Q: Hi Kasie, I remain concerned about my dog’s constipated stools. I’ve used the palm oil and the RX Zyme but probably not as regularly as I should. And his stools stay hard as rocks. I know when I’m constipated it can be painful to eliminate so I worry about this for him.
By chance, one of my friends feed him kibble when he was at his house. I was worried but besides gas he produced the first normal stool I’ve seen.
I’m wondering if there is some kind of high quality kibble or grain/starch I could add to his raw food to help this situation. I remember there used to be a dry food that started with an S that were bags that you added liquid to and mixed with other food. Is there something like that I could add a little but to his raw food that might help?
Thanks as always!
A: He sure is one lucky dog for you to have rescued him! I hope he’s making strides with his SA program and doing well otherwise.
First, let me quickly mention that the suggestion of the Red Palm Oil was to improve his coat condition (when fed along with our Seaweed Blend) as well as adding a bit more fat in his diet to help him gain weight. The Rx Zymes were suggested to aid in his weight gain; digestive enzymes will help his body absorb more nutrition from his meals. Digestive enzymes would not typically be my first choice to help with constipation, specifically – though they can help with constipation when it is one of many GI symptoms related to chronic bowl disorders such as IBS/IBD.
Your inquiry has provided me with an opportunity to delve deeper into the topic of the raw fed dog and poop and I hope I can help you and others by posting this blog response.
Below please find photos of normal raw fed dog poop (I know, gross!! — but I hope it clearly illustrates what you are seeking to achieve). In the past, you fed a lot more vegetable matter and other things, and now we’re doing a different type of diet for him, which I think will work better for his long-term health. But because the diet I’ve recommended now is new to you — even as a long-time fresh foods feeder 🙂 — I think showing you some examples of what we’re aiming for when it comes to the perfect stool for a dog eating a species appropriate diet could be more helpful (I hope).
Here’s a simple You Tube video featuring a perfect, normal raw fed dog poop (close-up and in detail!). This stool i what you are aiming for and can expect when feeding a properly balanced raw fed diet:
Below you can see photos of ideal raw fed dog stool – ta da!
Dogs eating like your dog does currently, will produce stool that are:
- often white/lightly colored (may be gold in color after eating turkey)
- firm nuggets, these can be very hard sometimes
- small/very compact in size
- practically odorless
When it comes to categorizing “normal” for raw fed dogs – here are some things you should know:
Note: the recommendations and suggestions related to the different stool variability issues listed below are all given with the assumption that your dog is acting/feeling and behaving completely normally otherwise. Know how to check your dog’s vital signs (capillary refill, hydration, pulse, heart rate, temperature, color) to verify that they are stable and within normal range. If your dog is experiencing any of the below issues AND feeling/acting sick or unwell, or if your dog’s vital signs are not within normal range, please be sure to quickly seek the help of your trusted holistic veterinarian, or ER vet, if necessary!
- Sometimes you might see/find small bits of undigested bone in the stool. Don’t worry! This is commonly found even in normal and perfectly healthy wild canine/wolf & coyote scat; it is a natural result of your dog eating a variety of different bones. While of no concern when found *occasionally*, if you notice this very frequently/chronically, please speak to your raw mentor/nutritionist or a veterinarian that is very experienced in raw feeding, to seek advise and guidance.
- Occasional bouts of mucous casing covering the stool or slimy stools may occur. If it clears up in a few days, you don’t need to worry. It’s always best to let your animal’s body reestablish balance on their own, when possible and safe to do. Mucous covered stool just sometimes just happens, and under these circumstances, it’s not a big deal. Mucous covered stools may be caused by parasites or food allergies, too — but please don’t jump to conclusions and start treatment or make changes in the diet from an occasional event. Most veterinarians consider mucousy stools to be an indication of mild inflammation in the gut, which is usually self-limiting and does not require treatment, and this is true — so long as it’s transitory and occasional, I’d not be concerned about it.
- Parasites: if your dog has an extremely low load of parasites inhabiting the gut, this may actually be beneficial for them in certain ways. Some common parasites have shown to be protective/working as a natural preventive against autoimmune diseases and allergies (parasites can act as therapeutic modulators under specific circumstances). In this case, you may see mucous stools occur at specific periods during the lunar cycle; since the lifecycle of intestinal parasites can be influenced by the lunar cycle.
