Should You Be Worried About White Dog Poop?
It’s terrifying when your dog’s poop is an alarming colour. You might expect to see the odd green, orange or yellow poop, but what if your dog’s poop is white? Today’s article is a deep dive into white dog poop. Why does old dog poop turn white? What if your dog’s fresh poop is white? Are these reasons to panic? Read on to find out!
Why Does Dog Poop Turn White?
There are two situations where you’ll see white dog poop: fresh poo and dried poo. I want to talk about dried dog poop first because the reason it turns white is quite interesting!
If you’re a responsible dog owner, you probably haven’t seen your dog’s poop sunbleached because you pick it up as soon as they finish their business. Unfortunately, not everyone is as responsible. So you’ve probably seen bright white, crusty, dried dog poo on the side of the road.
“Whatever the dog couldn't process ended up in its faeces, and as the wet matter dried out in the sun, the hard calcium stuck around. This led to crumbly, mummified turds littering our sidewalks and green spaces.” - Mental Floss (1)
This was far more prevalent before the 1990s when dog food was higher in calcium. Manufacturers would use bone meal as a cheap filler to bulk out dry dog food.
But times have changed. Now dog food is more balanced. So when dog poop dries, it’s less likely to turn ghostly white as it did before.
There’s one caveat though. In hot countries with high sun exposure, you’ll still see bright white dry dog poop after a couple of days. This is due to the sun bleaching the pigments found in poop more than the mineral content.
Why is My Dog's Poop White?
Now let’s turn our attention to why your dog’s fresh poop is white. This is clearly more worrying than old dog poo whitening in the sun. But do you have grounds to worry? Yes and no. Let’s discuss.
Your dog is consuming too much calcium
Yes, we covered calcium content when talking about dry dog poo, but it can affect the pigment of fresh dog poo too. If your dog has a homemade food diet or consumes a lot of animal bones, by way of bone broth or whole bones, then you might find your dog’s poop more grey or white in colour.
Surprisingly, it’s relatively harmless. It’s not great for your dog to have an imbalance of anything in their diet. However, calcium imbalance is easy to fix. At best, it’ll turn your dog’s poop white and maybe cause some constipation. At worst, calcium can cause gallbladder blockages and kidney stones which are far more serious. (2)
So consider white dog poop caused by calcium as your initial warning to look into your pup’s diet.
Your dog has tapeworm
Tapeworm is a nasty sucker – literally! It’s a parasite that can cause slow health decline for dogs if not spotted early. Though a parasite infection is unlikely to be initially fatal, it’s still an issue that needs to be solved as soon as possible.
So why does it turn dog poop white when they have tapeworm? It’s more accurate to say your dog’s poop will have white bits if they have tapeworm. (3)
Tapeworm eggs look like grains of rice. They are bright white.
Other symptoms that your dog may have tapeworm include:
If your dog has a parasite, it can be difficult to spot. Weight loss only shows up if your dog has a severe infestation. So the best course is to treat your pup for parasites using tick and flea prevention methods, and keep an eye on their poop!
Your dog has inflammatory bowel disease or colitis
Inflammatory bowel disease or colitis can cause many issues for your dog. Poop discolouration is just one of them.
If your pup is not absorbing nutrients correctly and there is an excess of bile in the system, their poop may be covered in white mucus. (4)
Other symptoms of inflammation in the bowel or intestines include:
If you suspect your dog has inflammatory bowel or intestinal issues, take them to the vet for a full investigation.
Your dog has been given barium
If your dog has needed an x-ray recently, your vet may have given them barium.
“Barium is a dry, white, chalky powder that is mixed with water to make barium liquid. Barium is an X-ray absorber and appears white on X-ray film. When instilled into the GI tract, barium coats the inside wall of the oesophagus, stomach, large intestine, and/or small intestine so that the inside wall lining, size, shape, contour, and patency (openness) are visible on X-ray.” - John Hopkins Medicine (5)
In short, barium helps your vet to see what might be going on in your dog’s system. Once your dog poops after an x-ray, the barium liquid will colour their poop white or grey.
Fortunately, this is completely harmless. Their poop will return to a normal colour after the barium is out of their system.
Your dog isn’t producing enough bile
Bile is a digestive liquid produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. It helps digest food in the intestines. Bile is famously yellow in colour. It pigments poop to give its signature colour.
Where inflammation causes an excess of bile and mucus, what causes a lack of bile?
It could be a gall bladder obstruction. Obstructions could be caused by calcium imbalances which result in gallstones. (6)
Symptoms of gall bladder issues include:
That said, some dogs with gall bladder issues are asymptomatic for some time.
Lack of digestive pigments could signal liver failure. This is far more serious but is more likely to produce yellow dog poo than white.
What Does White Dog Poo Mean? Quick Guide
Now that’s a lot of information. Want shorthand for deciphering the cause of your dog’s white poo? Here it is:
- If your dog’s poop is dry, crumbly and white, it’s old poop! Nothing to worry about. Scoop it up and throw it away.
- If your dog’s poop is white but otherwise has a normal consistency and shape it’s likely a dietary factor, like a calcium imbalance.
- If your dog’s poop is white after an x-ray, it’s because of the barium that your vet gave your dog to make the digestive tract more visible during the x-ray. Your dog’s poo will return to a normal colour when the chemical is out of their system.
- If your dog’s poop has a white mucus coating, it’s likely due to inflammation in the bowel or intestines. Contact your vet for a thorough investigation.
