When a dog's poop turns white, dog owners are often alarmed about it. What may cause such drastic color change, and most of all, what can be done about it? Let's face it: dog poop is neither a fun nor glamorous topic to talk about. No matter how much we love our canine babies we must admit that dog poop is gross and stinky. However, dealing with stinky situations on a daily basis is part of being a responsible dog parent.
Jokes aside, although gross and stinky, the dog’s poop is a good indicator of its digestive health. Namely, keeping an eye on your dog’s poop appearance can give us a plethora of useful health-related clues. Keeping an eye does not mean you should go on "poop patrol"- running around and poking in every poop your dog makes. However, visual inspections every two to three days are greatly recommended.
A Dog's Normal Poop Color
Under normal circumstances, a dog’s poop is chocolate-brown in color. This specific coloration is due to the presence of bilirubin (a chemical compound originally produced in the dog's liver).
As the metabolic cascade progresses and new processes occur and new compounds originate, the bilirubin is transformed and degraded. First it is transformed into urobilinogen and then the urobilinogen is degraded into stercobilin. In fact, it is the stercobilin that gives poop its usual chocolate-like, brownish color.
However, there are slight color variations from one dog’s poop to another dog’s poop. The color deviations can be due to several important factors such as:
What your dog eats, directly influences what his poop will look like. The diet is directly linked with the poop’s color. In a nutshell, if a dog eats raw or cooked bones, its poop will have a whitish to grayish shade. If the dog eats nothing but bones, its poop will be completely white with a sand-like consistency. On the flip side, if the dog eats fruits and vegetables, its poop will be green and watery.
Dyes and Food Colors
Artificially added colors and dyes cannot be digested and are passed with the stool. Sometimes, if the dyes and colors are strong enough, they can change the overall dog's poop coloration.
Level of Hydration
If the dog is well hydrated, its poop will have paler shades. Logically, if a dog is dehydrated its poop will have darker shades.
Effect of Medications
It should be well-noted that some medications (such as Pepto Bismol) can influence the color of a dog's poop. If your dog recently started taking some new medications the color alterations are most likely dye or active substances in the drug.
Although the above mentioned factors can influence the color of the poop, the changes are usually not very dramatic.
Abnormal Poop Colors in Dogs
Yellow poop in dogs – this type of discoloration in closely related with increased intestinal motility. Simply put, when the motility pace increases, the stercobilin cannot pass its distinctive color to the poop due to the lack of time. This issue is quite common in digestive disorders like IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
Bright yellow poop – associated with liver problems, pancreatic problems and gall-bladder problems.
Bright orange poop in dogs – usually indicates gall bladder issues and liver issues.
Green poop – usually indicates that your god eats a lot of grass. When troubled with gastrointestinal issues dogs eat grass and consequently the grass causes green discoloration of the poop.
Grey poop – commonly observed in dogs with liver problems and dogs with impaired nutrient absorption.
Raspberry-jam poop - is associated with severe inflammations that lead to sloughing of the intestinal lining. The poop is not only changed in color, but also contains small chunks of tissue. Dogs with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis are likely to pass this type of stool.
Red streaks – the presence of bright red streaks or drops are indicative of bleeding in the lower intestinal tract.
Dark black poop – indicates the presence of digested blood and it is scientifically called melena. Dogs with gastrointestinal bleedings caused by ulcers in the stomach and upper portions of the intestines will have melena.
Normally, the changes in the poop color, particularly if food-related, should be transient and self-limiting. Namely, if your dog’s poop changed its color due to something your dog ate, once that food is no longer provided the stool should resume its normal color.
If the color-altering food is no longer provided and the stool’s color does not return to normal, it is advisable to make a trip to the vet’s office.
Calling the vet and having your dog thoroughly checked is recommended if the poop discoloration continues for more than two stools or two days in a row (based on your dog’s pooping frequency) after eliminating the food.
Why Did My Dog's Poop Turn White?
Imagine the following – you are cleaning the garden and see a white colored poop. There are two possible scenarios. In the first scenario, your dog made that poop several hours ago. In that case, everything is alright and there is no place for concern. This is because eventually dog poop tends to turn white. Simply put, over time the poop disintegrates and dries out. Once dried out it becomes white.
In the second scenario, your dog made the white poop just now. In that case, the discoloration comes from something your dog ate. Fortunately, white poop originates from issues that can be easily fixed.
The most common cause of white poop in dogs is getting too much calcium through the diet. Calcium is mostly found in bones. Therefore, dogs fed bones are likely to develop white poop.
In normal amounts the calcium is healthy but if present in abundance it can lead to problems. For example, high calcium diets are known to cause constipation in dogs.
As funny as it may sound, paying attention on your dog’s poop turns quite beneficial, especially in the long-run. Changes in the poop are indicative of changes occurring elsewhere in the body. Some changes are minor and self-limiting while others are red flags and warrant veterinary attention.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.
She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.
Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.