- Very occasionally, you may also find tiny streaks of red blood. So long as this is not a regular/daily occurrence or causing any other symptoms at all in your dog, this should not be of concern. If your dog has been experiencing diarrhea or straining, this will frequently happen, too — but even with no elimination issues, this may be an occasional finding that should not be of immediate alarm.
- Dogs (and other beings) that consume a varied menu plan and different types of foods at different meals, can have variable stool quality. For example, after a meal that contains a bit more than usual offal (liver, spleen, kidney), you can expect stools to be darker in color, looser, and even tarry looking. When a dog consumes a meal of very “boney” raw bones, they will have “bone turds” — these can be like little rocks, or they may crumble or be dusty. That’s ok.
- Dogs will usually eliminate 1x/day when eating a raw food diet. This is normal. If you feed 2x/day, they may eliminate 2x/day. If your dog eliminates only every other day, I would not be concerned or make adjustments. In fact, some people feed their dogs according to the “gorge & fast” method, and these dogs might only eliminate a few times a week. So, as long as they are able to evacuate the bowls without difficulty or a lot of straining (some straining is normal), and they are otherwise acting perfectly healthy, happy and normal; it’s ok if they eliminate less frequently than every day.
- Keep in mind, stool quality is not always directly related to what they have eaten. When your dog travels or experiences additional stress, elimination habits, quality of their stool, and frequency can often change.
- Firm poops provide the added benefit of pressing on the anal glands as the fecal matter is passing through the anus and this is another benefit of feeding a raw diet — most raw fed dogs will never need their anal glands expressed or have issues with them, especially when eating a properly composed raw fed diet and when their stools are very firm.
Next, below please find a photo of the character of stool produced after a dog consumes a very bone rich meal – this is ok, too!
Now, if it is softer or bigger than the photos above — this indicates that he’s actually getting too much inappropriate foods in the diet (like veggies, grains, fiber, etc). It may be that now that you’re feeding a more species appropriate diet that you are not expecting the stools to look a certain way, I wonder — ??
For example..a typical kibble fed dog’s stool will looks like this:
To compare — here are some photos of wild canine stools (scat). These images show examples of healthy, natural, variable, “correct” stool for dogs that have good digestion and consume what nature provides (small, whole prey, fresh or decaying/fermented meat and scavenged bone-in pieces of meat + other things, like soil, small amounts of herbs/vegetation, etc) . These types of stools are precisely what we are seeking to achieve when feeding a raw diet in our domesticated canine family members.
Making an adjustment to the primary components of the diet (ratio of meat/bone/organ) to include more muscle meat is usually the first thing we do with dogs that are constipated. In the raw diet, we have a saying that, “liver loosens stool and bones bind”. It’s easy to remember this way what you may need more or less of in your individual dog’s diet.
In the case of too hard stool or constipation, generally, it works really well to simply add more boneless muscle meat to each meal, possibly even a bit more organ like liver or spleen. Go slowly (especially with the liver/spleen), and adjust accordingly until your dog produces an ideal stool.
While our Grinds and Formulas are created with a balanced ca:ph ratio, the safe ca:ph range for dogs can be anywhere between 1:1 and 2:1 for nutritional balance long-term. Each individual will absorb nutrients slightly differently, and you can use stool quality as a guide to determine the best ratio of these important nutrients for your own dog.
So, this means that it is OK to take one of our balanced grinds or formulas that is causing imperfect stools in your individual dog and simply add a little more muscle meat and/or a little more organs, as needed — adjust accordingly until you start to regularly see that he’s producing an ideal stool. When you determine what amount of added boneless meat or offal gets you the stool quality and elimination results you want for him, please check in with me so we can ensure it is safe to do so long-term.
If adding more meat + offal doesn’t do the trick, you can also try adding cultured foods such as yogurt, kefir or a probiotic supplement to the daily meals. Cultured foods can help with constipation by balancing the gut microflora, and it would be a good idea to try this, if needed.
Dogs have zero nutritional need for carbohydrates or plant matter, and adding thee foods to the diet is problematic long-term and possibly dangerous when not done very strategically. Insoluble fiber in the form of feather/hide and fur provide ideal nutritional balance to a carnivore’s diet, and if you are not feeding these foods as part of the diet, then you very well may need to look to adding in some other form of fiber. In place of feather/hide/fur, there are a lot of options available, but I think are the better choices for added fiber include the following:
- low-glycemic green veggies, pureed/raw or mashed/cooked (specifically, raw chicory and dandelion leaves are prebiotic foods that feed/support the healthy microbe in their gut. They are both added routinely to our SFRAW Veggie Mixes and Vitality Blend)
- no salt/onion-free fermented vegetables (cruciferous are ideal: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips)
- organic psyllium husk powder (1/2-tsp for 10 pounds of body weight), carob root powder/flour or organic coconut fiber (1-tsp for 10 pounds of body weight), once or twice a day is one of our usual “go to” options. These supplements work great and are well tolerated for most animals, providing a source of added fiber to the diet with a very low risk for side-effects or additional problems. Our Healthy Powder contains both carob and psyllium, but you can also buy these separately (raw organic carob powder or organic psyllium husk powder).
