Have you ever been shocked by the things coming out of your sweet little four-legged friend? Horrified dog owners tell me, “It’s like his poop is encased in jelly or plastic or something! What is that???” Formed stool with clear mucus is a sign of mild to moderate problems in the colon.
But when your dog’s poop looks like strawberry jelly it’s a sign of a massive intestinal problem and is cause for immediate concern. The red jelly-looking substance is excess water, mucus and blood from an inflamed intestine. Dogs with diarrhea that literally looks like strawberry jam usually feel pretty bad, too.
Different Kinds of Jelly-Like Dog Poop (Infographic)
Canine Colitis (or Why Your Dog is Pooping Jelly)
The number one underlying reason for dog poop that looks like jelly is colitis. When the colon, or large intestine, becomes inflamed, stool consistency becomes looser.
That’s because one of the colon’s jobs is to absorb water from partly digested food. When it’s inflamed, it doesn’t do that job as well.
The colon also normally produces a bit of mucus to help stool pass through smoothly. Mucus production becomes excessive when a dog has colitis. You will probably see mucus as strands of goo on or mixed with the poop.
As I mentioned before, it’s not uncommon to see formed “logs” of feces sort of encased in mucus.
When there is excess water in the stool mixed with excess mucus, the poop looks like jelly of various colors
Common Causes of Colitis in Dogs
- Toxic reaction to bee sting or other envenomation
- Stress and anxiety
- Infectious diseases including viruses (like parvo), bacteria, parasites
- Eating bad stuff is a super common cause of colitis in dogs. Food, toxins, and even non-food items like dirt and gravel.
- Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), liver disease, pancreatitis and kidney disease.
- Adverse reaction to medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and many others.
Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs
- Increased frequency of passing stool
- Increased urgency to pass stool
- Straining to poop with only little squirts coming out
- Loose to watery stool
- Mucus in or on the stool
- Sometimes streaks of blood mixed with stool
- Sometimes decreased appetite
- Rarely vomiting
- Rarely weight loss
In other words, colitis describes the type of diarrhea we see most often in our dogs. They have diarrhea, but they act fine in every other way. They’re still eating, drinking and moving around normally.
AHDS: Serious Cause of Strawberry Jam Dog Poop
There is a severe form of enteritis/colitis called acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome (AHDS). Veterinarians used to call this disease hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) but we’ve recently discovered the stomach is not usually involved, so we removed the “gastric” reference.
The cause of AHDS/HGE is unknown but around 50% of affected dogs have excessive Clostridium bacteria in their colon. Researchers also think it could be a hypersensitivity reaction to food or bacteria.
When a dog gets AHDS, inflammation in the first part of the intestine (small intestine) leads to the loss of a large amount of protein-rich fluid and blood loss into the intestine. That’s why AHDS/HGE creates a situation where dog poop looks like strawberry jelly.
The dog’s body tries to compensate for the blood and fluid that just leaked into the intestine by contracting the spleen. Since the spleen holds a lot of blood, it helps to compensate for intestinal losses.
But there is no replacement of the fluid that was leaked into the intestine. The net effect is one of decreased total body water and hemoconcentration. In common terms, a dog with AHDS gets sludgy blood which can’t carry oxygen and nutrients as well as well-hydrated blood.
Symptoms of AHDS/HGE
- Vomiting, sometimes with blood in vomit
- Bloody diarrhea (i.e., the poop looks like strawberry jelly!)
- Poor appetite
- Abdominal pain
Risk Factors for AHDS/HGE
Any size or breed of dog can get AHDS. Some studies have found that young to middle aged small and toy breeds have an increased risk of getting AHDS. Some breeds that we see it in the most are Yorkies, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzers, and Miniature Pinschers.
How to Firm Up Your Dog’s Poop at Home
If you’re seeing dog poop that looks like strawberry jelly, please do not try to treat your dog at home. You need to get her to a veterinarian for live-saving treatment as soon as possible!
For dogs with clear, yellow, tan or brown jelly-like poop but who are acting normal and have normal appetite, here is my advice on home care and remedies:
Read my article about Helping Your Dog Get Over Diarrhea
Withhold Food Including Treats
This is never a popular suggestion with my clients but it can make a big difference in clearing up your dog’s diarrhea. I tell people to have their dog skip one meal and don’t give any treats, either. Your dog can have free access to water during this time.
Don’t worry–unless your dog is very young (like less than 6 months old), very small or has another serious health condition (like diabetes), she’ll do fine missing one meal. It might hurt her feelings a little, but her body will be OK!
Encourage Liquid Intake
Encourage your dog to drink plenty of water. This will help compensate for the fluids lost in the loose stool. If your dog doesn’t want to drink water as much as he should, you can try low sodium chicken or beef broth mixed 50:50 with water. Unflavored Pedialyte is popular with some dogs and safe to try.
Here’s a guideline for how much water to aim for per day based on a dog’s weight. If your dog is eating moist food, he will need a bit less. Quantities are only a rough guideline.
|Body Weight in|
|Cups/mL of Water |
Needed per Day
|5/2.3||¾ cup/175 mL|
|10/4.5||1 ½ cups/350 mL|
|20/9||3 cups/700 mL|
|30/13.6||4 ½ cups/1050 mL|
|40/18.1||6 cups/1400 mL|
|60/27.2||8 ¾ cups/2100 mL|
|80/36.3||11 ¾ cups/2800 mL|
|100/45.4||14 ¾ cups/3500 mL|
Decrease Your Dog’s Perceived Stress
Since we know stress can cause diarrhea and colitis in dogs, it makes sense to do everything you can to decrease your dog’s stress when she has diarrhea. Think about anything that might be going on right around the time the loose stool started.
