Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish, DVM
Scooping dog poop is probably one of our least favorite chores. It is, however, a necessary evil that can help us find health problems in our pets that we might not have known about.
Have you recently noticed anything unusual in your dog’s poop, like something that looks like undigested rice? Has your dog’s poop color changed, or have you noticed changes in bowel habits?
In this post, we’re going to explain how to detect signs of a health problem or parasitic infection just by glancing at your dog’s poop. There are a few culprits that could look like undigested grains of rice in your dog’s feces, and we’re going to explain them all.
Why Are There White Spots in my Dog’s Poop?
Detecting white spots in your dog’s poop could be a sign of a parasitic infection. It could also be caused by something your dog ate that wasn’t easily digestible. In fact, you could be seeing traces of bones or undigested food.
So, what is it?
If you continue to see anything unusual in your dog’s feces, a veterinarian can help determine what it is.
Undigested food, like sesame seeds and nuts, can show up as tiny white specks in your dog’s poop. Dogs often get into things that they’re not supposed to, including garbage cans and compost bins. This can cause your dog to have an upset stomach.
Have you ever caught your dog swallowing a dead rodent? Not only is it disgusting, but it can cause serious health problems for your furry friend. Depending on the species of tapeworm, your dog could potentially become infected this way.
The flea tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) can only be transmitted by ingesting the secondary host (a flea). In this regard, your dog could actually eat a pile of poop with flea tapeworm segments in it, but still wouldn’t get infected.
Keep reading to learn more about tapeworms and the problems they can cause.
Types of Worms Found in Dog’s Feces
Although the worms described below can be found in a dog’s feces, they can’t always be seen with the naked eye. Tapeworms, which resemble pieces of rice, can usually be seen. Otherwise, your only clue that there’s a problem may be in the symptoms that your dog is showing.
Whole tapeworms may appear as a chain of smaller segments. Most people who see tapeworms, though, will just see the segments or pieces in the stool.
Generally, signs of a parasitic infection can include weight loss, dehydration, anemia, a potbellied appearance, and diarrhea. The following four types of worms can be detected, either visually or through veterinary examination, in a dog’s feces:
Hookworms are very small and have hook-like mouthparts that attach to the intestinal wall. They shed microscopic eggs through the dog’s feces. A technique called “fecal flotation” is used to detect hookworms in dogs.
This is performed using a stool sample mixed with a solution that causes the parasite eggs to float to the top and stick to a glass slide placed over it.
Signs of hookworms in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Itchy skin
- Poor coat condition
Some dogs don’t show any signs of hookworm infection at all.
Many puppies are born with roundworms, although adult dogs can get them as well. Roundworms are common in dogs and can be acquired by eating contaminated soil, feces, or other infected animals.
Common signs of roundworm infection in dogs include:
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Dull coat
- Weight loss
Roundworms can pose a risk to humans, especially children. Dog owners should take preventative measures with regular deworming. Roundworms are big enough to be seen in the stool, especially after deworming treatment.
Dogs can become infected with tapeworms different ways, depending on the species of the tapeworm.
Once infected, dogs release tapeworm segments through their feces. The segments dry and eventually break open, releasing the fertilized eggs into the environment, where they are ingested by flea larvae. This particular tapeworm species, as noted above, is called Dipylidium caninum. A dog has to ingest a secondary host (the flea) in order to become infected.
Signs of tapeworms in dogs include:
- Visible tapeworm segments in the feces or around the dog’s anus
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased hunger
- Increased licking around the anus
- Butt scooting
Some dogs may not show any symptoms of tapeworm infection. Regular deworming can help prevent tapeworm infections in dogs.
Whipworms live in the first section of the dog’s large intestine. Although whipworm eggs are shed by dogs through their feces, they are difficult to identify. They don’t shed eggs as often as other intestinal parasites and may not always show up in the dog’s feces.
Signs of whipworm infections include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
Veterinarians can diagnose whipworm infection through fecal examination, medical history, and laboratory tests.
Does Your Dog Have Healthy Poop?
Did you know that your dog’s poop color can indicate serious health problems? Normal dog poop is chocolate-brown in color and easy to pick up. The consistency should be firm, but not overly firm. Dogs with hard, roundish poop may be suffering from constipation.
The following are some color changes to be aware of and what they might mean for your canine companion:
This is the color your dog’s stool should be. It is an indication that your dog’s food is being properly digested.
Black or Tarry Stool
Black stool can indicate bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Blood present in a dog’s upper GI tract s known as “melena.” The presence of black blood in your dog’s feces is a clue that the problem may be in the stomach or small intestine.
