Your Dog Is Producing Orange Dog Poop: Should You Be Worried?
If your dog’s poo is orange, that's probably quite scary. Don’t worry! We will break down everything you need to know about orange dog poo, from potential causes to a step-by-step process on what to do if it happens.
Ready to learn more?
Why Is Your Dog's Poop Orange
So your dog has gone to the toilet, and their stool is orange. There are a variety of reasons why this could be. Let’s go through them one by one!
Your dog has a natural orange hue to their poop
If you have a new rescue or are new to dog ownership, there’s something you need to know about poo. While poo is an excellent indicator of your dog’s health, individual differences exist from one dog to the next. Depending on diet and physiology, some dogs, particularly young dogs, may have a slightly more orangey brown poo than others.
However, when I say a slight orange hue, I mean slight. Dog poo should predominantly be brown.
Your dog has eaten something orange
Pumpkin, carrots, squash, and sweet potato are all great complex carbs you can give your dog to boost their fibre and nutrient intake.
Pumpkin, in particular, is good for dogs with constipation or diarrhoea.
“When animals have diarrhoea, they can lose important electrolytes, including potassium, which puts them at risk of dehydration. Pumpkin happens to be an excellent source of potassium, with 505 milligrams of naturally occurring potassium per cup.” - Vet Practice (1)
But do you know what all of those root vegetables have in common? Yep, they are bright orange due to carotenoids.
Carotenoids are naturally occurring chemicals in these foods that give them their pigment. They have health benefits too. Improved eye and cardiovascular health are just two benefits you can expect from these fluorescent orange pigments. (2)
So if you periodically give your dog a pumpkin-based treat or shredded carrot in a homemade dog food diet, you can expect your dog's poop to be orange or have orange bits. This is nothing to panic about, it’s a classic example of what goes in must come out.
Your dog has inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD is a painful condition where the bowel and intestines are inflamed due to an allergic reaction or other stimuli. It can happen if a dog eats too much fatty food or accidentally ingests spice. It can also be caused by bacterial infections or parasites.
IBD often means that your dog can’t absorb nutrients from food, and that’s what causes colour changes in their poo. (3)
If your dog has IBD, you’ll also see the following symptoms:
If your dog has IBD, take them to the vet to begin their treatment. Most likely, your dog will be administered a course of antibiotics to rebalance the microbiome in the gut environment. If the case is severe, they'll also give your dog some steroids.
Your dog has a gallbladder obstruction
Let’s talk about the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a tiny sac that sits by the liver. Its primary function is to create bile. Bile is essential for breaking down fats in the intestines into lipids that your dog can use.
So when there is a gallbladder obstruction and bile can’t get to the intestines to do its job, certain food molecules aren’t digested properly. Bile has a distinct colour that contributes to the colour of normal poop. If it's not present, seeing a dog's poo change colour is common. Orange is one of those colours.
There are many potential reasons why the gallbladder may be obstructed, from cancer and pancreatitis to liver scarring and parasites. We won’t go into detail with all of them. But the most common is a condition called Gallbladder mucocele.
“Gallbladder mucocele causes obstruction of the gallbladder's storage capacity due to the formation of a thick, mucoid bile mass inside the gallbladder, impairing its ability to function.” - PetMD (4)
It’s more common in some dog breeds than others, namely Shetland Sheepdogs, Miniature Schnauzers and Cocker Spaniels, when they reach a certain age.
The frustrating thing about gallbladder mucocele is that it can be asymptomatic. If there are symptoms, there are likely to be:
If you suspect your dog has an obstructed gallbladder, contact your vet immediately for investigation. They’ll likely do a scan to check for gallbladder stones or mucocele, as well as take blood tests.
The treatment will depend on the underlying cause.
Your dog has hemolysis
Hemolysis is a type of anaemia. Hemolysis happens when your dog has a condition called autoimmune hemolytic anaemia.
Let’s break that all down.
Anaemia is when your dog has too few red blood cells or too little hemoglobin (the red pigment in blood cells that carries oxygen), or both.
Autoimmune hemolytic anaemia is when your dog's immune system attacks and destroys red blood cells. (5)
So why does the hemolysis of red blood cells cause orange dog poo?
The by product of destroying blood cells is a build up of a chemical called bilirubin. Bilirubin in excess appears yellow and can change the colour of your dog's poop to orange in the beginning. The poop will turn yellow in extreme cases.
Other symptoms of autoimmune hemolytic anaemia include:
If you suspect your dog has hemolytic anaemia, contact your vet for a blood test. They’ll determine the root cause and start a course of treatment.
If an infection causes the condition, it's possible to recover fully.
If there's no underlying cause and your dog has an autoimmune disease, they may need immunosuppressive medication for the rest of their years.
Your dog has liver disease
So the last few causes we ran through are all quite severe. But I save the scariest till last.
Liver disease is notoriously high risk in dogs. The liver is one of the most vital organs, and its failure can spell bad news for any dog of any age.
There are many potential reasons why your dog has liver disease. Likewise, some dog breeds are more prone than others. (6)
Reasons for liver failure include:
So why does liver disease cause orange dog poop?
