By: Dr. Juli, DVM @itsDrJuli
Bringing home a new bundle of fur is an exciting time for pet owners. The cuteness overload of caring for a new puppy makes it easier for dog owners to ignore some unpleasant puppy behaviors, like chewing on everything or defecating in less-than-ideal spots. During puppyhood, if it seems like their favorite activities are eating and pooping, it's because that is a large part of a new puppy’s life. There is a lot to remember when caring for a new puppy, including regular veterinarian visits, potty training, and socialization. Dog owners often have numerous questions about how to properly raise their new puppy to thrive and remain healthy through all life stages. Understanding your pup's bowel movements is a critical part of responsible pet ownership. In fact, small changes in your pup’s poop schedule could be an indication of an underlying health problem.
How often do puppies poop?
Although it may seem that your puppy never stops pooping, young dogs can defecate more than five times daily. Like people, every dog will have their own normal or regular schedule that may differ from other dogs. Food is quickly processed and not thoroughly digested compared to adult dogs because their gastrointestinal (GI) tract is still developing. Your pet’s diet, appetite, and breed will also affect how many times they poop. Monitoring your puppy’s schedule over several days will help dog owners determine what is normal for their pet. As a general rule of thumb, your puppy’s poop frequency will be similar to the following:
Two weeks old — Defecations can occur after every feeding.
Twelve weeks old — Defecations 4-6 times daily.
Six months old — Defecations 3 times daily.
Twelve months and older — Defecation between 1-3 times daily.
How much poop is too much or not enough?
Frequent defecations are an everyday occurrence for most puppies. It is critical to pay attention to the appearance of your pup’s poop, which provides a good indication of their digestive health. The amount or size of a healthy puppy’s bowel movements will be variable depending on their size, diet, and appetite. Normal, healthy poop should be medium to dark brown in color, well-formed, and soft. You should be able to easily pick up your pet’s stool without leaving a large amount of residue on the grass. A small amount of mucous over your dog’s poop can be a normal finding, but mucous-coated stool could indicate GI inflammation. Changes in your pup’s poop frequency, texture, or appearance could indicate an underlying health problem. Many puppies are born with intestinal parasites, which can cause loose stool or diarrhea. Ensure to bring your puppy for regular veterinary visits, which include testing their stool for intestinal parasites. Intestinal parasites can cause other signs, including weight loss, bloody stool, lethargy, diarrhea, a rounded abdomen, and dark, tarry stools. Other clues that your pup’s poop color, frequency, or amount are abnormal include:
- Changes in stool color (i.e., green, black, red, grey, yellow, or white)
- Lack of a bowel movement or decreased frequency, which can indicate intestinal blockage
- Firm, hard stools, which can be an indication of constipation
- Diarrhea, watery stool
- Greasy poop
- A sudden increase in frequency
How do I know when my puppy needs to poop?
Most puppies will have the urge to poo approximately 30 minutes following a meal. Potty training takes time and patience, so during the first few weeks of your puppy’s life, it’s a good idea to take them out after sleeping, after your puppy eats, and every hour they are awake. Crate training in conjunction with housetraining provides a safe space for your puppy to retreat when unsupervised. Over time you will learn your puppy’s pooping cues and habits. Common indications your puppy needs to defecate include sniffing, circling, posturing, whining, pacing, and walking towards the door. Never punish your puppy for defecating indoors, and always provide ample praise or their favorite treat following an outdoor bowel movement so that they understand this is the desired behavior.
When should I take my puppy to a veterinarian?
Learning your puppy’s pooping habits and behaviors is key to being able to properly evaluate their overall health and determine when there is a problem, like an upset stomach. Infrequent defecations are rare in puppies and could indicate a medical emergency. Puppies who strain and suddenly stop defecating may be suffering from an intestinal blockage. Most puppies explore the world with their paws and mouths, and it is not uncommon for them to get into trouble by ingesting non-food items. Generally, if your puppy has increased or decreased the frequency of bowel movements, monitor them for 24 hours to see if they return to their normal pooping habits. However, immediately bring your puppy for a veterinary examination if you notice sudden changes in their bowel movements along with other concurrent signs, including:
- Unsuccessful attempts to vomit
- Bloated abdomen
- Pain or vocalizing when touching their abdomen
How can I support my puppy’s bowel movements?
Your dog’s bowel movements are a helpful way to monitor their overall health through all life stages. The amount and type of food can affect your puppy’s poop, so ensure to pay attention to changes in your dog’s defecation frequency before adding or removing anything from their diet. Tips for supporting your puppy’s digestive system health include:
- Bring your puppy for regular veterinary visits to ensure they are free from intestinal parasites, which can cause diarrhea and other illnesses.
- Never abruptly change your dog’s diet; when introducing a new food or changing their diet, slowly transition to the new diet over a period of 2-3 weeks.
- Feed your puppy an AAFCO-approved complete and balanced diet labeled for their life stage to ensure they receive the proper nutrition for organ growth and function.
- Add a probiotic, like Native Pet’s Probiotic Powder, to their food to support their gut flora. Probiotics can also help reset the gastrointestinal system during and after acute diarrhea episodes.
- Pets who suffer from constipation may require extra fiber in their diet. Native Pet’s Pumpkin Powder can help promote regular bowel movements for your puppy.
- Provide your puppy with regular exercise and playtime.
For more information on your puppy’s health, check out the Native Pet blog.