The causes of orange stool in dogs can be several, but some circumstances may warrant more attention than others. Sometimes, as dog owners, we must put on our investigative hats and engage in some detective work. What did the dog eat recently? Did he eat anything out of the ordinary? Is he displaying any new, unusual symptoms? How long has he had orange stools? Upon seeing the vet, the vet will ask several questions and this information can help put together important puzzle pieces that can help the vet come to a more accurate diagnosis.
Causes of Orange Stools in Dogs
While it’s not a pleasant task, keeping an eye on a dog’s stools can help dog owners keep tabs on their dogs’ health. Dog owners should learn what normal stools should look like, so that they can readily recognize signs of trouble and address them correctly.
Countless dog owners let their dogs outside a doggy door or in the yard alone to potty, and never realize their dogs are having problems such as having worms, mucus and blood in the stool, diarrhea and oddly colored stools, at least until their dogs develop more widespread, generalized symptoms. Once at the vet, these dog owners may fail to provide important pieces of information which can be important for a correct diagnosis.
If you have noticed orange stools in your dog, most likely you are an attentive owner, which is great, considering that you have a head start. However, the causes of orange stools in dogs can be various, and therefore, it’s not always easy finding the underlying culprit. As mentioned, going to the source of the problem may require some investigation with the help of a veterinarian. So play it safe and have your dog see the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
In general, if the dog has only one orange stool episode with no other accompanying symptoms, the orange stool is most likely not a major cause for worry. More troublesome is dealing with repeated bouts of orange stools, especially if the dog is showing other worrisome symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting.
A Matter of Food
Sometimes, orange stools in dogs may be due to something the dog has been eating. If the dog developed orange stools after eating a new food or new treats, this can be due to these foods. Some dog foods or treats contain artificial colors (red and yellow) which can cause stools of an odd color.
Natural sources of pigment may be found in foods containing betacarotene which comprise a compound known as carotenoid. This may too contribute to orange stools when these foods are eaten in sufficient quantities. Carotenoids are commonly found in many types of vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squash.
Sometimes, dogs may eat the oddest things and these may cause temporary color changes in the stool. For instance, if a dog ate crayons, and chewed on them enough, this can temporary tinge a dog’s stools in a different color other than brown. Fortunately, children’s crayons are not toxic to dogs, although they may cause digestive upset.
A Case of Colitis
Colitis in dogs may occur for several reasons, such as recent dietary changes, dietary indiscretions, presence of parasites, viral or bacterial infections or stress.
While dogs don’t have to balance their checkbooks or go through divorces, their life can be multifaceted with a variety of stressors. Perhaps, a new dog moved in the neighborhood and is barking all day, a new baby is in the house or there was a recent move.
Dogs can’t tell us verbally that they are stressed, but many times the first indicator is tummy trouble, which leads to a bout of colitis.
As the term implies, colitis is simply the inflammation of the dog’s colon, the last part of the dog’s intestine. It typically causes increased bowel movements, with initially a large volume of stools, followed then by diarrhea with mucus and perhaps a few drops of blood at the end, and afterward, straining to just produce a few drops (which is often confused with constipation).
The stool of dogs with colitis starts off a bit soft, and then turns pudding-like and gelatinous as it progresses. Orange stools may be seen and this often due to the lack of sufficient bile staining the dog’s stool.
Under normal circumstances, bile is added in the small intestine and then, as the stool transits to the large intestine and then out, the bile is absorbed and will turn stool into its popular brown color. However, in a dog with colitis, since the stools pass through the intestinal tract too rapidly, they don’t have time to turn brown and rather remain on the orange side.
A Gallbladder Issue
As seen, when a dog’s stools are orange, it’s often suggestive of an issue with bile. In the above case of colitis, the rapid transit of stools prevents them from absorbing sufficient bile to tinge them brown. Now, another possibility for orange stools is an actual lack of bile production which can happen when the dog’s body fails to make enough of it. This can happen with a gallbladder issue. Let’s take a closer insight on what happens.
Bile is a yellow substance that is produced by the dog’s liver and is stored by the gallbladder, a small hollow organ that sits just under the dog’s liver. When a dog is digesting food, the liver contracts causing the gallbladder to empty through the bile duct into the dog’s small intestines, where it travels through the large intestines and then out in the dog’s stool.
When the bile duct becomes blocked though, the yellow bile fails to be produced preventing it from being absorbed by the dog’s feces. This, therefore, prevents the dog’s stool from assuming its characteristic brown color and orange stools may be the result.
The medical term for an obstruction of the bile duct, which prevents the normal flow of bile from the liver to the duodenum, is cholestasis. Blockages of the dog’s bile duct preventing bile from not making its way into the intestines, may occur as a result of presence of gallstones, inflammation, a gallbladder mucocele, gallbladder cysts or tumors.
Destruction of Red Blood Cells
Sometimes, orange stools may be indicative of hemolysis, the destruction of red blood cells in the body. This can be seen in autoimmune conditions conditions such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia. The stools in such a case become discolored due to the presence of hemoglobin being released from the massive destruction of red blood cells. Affected dogs are typically weak, have pale gums and are very lethargic.
Problems with the Liver
In some cases, bright orange stools in dogs can be due to underlying problems with the dog’s liver. Problems with the production of bile occurring secondarily to liver disease may likely be the underlying cause for the orange stool.
Liver disease in dogs may stem from a variety of causes including infections, toxins, the natural process of aging and even cancer. Because the liver plays a big role in the dog’s body, its malfunction can lead to a build-up of toxins in the dog’s bloodstream.
As liver disease progresses, affected dogs typically develop lack of appetite, weakness, vomiting. If the vet suspects a problem with the dog’s liver, he or she may request blood work, x-rays and an ultrasound.