How Often Should Dogs Poop?
By Chyrle Bonk, DVM February 27, 2020
Everybody poops. Dogs, cats, people, we all do it. It’s a fact of life that is natural and normal. However, there are times when the amount or frequency of your dog’s poop may be anything but normal. Understanding a dog’s normal propensity to poop will help you to better understand when something is abnormal.
How Often Should Dogs Poop?
A general rule of thumb is that dogs will need to defecate after every meal. So the more meals, the more potty breaks. Usually, normal adult dogs will need to poop one to five times a day, while puppies will need to go more frequently. However, certain factors such as how much they ate the previous day, the amount of fiber in their diet, and the medications they are on will affect the number of bowel movements.
There is some major variation in what is considered a normal pooping frequency. But the main thing to watch out for is that your dog’s pooping schedule stays consistent from day to day. Any changes in their usual pooping schedule could be a sign that something is wrong.
Factors That Affect Pooping Frequency
It may be normal for your dog to poop once a day and your neighbor’s dog to be more on the five-a-day schedule, but what goes into determining each dog’s normal bowel movement frequency? The number of poops a day could depend on one or more of the following factors.
It’s no secret that puppies have to go more frequently than healthy adult dogs. It takes time to develop the muscles to control their bowel movements that allows them to hold it in for longer periods of time. Moreover, puppies receive more frequent feedings than adults. Therefore, they will poop more often.
On the other side of the age spectrum is senior dogs. Senior dogs may need to poop more frequently than they did as adults. This could be due to the lack of control of their sphincter muscles or their less efficient digestive system compared to when they were adults.
A decrease in the number of times your dog poops in a day could be an early warning sign for constipation. Constipation is condition when your dog doesn’t go at all. It can be caused by a number of things such as dehydration, not getting enough fiber in the diet, or not getting enough exercise. In rarer cases, constipation can be due to anal gland issues or digestive tract tumors. Prolonged constipation can cause major problems including a systemic infection, shock, organ failure, and even death. So not pooping for a couple days means a trip to the veterinarian.
Pooping five times a day may seem a little excessive for us humans. But for dogs, it’s generally not considered diarrhea until it reaches an even higher number or if it’s coupled with a change in consistency, color, or odor of the stool. Diarrhea can be a result of eating too much or eating something disagreeable, like garbage. It can also occur with a viral or bacterial infection, like parvo or salmonella, or with liver failure and cancer. Dogs may get diarrhea following a stressful event or with a moderate to severe parasite load.
Fiber is an important component for healthy bowel movement. Since fiber is indigestible, it helps to add bulk to aid the muscles of the intestine to move food through the digestive tract. So the more fiber that is in your dog’s diet, the more bowel movements they will have. If you ever switched your dog to a diet food to promote weight loss, you may have noticed a definite increase in your dog’s pooping frequency.
- Food intake
What goes in must come out. So if your dog ate an extra helping of dog food yesterday, expect more poop today. However, if your dog has been fasting, then their pooping frequency will be reduced as well.
What Are The Signs That A Dog Needs To Poop?
While pooping may be second nature to all of us, it may be difficult for a dog parent to recognize the signs that their dog needs to go. This is an important skill to prevent accidents as well as to assess your dog’s digestive and overall health. Depending if your dog has been properly potty trained or not may cause a slight variation in some of these signs.
Dogs that are potty trained will typically go to the door when they need to poop. They may whine, bark, scratch, or otherwise signal to you that they need to go out. Or they may pace or whine in front of you in an effort to get your attention and then bolt for the door.
If your dog isn’t house trained or you’re already outside, they may circle or sniff around to look for a prime spot to poop. Most often they will seek out areas that have been used before either by them or by other dogs. This way, they let their poop get a few words in on the potty talk conversation that is bursting at these poop spots.
Some dogs have a very specific pooping ritual, similar to a free throw ritual in basketball players. They may circle clockwise once, then counterclockwise twice, squat and poop, or throw in some scratching and sniffing followed with one circle. Whatever the sequence is, most dogs will stick with it. After a couple of potty breaks, their sequence will be easy for you to recognize. But part of every dog’s poop ritual is the posture, or squat, before they poop. This squat will look different than the squat when a female dog urinates, so pay attention to the details.
How Long Can A Dog Go Without Pooping?
With all of the variation of what is considered normal in the number of times a dog poops, there is no variation in how long a dog can go without pooping. If your dog hasn’t had a bowel movement in two days, or is straining or crying when trying to poop without production, then you should go see a veterinarian. After two days of constipation, the bacteria and toxins that are present in poop can actually leach back into your dog’s system and cause a serious infection.
Moreover, if you dog is straining or crying without producing a bowel movement, it could be due to a foreign object in the digestive tract. At this point, you should go see a veterinarian. This can be true if your dog had a normal bowel movement in the morning, but not one later in the day. Normal poop should never be difficult or painful to pass.
Why Does My Dog Poop So Often?
Maybe your dog is at the high end of the normal pooping range and goes five times a day. That is no big deal. In fact, the more may actually mean better. It should stand to reason that the more bowel movements your dog has a day, the smaller that they are and, therefore, the easier to pass. Every dog has a certain amount of material that needs to be expelled every day. They can either expel it out all at once or in smaller bite-sized increments.
More frequent poops could be a result of the diet you are feeding or the frequency you are feeding. Dogs that are feed multiple times a day will poop multiple times a day, and dogs that consume more fiber will have bigger, more frequent bowel movements. More exercise can also mean more pooping. Physical activity increases the activity of the digestive tract, moving feces through at a more rapid pace.
If you’re concerned about a high number of poops per day, just be sure to monitor the consistency, color, and odor for changes, as well as any changes in your dog’s behavior, such as a decrease in appetite or lethargy.
Why Does My Dog Only Poop Once A Day?
Dogs that only go once a day are considered completely normal. Being on the lower end of the normal spectrum can be the result of a high protein, low fiber diet, a more sedentary lifestyle, or from single meal feeding. As long as your dog is able to pass that once-a-day poop, it’s nothing to worry about.
Do Dogs Poop After Every Meal?
As a rule of thumb, dogs poop within 30 minutes after a meal. This is due to the gastro-colic reflex. Basically, as the stomach muscles expand to encompass a meal, the muscles of the intestine are activated to move yesterday’s food out, making room for the soon-to-be poop coming in to the stomach. This is a great rule to know when potty training or traveling to better time your dog’s potty breaks.
How Can I Help My Dog Have Normal Bowel Movements?
Sometimes your dog’s bowel movements may be anything but natural. You can help regulate their bowel movements by providing regular exercise, fresh water at all times, and regular meals. If your dog still needs a little help with preventing constipation, you can also up their fiber intake. For dogs that are a little too frequent, see your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes such as diarrhea.
Healthy adult dogs should poop one to five times a day. Increase those numbers if you’re dealing with a puppy or older dog. While the number of times may vary between dogs, the number that your dog goes each day really shouldn’t vary. Make sure that your dog is staying consistent with their number of poops per day and see your veterinarian if that number increases or decreases.