- organic potato starch, plantain flour, green banana flour are all supplemental prebiotic foods that provide insoluble fiber (resistant starch) that function to feed the healthy microbes living in the GI system.
- Prebiotics support beneficial bacteria that exist naturally in the gut, or that are being added via supplemental probiotics (cultured food, soil, supplements). Resistant starch can help with irregular bowels by providing food to the population of healthy gut microflora – without them, the beneficial bacteria in your gut may not flourish or survive to benefit your animal.
- We sell most of these at SFRAW (see links above); the flours are often used by humans that incorporate them as an easy to use, high quality organic prebiotic supplemental food. They can also be added to the dogs/cat diet, just be sure to use very small amounts in a bit of water. For humans (150-lb adult); most people would start by adding 1-2 TBS/day. So, for a dog or cat — it’s going to be just enough to regulate the bowel, and this may be just a small pinch added to each meal or start with a larger dog with 1-2 tsp for each meal. Some animals may require more though, and do quite well on a larger amount of this supplement. Add and adjust according to the response/reaction you see in your pet and simply use whatever amount they require in order to produce healthy stools. Adding fiber in the form of a prebiotic food/resistant starch can really help some to maintain healthy gut function.
- some nutritionists support the idea that consuming the less desirable parts of the animal, specifically gristle and connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, etc.), acts in a similar manner for both humans and dogs/cats to the prebiotics and resistant starches.
Remember: for dogs/cats, the ideal source for providing fiber/resistant starch is ingesting raw feather/hide and fur.
Grass as a prebiotic? I have my own theory that grass eating can have a similar impact on the microbiome, digestive function & flora for dogs/cats, but this is just my theory. I have not read or seen this suggested elsewhere, and my theory is not backed by any research. Letting your dog graze on fresh, clean grasses (free from foxtails and chemical sprays) is an excellent way for them to forage and ingest what they need to stay healthy — so long as they are selective about the grasses they will eat (usually after rain/sun when the grass is clean & green!) and they don’t have go overboard and cause an obstruction (I have heard of one dog that did this – most would never eat to the point of requiring surgery or veterinary care!) — let them eat grass! They may be providing the best food to their own healthy gut bacteria! Tending to their internal garden 🙂
Please, please, please – do not add any kibble or dry food to his life. It’s the last thing he needs! It would be like a person consuming harmful, nutrient deficient fast foods daily (for example, Coke-Cola, french fries cooked in trans fats, and factory-farmed, high heat burgers on glutenous white bread with high-fructose corn-syrup sweetened ketchup – oh my!) when your body is dealing with an immune dysfunction or inflammatory illness, such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Goodness — we know that processed, unnatural foods can never promote healing and sustain true wellness/health, especially in someone in a state of compromised health.
IMO, there are NO “good” or “high quality” kibbles — truly, honestly, and matter of fact — while some might be slightly better in some ways than others, in the end, it’s all highly processed and filled with ingredients that are inappropriate for your dog/cat’s systems; sold to us using clever marketing and mis-truths. The ingredients used in these processed food like substances (I just can’t call it food!) are harmful, and can be very dangerous to our animals, and it’s just never worth the risk to include in the diet in any amount — especially long-term.
So, if you want to consider adding a fiber such as the psyllium husk powder, or carob powder (little bit) or a little more veggies to his meals, this is an option you can try that would not harm him. But usually just adding a bit more meat, possible meat + organs, does the trick to help with constipation in your raw fed dog (or cat).
Kibble poop is something we are used to now, so it has become normalized/expected, but it’s not at all healthy or normal. Check out the photos posted here of the good poop, perfect poop and bone poop – this is normal for dogs eating what they are supposed to eat — and you can also see what wild canine stool looks like (and how it is similar to raw fed dog’s stools) to understand what the fecal matter of a canine should look like, ideally.
Did his poop look like any of the attached photos?
I hope this helps!
Much love always,