy, and not eating. Ulcers will require veterinary treatment including fluids, blood transfusions, and medications.
Gastroenteritis refers to inflammation in the digestive tract; hemorrhagic means bleeding. Infections, eating something they shouldn’t, toxins, or stress can all contribute to coming down with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Dog poop may be black or red, and will typically be soft or runny. Vomiting, not eating, lethargy, and dehydration are also common. Most cases will require veterinary attention due to rapid loss of fluids. Rehydration with fluids, anti-vomit medications, and hospitalization may be required.
Adult internal parasites attach to the linings of the intestines. Heavy worm loads can contribute to bleeding into the digestive tract, which then turns dog poop black. It may be formed or soft, and may contain eggs or worms in it. Dogs may also have weight loss, a dry, brittle hair coat, and weakness. Dogs will need to be given a dewormer to treat.
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Any injury or foreign object stuck anywhere along the digestive line can lead to bleeding that turns poop black. Sticks, bones, toys, or chewing on something sharp can all be culprits. Trauma that causes internal bleeding can also be a cause. Getting hit by a car, falling off something, or getting kicked may all lead to bleeding in the digestive tract. Dogs may also vomit, not eat, have pale gums, or have stomach pain. An injury or a foreign object in the digestive tract should be checked out by a veterinarian in case surgery is needed to fix or remove it.
Tumors in the mouth, throat, stomach, or intestine can all potentially bleed, leading to black dog poop. Dogs may also have weight loss, vomiting, pale gums, lethargy, weakness, or pain, depending on where the tumor is located. See your vet if you suspect cancer in your dog. Some tumors may be successfully removed surgically, some may require chemotherapy or radiation, and some may have no treatment.
Besides conditions that cause bleeding within the digestive system, other causes for black dog poop could be:
Some medications can cause black dog poop. A big one is Pepto Bismol, which is often given for an upset stomach, but should never be given without the express direction of your veterinarian. Iron supplements and activated charcoal are other potential medications that can turn poop black.
Raw diets or foods with pigments can turn dog poop black. Feces will usually be normal consistency, and your pup will feel fine. The black color can also be related to eating dirt or other dark-colored items, so pay attention to your dog’s eating habits if you start to notice their poop turning black.
When Is Black Dog Poop a Reason for Concern?
Since black dog poop is most often an indicator of blood in the feces, seeing more than one black bowel movement should warrant a vet visit. That’s especially true if your pup is showing any other signs, including:
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Soft or runny stools
- Not eating
- Stomach pain
- Pale gums
- Weight loss
Any of these signs can indicate that your dog has bleeding somewhere in his digestive system that needs professional attention.
Should I be Concerned if My Dog is Acting Normal?
Even though a black color can commonly mean blood in your dog’s poop, it doesn’t always. If your pup is otherwise acting normal with a good appetite and energy level, you may choose to monitor for more black bowel movements. If your dog’s poop is normally formed, not soft or runny, or excessively smelly, or if you just started a new diet or medication, waiting to speak to your vet will usually be fine.
If your dog is acting normal and not showing any other signs of illness, you may choose to wait 24-48 hours to see if your dog’s poop becomes normal again. If your dog’s poop is still black after 2 days, make your dog an appointment with their veterinarian.
2 Steps You Can Take At Home For Black Dog Poop
If this is your dog’s first black poop and they don’t have any other signs, you may try these things at home before getting your veterinarian involved.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
1. Check For Injuries
Look in your dog’s mouth and throat for any signs of injuries that may cause bleeding. You can also gently push on their abdomen to check for tenderness in this area. Check gums for color and capillary refill time by gently pressing your finger on it. The gums should momentarily turn white but then return to pink within two seconds. If gums are pale or capillary refill time is slow, or if you notice any bleeding injuries, see your vet.
Be sure to keep an eye on your dog’s bowel movements for the next few days to see if the black color remains or if the consistency changes. You’ll also want to note any changes in behavior, appetite, energy level, and watch for other signs of illness. If your dog just started a new dog food, especially a raw diet, the black color may remain. As long as the consistency is normal and your dog is acting fine, the black color is more than likely a pigment issue, but don’t be afraid to contact your vet if you’re unsure.
At-home Remedies for Black Dog Poop When a Dog is Acting Normal
If you notice a black bowel movement or two but no other signs in your pup, you may choose some at-home remedies before calling your vet. Of course, if at any time your dog becomes lethargic, doesn’t eat, vomits, or has pale gums, see your vet.
Sometimes a dog’s gut just needs a break. Give it one by offering bland, easily digestible food such as boiled chicken and rice or a little cottage cheese. Offer small amounts more frequently for a couple of days and see if your dog’s poop gets back to normal. Check out our recommended bland diets for dogs.
You can never go wrong with a good probiotic, especially when something is off with your dog’s digestive system. There are many commercial options available, but if you’re in a pinch, a little plain yogurt can work as well.
Your dog needs to keep drinking no matter what color their poop is. Make sure to keep plenty of clean water in front of them at all times. If your dog isn’t drinking a lot, entice them by adding a little low-sodium chicken broth to their water for a little flavor kick. You may also mix in a little canned food to make a very watery slurry.
If your dog’s black poop isn’t back to normal in 48 hours or they start showing any other signs, get them to your veterinarian.
When to See a Vet for Black Dog Poop
If your dog’s black poop becomes a consistent issue or they are showing other signs of diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, weakness, or pain, don’t hesitate to see your vet. This more than likely means that the black color is due to bleeding in the digestive system.
Your vet will start with a thorough exam where they check your dog’s mouth and gums, feel their throat and stomach, and potentially do a rectal exam to check for bleeding. A fecal test will be able to tell if there are blood or parasites. Blood work and x-rays or ultrasounds may be done as well to determine where the bleeding is coming from. Occasionally, gastroscopy may be used to further visualize the inside of the digestive tract and to take samples.
From there, your vet will start treatment depending on the diagnosis. Fluids may be given if a dog is getting dehydrated. More serious bleeding may require a blood transfusion. Dogs with ulcers and hemorrhagic gastroenteritis may also get antibiotics, anti-nausea medications, and gastroprotectants. Foreign objects may require surgery to remove. Heavy parasite loads will need to be treated with a dewormer.
There is going to be a wide range of costs associated with black dog poop. A minor injury to the mouth or a parasite issue may cost $100, while a surgery to remove a foreign object may run you over $5,000. Hospitalization with fluids and blood transfusions for a severe case of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis can cost $500-$5,000. A tumor in the digestive tract may cost over $2,000 for surgery and another $2,500-10,000 for chemotherapy.
Other Tips to Know About Black Dog Poop
- Pay close attention to your dog’s eating habits. If they like to snack on dirt or compost, they may also end up with black dog poop. If you give medications or supplements, pigments in those products may be causing the color change.
- If possible, bring a sample of the black dog poop with you to the vet. The fresher the sample, the better. This will allow your vet to get a good look at the color and consistency, as well as give them something to work with to run any diagnostic tests they may need.
- Take a picture. If you can’t get a sample, take a picture of your dog’s black poop to give your vet a visual. While they won’t be able to use it for tests, they will get a feel for the color and consistency.
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