It might not seem stressful to you, but some dogs get stressed by workers in the yard, their favorite people working longer hours than usual, boarding, grooming, and many other everyday events.
If you can set your dog up for relaxation and avoid stress, her colon will return to normal function faster. You might need to arrange for her to stay in one area of the house away from the things that are stressing her out. Play some classical music or have the TV on a low-stress program to cover noises coming from the rest of the house.
Start Giving Proviable KP
Probiotic supplements are clinically proven to speed dogs’ recovery from diarrhea. You can read all about probiotics for dogs in my article on the topic.
I recommend Proviable DC for dogs with diarrhea. You can buy it without a prescription. The capsules are tiny and you can open them to sprinkle the powder on your dog’s food if desired.
If you want to go one better, pick up a Proviable KP Kit for your dog’s diarrhea. It comes with a tube of kaolin-containing paste to give a few times on the first day of diarrhea.
You may be familiar with kaolin from the product called Kaopectate. Kaolin is a naturally occurring clay that has been used for many years to firm up stool in humans and animals.
Feed a Bland Diet After 12 Hours of No Food
After skipping a meal or two, your dog is ready for something delicious and easy-to-digest. Most of my clients find it easiest to cook up a batch of food from my simple recipe.
Another easy-to-digest option is canned dog food like Purina EN or Hill’s i/d canned dog food. I think canned food is a better option than dry food because your dog’s stomach won’t have to work quite as hard to break down canned food. Plus, you can purchase just a few cans to last until your dog is feeling better rather than getting stuck with a large bag of dry food.
If your dog absolutely won’t eat canned food, choose the dry version of one of these products.
When to See a Vet
It’s always a good idea to go right away if you see repeated, very red soft stools. As I mentioned before, if your dog’s poop looks like strawberry or raspberry jam and it is happening more than once in a day, he needs to see a vet!
Other symptoms that should concern you
- Passing large amounts of diarrhea more than a couple of times a day
- Your dog is very lethargic
- Not eating or eating very little
- Vomiting, especially if there is blood in the vomit
- You notice very pale gums, weakness, bruising or rash on the skin, or trouble breathing
What the Vet Will Do
At the vet clinic, you can expect to be asked a bunch of questions about your dog and the symptoms you’ve seen recently. Make sure you have a list of her current medications and any supplements she’s taking. If you give a lot of different things, throw them in a bag and take them with you so the vet can have a look.
When the veterinarian goes through a physical exam on your dog, they’ll be looking for a few key pieces of information. Here are a few of the major things I look for:
- color and moisture of mucous membranes, eyes, skin
- heart rate and rhythm–too fast, too slow or irregular?
- femoral pulse quality
- abdominal palpation– any masses, pain, gas?
- rectal exam-quality of stool, any masses?
In most cases of moderate to severe diarrhea, your vet will probably recommend some testing. Depending on how severe the case is and whether your dog has other health conditions, testing could include:
- Fecal testing for parasites, bacteria, etc.
- Blood chemistry panel, cbc, electrolytes
- Radiographs and/or ultrasound imaging
Treatment for Dogs with Diarrhea and AHDS
Treatment depends a lot on how severe your dog’s condition is. Your vet might recommend subcutaneous fluids administration for milder cases, plus probiotics and a special diet.
For severe cases, as in AHDS, your dog might need to be hospitalized to give him the best chance of a fast recovery. Hospitalized dogs can also receive anti-nausea medications, antibiotics and supplemental vitamins all intravenously.
Expected Time in the Vet Clinic
Plan on at least an hour from the start of your dog’s appointment to diagnosis, sometimes longer depending if your dog has complicating factors. Mild cases will be discharged after the appointment to continue care at home.
Dogs with acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome (strawberry or raspberry jelly-like poops) will very likely be hospitalized. Most hospitalized dogs will need to stay for one to three days.
Cost of Treating Dogs with Moderate to Severe Diarrhea and AHDS
In a large city in 2020 at a general practitioner’s vet office, I would estimate $1600+ for tests and one day hospitalization.
Dogs with milder cases of diarrhea may incur charges of $200-700. If you need to go to an emergency veterinary clinic, charges are usually about 50% higher.
Of course, the amount you’ll spend depends on the details of your dog’s situation. Fees are almost always lower in rural areas and smaller towns.
How Long for a Dog to Recover from AHDS and Diarrhea?
AHDS and diarrhea both have a good prognosis for full recovery with the right treatment. Even the more severe cases with strawberry jelly poop/AHDS recover within two or three days.
I tell my clients to expect at least some improvement in mild to moderate cases of diarrhea within 24 hours. If things aren’t getting better within 48 hours, their dog should be rechecked by a veterinarian.
What to Do After Recovery
Once your dog is feeling a bit more normal, it’s important to think about how to avoid a recurrence of diarrhea or AHDS. If you know what set him off, take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- First and foremost, be sure to follow your vet’s directions on food and medication.
- Avoid any diet changes including giving treats or non-essential supplements for at least a few weeks.
- Monitor for any unusual symptoms. Call your vet as soon as you notice a relapse.
Epstein, DVM, DACVECC, S. (2016). Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis. In International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium 2016. Davis, CA: University of California.
Mortier F, Strohmeyer K, Hartmann K, et al: Acute haemorrhagic diarrhoea syndrome in dogs: 108 cases. Vet Rec 2015 Vol 176 (24) pp. 627. Article Link