By The Farmer's Dog | July 21, 2022

The quality of your dog’s poop can tell you a lot about their digestion and general health (and we’ve got a a handy article and chart that can tell you exactly what to look for when you’re scooping). But what about frequency? How often should a dog or puppy poop? 

While there’s no one-frequency-fits-all answer about how often your dog should be pooping, there are a few guidelines that you can use to determine what’s ok and what might be a sign of digestive trouble. 

What’s a normal interval between poops?

Poop frequency can vary by the age of your dog, their diet, activity level, and other factors. But for most adult dogs, a bowel movement a day keeps the vet away. Once a day is standard, though some healthy adult dogs are known to go twice, or even three times, a day. 

Puppies, who are typically eating several small meals a day, poop more—sometimes four to five times per day. Similarly, young dogs can often poop more than three times a day. Old dogs, however, might go the occasional day without a bowel movement due to a more sedentary lifestyle and less optimally functioning digestion. 

Generally, dogs need to relieve themselves 8–12 hours after digesting their previous meal. Dogs often (but not always) poop shortly after waking or roughly half an hour after eating. If you’re feeding your dog two meals a day,  they may defecate twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening. If you’re feeding your dog smaller, more regular meals, they might poop more often but their stools will be slightly smaller. 

The key takeaway here is that most adult dogs should be pooping at least once a day, and on a fairly consistent schedule. Perhaps you have a once-a-day pooper, or maybe a thrice-a-day pooper, and that’s fine (except, perhaps, for the human tasked with scooping the poop). If your dog skips a poop, or has diarrhea over the course of a 24-hour period, but otherwise seems fine, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if your once-a-day pooper suddenly starts defecating several times a day for more than a few days running, or doesn’t poop at all over 48 hours, something’s not quite right and you should investigate possible causes of the change. 

Causes of not pooping for more than 24–48 hours

There are many reasons your dog’s poop schedule might be disrupted. 

Most likely, they’re constipated. Constipation in dogs can be caused by many things, some of them benign, others life-threatening. Common causes of constipation include inadequate hydration or fiber in the diet, taking certain medications, stress, anal gland issues, and physical inactivity. A poop stoppage can may also be related to a blockage, or another more serious medical condition. If your pup hasn’t pooped for more than 48 hours, or appears uncomfortable, lethargic, or lacks their usual appetite, a vet consult is in order. Read more about the causes of constipation and how to help matters here

On the other hand, if your dog has recently had diarrhea, it’s possible that they won’t need to defecate for a couple of days. One or two rounds of diarrhea may be nothing to worry about and may be a sign that your dog at something they shouldn’t have—but if diarrhea or soft stool persists for more than two days, see your vet. 

What to do if your dog isn’t pooping

If your dog has gone a day without pooping, take stock of anything that’s changed in their diet or their environment. Have they been under more stress than usual? Is there a chance they got their paws or jaws on something sketchy? If nothing seems seriously amiss, just keep an eye on them and make sure they seem comfortable. Ensure they have enough water. You can place additional water bowls in convenient places or, if you think your dog may need some enticement, add a hint of bone broth to the water. You can also try taking them for a nice long walk. Exercise gets the bowel moving and this might be just the boost they need. You might also need to add more fiber to your dog’s diet. An excellent option here is to try feeding them a small amount of plain canned pumpkin—it’s loaded with fiber and beneficial nutrients, and is a safe option for getting things moving. 

Don’t ignore constipation that lasts longer than a few days, though. It’s a common issue in dogs, but if left untreated, constipation can cause serious complications.  

If constipation is persistent, and your vet has ruled out a serious underlying condition, it’s worth stepping back and looking at your dog’s diet as a whole. Kibble is an ultra-processed—and ultra-dry—diet. Fresh, whole food provides healthy fiber, and the natural moisture of the meat and vegetable ingredients. 

What to do if your dog is pooping too often

If you’re just getting used to your dogs potty-time routines, you may be surprised by a second or third poop in a single day. If those poops are healthy looking—that is, if they are firm, easily scoopable, and not overwhelmingly stinky—there’s likely nothing to worry about (aside from not having enough poop bags). 

If their stool is soft, or they have watery diarrhea, you may want to retrace your steps and think about whether they snuck some “non-approved” food earlier that day, or if their diet changed. While you’re in the process of transitioning your dog’s food, they may experience some mild, temporary stomach upset. This should last a few days, depending on your dog, and how rapidly you’re transitioning.  As long as your dog seems fine otherwise, this “transition poop” shouldn’t be a cause for concern. 

In general, if diarrhea lasts for a day, or a little longer, it is likely nothing to worry about.

If diarrhea lasts for more two days, however, you should speak to your vet–they may want to perform a fecal exam to identify possible intestinal parasites, or abdominal X-rays and ultrasound to screen and visualize the gastrointestinal tract.

Pay attention to anything else that may be out of the ordinary between rounds of poop, as it’s often the other symptoms that accompany diarrhea that can signal trouble. If your dog is refusing to eat and/or drink water for more than 24 hours, appears lethargic, or is showing other signs like vomiting, it’s cause for a vet visit. Your dog can quickly become dehydrated, so it’s better to consult your vet sooner rather than later to get to the bottom of the problem. 

The bottom line

There’s no right or wrong number when it comes to the daily poop tally, but your dog’s poop schedule should be fairly consistent. If you notice changes in your pooch’s pooping patterns, or changes in poop quality, pay attention to what else is going on with their health and behavior. 

Get in touch with your vet if you notice any of the following:

  • Your dog’s poop schedule seems off kilter for more than 48 hours
  • Blood or excessive mucus in your dog’s stool
  • They vomit more than twice
  • They seem uncomfortable or cry out in pain
  • They’re not eating 
  • At-home interventions like increasing hydration or a dietary change aren’t soothing their digestion

Untreated constipation or diarrhea can be painful and can result in serious problems for your dog. If the digestive upset is being caused by another underlying health issue, your dog needs to have that problem identified and treated.