- If your dog’s poop has white bits in it, your dog likely has a parasite like tapeworm. Take them to the vet for treatment.
- If your dog’s poop is white and they are also vomiting, they could have liver failure, gall bladder obstruction, or severe inflammation of the intestines. Take your dog to the vet for investigation and treatment.
What Colour Should Your Dog’s Poo Be?
You may think you know the colour your dog’s poop is meant to be. Brown, right?
Well, there’s more variation than you might expect.
Related: Can You Compost Dog Poo?
The correct colour for dog poop is within the mid brown to deep chocolate range. Factors like age and diet can affect the exact hue of your dog’s poop. (7)
Weaning puppies tend to have lighter poos because of the milk content in their diet. Could milk turn your puppy’s poop completely white? Let’s discuss.
White poop in puppies - should you call the vet?
I don’t know about you, but I worried about my dog’s health way more when he was a puppy than I do now. That’s because puppies are more vulnerable to serious ailments than adult dogs are. That is to say, an adult dog can bounce back quicker.
If you decide to feed your puppy a homemade diet, I encourage you to discuss this with a vet.
It’s difficult to get the nutrient balance right. If your puppy has a calcium imbalance in their diet, it’s far riskier than with adult dogs.
If you’re not feeding your puppy a homemade diet and their poop is still white, contact your vet immediately to investigate. Intestinal inflammation, liver failure, or gall bladder obstruction can be fatal far quicker to puppies than adults.
What Should You Do if Your Dog’s Poo is White?
If your dog is pooping white, don’t panic straight away. Follow this process calmly to get to the bottom of the issue:
1. Take a photo of your dog’s poo
While you may not make a habit of taking out your phone when your dog does a poo, I encourage you to make an exception just this once. Ideally, you should take a picture of any unusual stools your dog produces. This is because it helps your vet immeasurably to see what’s going on.
2. Assess the consistency of the poo
Is the poop harder than usual? It’s likely constipation due to an excess of calcium. Is the poo covered in white mucus? Telltale sign of intestinal inflammation. Visual cues will help figure out the cause. Quick note: sometimes if the poo has a foul smell, it indicates a serious health issue. However, the common causes of white dog poo don’t tend to have a smelly component. If you notice a putrid smell then make a note for your vet. Otherwise, assess with your eyes and take note of consistency.
Related: The Best Dog Poop Bag Holders Australia.
3. Consider how white the poo is
Is the poop bright white? Is it greyish? Or is it mostly brown with white bits? Brown with white bits screams parasite eggs. Greyish poo could be barium passing through the system. Bright white poo could be a wide range of things.
4. Think about your dog’s diet and behaviour leading up to the strange stool
Has your pup been more fatigued than usual? Have they been vomiting or losing their appetite? Alternatively, do they have an increase in appetite? These factors all help your vet figure out what’s going on. Also, consider if you’ve made any dietary changes recently. Switching dog food brands or trying homemade diets can cause strange stools at first as your pup adjusts. Note: cheaper dog food brands are more likely to contain bone meal which boosts the calcium content.
5. Take your dog to the vet for an assessment
Now that you’ve completed your fact-finding mission, it’s time to involve your vet. Share all of the photos you took of the strange poo and explain any dietary/behaviour changes your dog has had in the past few weeks. Your vet will likely do a scan of your dog’s abdomen and digestive tract to spot any inflammation. They’ll also likely take a blood test to see if the liver is in working order. If they spot any inflammatory issues, they’ll prescribe medication and book a follow up session. Liver failure or gallbladder obstructions are far more serious. Your vet may keep your pup in the veterinary hospital overnight, take a biopsy and/or conduct major surgery to solve the problem. Throughout this process, stay open and listen intently to your vet. Your personal vet knows your dog’s health condition better than any article on the internet.
Related: Why Does Your Dog Eat Their Poop?
My Final Thoughts
We hope this article was helpful in understanding why your dog’s poop might be white. The overarching message is not to panic. Think back to any symptoms or dietary changes to help you and your vet figure out what might be going wrong.
Want to learn more about the science of dog poo? Check out our previous instalments of this series:
- Debczak, M. March 6, 2021. “What Happened to the White Dog Poop That Used to Be Everywhere?”. Mental Floss. Retrieved March 21, 2023. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/643437/what-happened-white-dog-poop-used-be-everywhere
- Weishaupt, J. December 5, 2021. “What to Know About Bladder and Kidney Stones in Dogs”. PetMD. Retrieved March 21, 2023. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/what-to-know-bladder-kidney-stones-dogs
- “Tapeworms in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved March 21, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/tapeworms-in-dogs-symptoms-treatment-and-prevention/
- Elfenbein, H. December 6, 2020. “Why Is My Dog’s Poop White?”. Great Pet Care. Retrieved March 21, 2023. https://www.greatpetcare.com/dog-health/why-is-my-dogs-poop-white/
- “Barium X-Rays (Upper and Lower GI)”. John Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved March 21, 2023. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/barium-xrays-upper-and-lower-gi
- Center, S. May, 2018. “Disorders of the Liver and Gallbladder in Dogs”. MSD Veterinary Manual. Retrieved March 21, 2023. https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/digestive-disorders-of-dogs/disorders-of-the-liver-and-gallbladder-in-dogs
- “How to tell if your dog's poo is healthy”. Vets4Pets. Retrieved March 21, 2023. https://www.vets4pets.com/pet-health-advice/dog-advice/how-to-tell-if-your-dogs-poo-is-healthy/