Most dogs are private poopers. They like to duck under a deck or go behind a bush to do their business. And I won’t lie—dogs probably think it’s very strange when we stand over them while they poop and then pick it up or scoop it up from behind them.
But this everyday, boring, kinda gross task also gives pet parents the opportunity to monitor and assess their dog’s poop. You may not even realize you are doing it, but you notice when poop is more firm or looser or changes color.
That’s a good thing because poop can tell us so much about what is going on inside of our dogs. But if you see white dog poo—instead the regular brown color—something is wrong.
Why Your Dog’s Poop Color Matters
If eyes are the window to the soul, poop is the window to the body (yep, we said it). Feces changes based on the health of a dog’ stomach and intestines. But it also changes depending on what’s going on with a dog’s liver, pancreas, and even systemic disease such as infections.
Changes to poop can include texture (solid to loose to liquid), odor, frequency, and contents (mucus, blood, worms). But another important change to look for in your dog’s poop is a change or difference in color.
For example, red feces indicates the presence of blood that has not been digested, meaning it most likely comes from the colon. Dark, nearly black stool means that there is digested blood, usually from a stomach or small intestinal ulcer. Green dog poop can indicate that the dog is eating grass or can be due to the liver not functioning properly.
Your dog’s poop should normally be a shade of brown. The specific shade has a lot to do with the kind of food your dog eats and how frequently he poops.
Why is My Dog’s Poop White?
White dog poo signals a problem. There are several reasons a dog’s poop might be white, but white poop is never normal.
White poop in dogs can indicate a dietary problem or imbalance, a medication side effect, internal illnesses, or a parasitic infection. Below are some of the common reasons why a dog’s poop might be white:
High Calcium Diets
First, consider what you are feeding your dog. Some diets, especially raw diets, are very high in calcium which can cause white or very light colored stools that are hard. Feeding dogs raw diets come with a risk of bacterial contamination and they may be nutritionally imbalanced. Raw diets with too much calcium can cause constipation, hard stool, and white poop.
If you think this may be the source of your dog’s hard and white poop, switch to a commercially formulated cooked dog food or consult a veterinary nutritionist for help reformulating your dog’s diet.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications or treatments given by your veterinarian, such as liquid barium, can turn poop temporarily white. It will return to normal color once the barium has passed through your dog’s system. If your dog’s poop does not return to normal following the stoppage of dosing your dog with liquid barium, consult your veterinarian.
Your Dog Ate a White Object
The next thing to assess is whether the poop is white or there is something white in it. A dog who eats a white sock may be able to poop out the sock in which case there is likely normal brown poop around the sock.
Dogs who eat things that are not food—like toys, fabric, and rocks—are at risk for dangerous digestive obstructions if the object gets stuck. The only way to remove a stuck object is through surgery.
If there are white specks or strings in your dog’s poop, those could be tapeworms. Tapeworm eggs are visible to the naked eye and are often described as grains of short-grain rice. You are unlikely to see adult worms such as hookworms or roundworms in feces unless your dog has a severe infestation. If you see white specks or strands in your dog’s poop, call your veterinarian immediately for dewormer and don’t forget about the importance of decontaminating your yard too!
Mucus in dog poop can look white or yellow. A little bit of mucus can be normal but too much means your dog is having a problem digesting something. That something could be table scraps or non-food items like a tennis ball. When mucus has red in it that means blood and blood of any kind in poop always necessitates a trip to the veterinarian.
Fortunately, internal illness is the least likely of all the things that can cause your dog’s poop to be white. However, for those few who have white or gray poop, the problem is serious. White or gray poop means that digestion is not happening properly (maldigestion).
The liver produces bile, a green-pigmented material that turns poop brown. If the liver is not producing bile, or the gallbladder is not piping it into the intestines to mix with food, then the result is white or gray poop. Since bile is very important in proper digestion, a lack of bile is a serious problem that needs to be investigated by your veterinarian immediately.
Similarly, a pancreas that is not functioning properly can cause light gray poop in dogs. The pancreas is responsible for producing several important digestive enzymes including insulin. Problems with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas can all become life-threatening if not treated.
Why Does Dog Poop Turn White?
When your dog poops, it looks normal and healthy but then over time it turns white. This can be due to the normal pigments breaking down in the sun or to the growth of mold in more humid environments. If you notice either of those things, it does not mean there is anything wrong with your dog.
However, if you notice dog poop turning white in your yard, It does mean you need to clean up your dog’s poop more regularly. Dog feces left in the dirt can contaminate water sources, lead to your dog developing intestinal worms, encourage coprophagy (poop eating), and just be really gross to accidentally step in.
What to Do If Your Dog’s Poop Is White
If you notice that your dog’s poop is white, look for some of the characteristics above. Can you see visible pieces of a white object or worm segments? For dogs with white specks or strands in poop, a strong dewormer is necessary. For other objects, monitor your dog. If the next poop is totally normal and your dog continues to eat and drink and poop normally there is likely nothing to worry about. But, a dog who is known to eat objects who can’t poop or won’t eat needs to be seen by a veterinarian.
If diet is the cause of the white poop, a change in diet is the solution. Over time, diets too high in calcium can lead to constipation or even obstipation (painful and difficult defecation). Transition dog food slowly, over the course of a week or two, so that you don’t cause intestinal upset and diarrhea.
If your dog has gray or white poop and you can’t easily determine the cause, you need to schedule an urgent appointment with your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam, assess your dog’s feces, and run bloodwork to find the source of the problem. Treatment will depend on the cause but will likely require multiple veterinary visits, advanced testing, medications, and possibly even surgery. Your veterinarian may also refer you to a veterinarian who specializes in internal medicine.
So, keep bringing those poop bags along on walks and monitor your dog’s poop. You may catch a change before it becomes a problem so that you can keep your dog healthy and by your side.