Your dog's liver is vital in the breakdown and processing of "toxic" chemicals in the body. For example, bilirubin which we mentioned in the hemolysis section, is usually taken care of by the liver. Bile and bilirubin can build up in your dog's system if the liver fails. These chemicals have a yellow hue and can colour your dog's poop.
Other symptoms of liver disease include:
If you suspect your dog’s liver is failing, don’t delay. Get them to a vet immediately!
Is Orange Dog Poop Bad?
Whether orange dog poop is bad depends greatly on the underlying reason behind it.
As you can see, there are various scary reasons why your dog's poop may be orange. But if they’ve just eaten a lot of pumpkin, you should not have anything to worry about.
So it can be bad, but it depends on the situation.
Related: Why Does Your Dog Eat Their Poop?
What Does Orange Poop Mean? How To Tell The Cause
We’ve gone through the potential causes. Is there a visual way to tell the cause of the colour change? Here is a short summary of what to look out for:
What Colour Should Your Dog’s Poo Be?
Your dog’s poo should be brown. But a wide variation of browns is acceptable in the scale of dog poo colours. (We’re getting nerdy now).
Related: The Best Dog Poop Bag Holders Australia.
Depending on diet and individual differences, some dogs may have lighter caramel brown poo, and others may have a deeper chocolate-coloured poo.
Related: The Best Biodegradable Poo Bags Australia.
And yes, some dogs have poo that skews more orange when compared to the stools of other mutts. But bright orange poo should always raise alarm bells and should be investigated.
Orange Poop In Puppies - Should You Worry?
If your puppy has orange poo, should you instantly take them to the vet? Hold your horses! It could be a dietary thing, but puppies also have a different quirk.
Weaning puppies tend to have lighter-coloured poo because of the milk they are consuming. Lighter input, lighter output. And that can appear a little more orangey than an adult’s poo.
Related: Can You Compost Dog Poo?
That said, you know your dog best. If your puppy's poop has drastically changed colour to orange, or if you see any other symptoms I've listed in this article, contact a vet for a full investigation.
Related: The Best Dog Poo Composting Systems Australia.
The conditions we covered earlier are dangerous to all dogs but especially harmful to puppies whose immune systems aren't fully developed.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Is Pooping Orange?
If your dog’s poo is orange, the first thing is to avoid panicking! Instead, follow this process to get to the bottom of the strange stool conundrum:
- Take a photo
Why on earth should you have photos of your dog’s stool on your phone? Even if it's unusual, an image will be invaluable information for your vet. It'll also help you inspect the poop more if you're out and in a rush.
- Smell the poop
Pleasant process, isn’t it? Unfortunately, you need to know if your dog’s poo smells fouler than usual. Don’t worry, you won’t have to stick your face in it to smell it properly. If the poo is unusually foul-smelling, it’ll hit you instantly. What I’m saying is avoid holding your breath. The smell of your dog’s poo is important information.
- Identify the consistency of the poo
Is the poo loose like diarrhoea? Does it have a mucus film? If it does have a mucus film, what colour is it? These markers can give you clues as to what is happening, or at least provide context to your vet.
- Think about your dog’s behaviour in the last couple of days
What has your dog eaten? Has their appetite been strange at all? What about their drinking habits? Are they drinking more water than normal? Think of any potential behaviour markers that something might be up.
- Check for consistency of colour
Now for the colour part. Is the poo mostly brown with orange streaks? Is it bright orange or dull orange? Does it have orange bits in it? Make a note.
- Contact your vet
If you’ve ruled out eating an orange root vegetable as the cause of the orange poo, it’s time to involve your vet. Tell them all the information you’ve gathered about the stool and any behaviour changes you’ve noticed over the last few days. With the information you’ve given, your vet should get you a swift appointment to start investigating what’s going on. It could be nothing, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
- Keep your dog hydrated
Keep your pooch hydrated with plenty of water as you travel to your vet for investigation. This is especially important if your dog has excessive thirst (polydipsia) and/or diarrhoea. Dehydration can be fatal to dogs.
My Final Thoughts
So there you have it! Everything you could ever want to know about orange dog poo.
The main takeaway is this: if it doesn’t appear to be a dietary change, contact your vet. After some tests, you’ll get to the bottom of the colour change and stand a chance of your dog making a full recovery.
- “Top Health Benefits of Pumpkin for Dogs and Cats”. Vet Practice. Retrieved February 27, 2023. thevetpractice.com.au/blog/why-pumpkin-is-good-for-dogs-and-cats
- Anthony, K. September 18, 2018. “Carotenoids: Everything You Need to Know”. Healthline. Retrieved February 27, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/carotenoids
- Llera, R. Williams, K. Ward, E. “Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs”. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved February 27, 2023. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/inflammatory-bowel-disease-in-dogs
- “Gallbladder Obstruction in Dogs”. July 1, 2008. PetMD. Retrieved February 27, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/digestive/c_dg_gallbladder_mucocele
- Yuill, C. Llera, R. “Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs”. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved February 27, 2023. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/autoimmune-hemolytic-anemia-in-dogs
- Kvamme, J. July 27, 2016. “Liver Disease in Dogs”. PetMD. Retrieved February 27, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/digestive/liver-disease-dogs