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How to firm up your dog’s stool 

Confused dog worried

Reviewed by: Dr. David Tittle,BVetMed, CertVA, GPCert(WVA&CPM), MRCVS

Our dogs drink from puddles, lick up ice cream from the sidewalk, and happily scarf down dropped snacks. It is inevitable that something is going to disagree with their stomach and they will have a bout of diarrhea or loose stools. While the most likely reason for your dog’s diarrhea and loose stools is that they have eaten something bad, it might also be showing that their body is trying to adapt to a new diet, that they have an illness or infection, or that they are having a stress response. Dogs can respond to stressful situations like a change in household, boarding, separation stress, or a vet visit with a bout of diarrhea.  

Diarrhea that persists for more than a few days or diarrhea with other symptoms such as fever, lethargy, or discomfort should always be a reason for a vet visit. 

In addition to veterinary help, there are a few ways you can try at home to firm up their stool. 

Table of contents:

What’s ‘normal’? 

While there might be some variation from dog to dog, a normal stool should be firm, brown, log-shaped, and easy to pick up. Veterinarians recommend taking note of your dog’s regular output, so you will know if anything is off.  

What’s wrong with loose stool? 

It’s clear that diarrhea is the body’s reaction to intestinal distress, but is there a problem with very soft stool? This is stool that might be log shaped or form a pile, but it cannot be picked up cleanly. There are a number of reasons why your dog’s stool might be soft.  

Most often, soft stool is a sign of mild gastrointestinal upset. They ate something that didn’t agree with them, were given too many treats or fatty table scraps, or have an infection or illness. Puppies frequently get upset stomachs that can result in soft or loose stools. 

If you notice your dog producing more stool than normal or very large stools in comparison to the amount of food they eat, it could be an indication that they are eating low quality, highly processed dog food. Foods that are mostly made of carbohydrates, poor protein sources, and lots of filler grains are harder for your dog to digest and lead to large amounts of waste being produced. 

Because it can be a sign that something is not right with your pup, you want to offer dietary changes that can help firm up their stool. Even if they seem otherwise fine, soft stool can lead to other health problems. Dogs have two sacs on the sides of their anus that secrete a smelly fluid when they poop. If a dog’s stool is too soft, these glands will not get expressed and could become impacted and infected. Firm stools are important for the regular emptying of these anal sacs. 

How to help

Dogs have a shorter length of intestine than humans, and much of the digestive process has to happen in the stomach, so they benefit from high quality foods that are easy to break down and leave less waste to be eliminated. A bland food diet is a good first step if your dog has diarrhea. Rice and plain cooked chicken are gentle on the stomach and low in fiber, so they bind in the colon and allow stool to form rather than causing a watery bowel movement. 

Feed dry kibble. Dry kibble contains less moisture than canned food, and it is formulated to have a complete nutritional balance that is easy to digest. One cause of soft stool is feeding a low-quality dog food. Improving the quality of your dog’s food will go a long way to helping firm up and reduce the size of your dog’s stool as there will be fewer waste by-products. Be sure your dog food contains a real meat source as the first ingredient (not by-products or meat ‘meal’). Check that it has a limited list of ingredients to minimize the chances that your dog will have stomach upset or allergies. Most commercial dog foods have limited fat, but if your dog gets a lot of people food, too much fat in their diet could be causing the loose stool.  

Fiber adds bulk to the stool and absorbs water. In addition to that found in dog food, good sources of fiber for your dog are pumpkin (fresh or canned, but if using canned be sure it is pure pumpkin only, not pumpkin pie filling, which contains sugar and other spices), small chunks of apples, carrots, or cooked sweet potato.  

Keep up the exercise. Daily exercise is important to keep your dog’s bowels moving smoothly and prevent stool from sitting in the colon where it absorbs excess water and becomes soft. 

Diarrhea can cause your dog to become dehydrated. Be sure to have plenty of fresh water available. 

Pre and probiotics are beneficial microbes found in the gut biome of all animals. They fight infection, help with digestion, and work to maintain overall health and wellness. Your veterinarian might suggest using a probiotic to help restore the gut balance in your dog when they have diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems. Probiotics can also be a part of your healthy dog’s wellness routine if they are prone to stomach upset and diarrhea. 

Your dog might be experiencing diarrhea associated with stressful events. A move to a new house, time in a boarding facility, or separation stress can all lead to stomach distress and diarrhea. ElleVet Sciences Calm & Comfort CBD + CBDA chews can help your fur friend manage situational stress.  

Go slow with food changes 

Whenever you make changes to your dog’s diet it can result in stomach upset or digestive problems. Start by introducing a small amount of the new food into their regular meals, and over the course of a few days gradually increase the amount of new food until you have made a complete change.  

The bottom line

It is a fact of life with most dogs that you will have to help them manage a bout of diarrhea or loose stools. By paying attention to their normal eliminations, you can quickly respond when something is ‘off’. Usually, a simple diet change will help improve the digestive problem for your pup and firm up your dog’s stool. Remember to consult your veterinarian if digestive problems occur frequently, last a long time, or if they are combined with other health concerns.