If your dog’s poop looks black or has black streaks in it, consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Yellow or orange poop could be a sign of bile in the stool, which may indicate the presence of liver disease. However, it could also be a sign of a food intolerance or biliary disease.
Green colored feces could indicate anything from a parasitic infection to poisoning. In some cases, it’s just as sign that your dog has been eating too much grass.
Clay-colored, Gray, or Greasy
Poop with a gray hue could indicate a problem with the liver or pancreas. If your dog’s stool looks shiny or fatty, it could be a sign of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (also known as malabsorption). An appropriate diet is usually the recommended treatment, but always consult with a vet.
This can be caused by a variety of things. Dogs that consume too much calcium or other minerals (sand, for example) may have white poop. Also, poop that’s been in the yard for a few days without being picked up can turn white and fuzzy as it degrades.
Feces with Red Streaks
Red streaks in your dog’s poop are typically a sign of bleeding due to inflammation. It may be caused by anal gland infections, injuries to the rectum, or inflammation of the colon (colitis).
Feces with White Flecks
Stool with what looks like undigested rice could be a sign of tapeworms. That said, it could also just be undigested food.
Healthy Stool, Healthy Dog
As dog owners, I think we’ve all seen our canine friends gobble up things they’re not supposed to. We try to prevent that from happening, but, inevitably, bits of undigestible objects can show up in your dog’s stool.
If you see broken bits of toys or other objects in your dog’s poop, consult a vet. It’s possible that the rest of that toy or object is stuck in your dog’s digestive system. Blockages from foreign objects in the digestive tract are serious and need medical attention.
How to tell if your dog has healthy poops
You know your dog better than anyone else. If there’s a change in the color, coating, size, shape, or consistency, you’re going to notice. Sometimes it’s just a one-time change that could signify a change in diet, stress, or an upset stomach.
Consistently soft and runny poop, or diarrhea, should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention. Also, as noted in the color code above, black or tarry stools could indicate an internal bleed that needs medical attention.
And finally, if you see small white flecks or something that looks like undigested rice in your dog’s poop, it could be a parasite like tapeworms.
Signs of Bowel Problems in Dogs
Other than the color and consistency of your dog’s poop, there are other signs that can indicate a digestive problem. These include the following:
Butt scooting can be a sign of an impacted anal sac.
Straining to Poop
Straining to poop could indicate your dog is constipated or has diarrhea. Sometimes pet owners confuse straining to poop as constipation when, in fact, the stool has been so liquid and loose that dogs have the urge to go, but nothing comes out.
Circling before defecating is normal for dogs. However, if they consistently circle but don’t actually go to the bathroom, it could mean your dog is constipated, or has diarrhea and are now empty.
If your dog squats a lot and is straining to defecate, it could indicate constipation or, as above, there’s no stool left but the dog still has the urge to push.
Although there’s no clear indication as to why dog’s eat grass, there is a theory that is may be to help alleviate an upset stomach. Another theory is that dogs think, “hmm, I’m feeling off. Maybe I ate something poisonous?” And they eat grass to purge themselves, to make themselves vomit.
If your dog is afraid to poop, cries, whines, or shows any signs of pain, it could be due to a number of things, including:
- Intestinal blockage
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (also known as Acute Hemorrhagic Diarrhea Syndrome or AHDS)
- Anal sac inflammation
The Importance of Quality Diet
There are numerous food products on the market for dogs these days. You can buy everything from regular kibble to high-end boutique food for your dogs. The problem is finding one that suits your dog’s specific needs.
Dogs with underlying health conditions, including food allergies, should follow a veterinarian-recommended diet. Otherwise, you should purchase the best quality food you can afford. That leads to the question, how do you define quality dog food?
According to the American Kennel Club, good dog food contains meat, vegetables, grains, and fruits. It’s important to note that “fillers” in dog food aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They can actually be a valuable source of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
If you have any questions about the type of food best for your dog’s needs, consult with a veterinarian. When shopping, look for dog food that states it has been formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.
If you’re seeing what looks like undigested rice in your dog’s feces it could be a sign of digestive issues or parasites. If your dog isn’t digesting food properly, bits of it can show up in the stool.
Your dog’s stool may vary slightly on any given day, especially if he or she is starting a new food or has gotten into something they shouldn’t have. Consistent changes in your dog’s stool (especially if your dog is showing any signs of pain or discomfort) should be brought to your vet’s attention.
Changes in bowel habits are sometimes the first indicator of an underlying health issue.
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Naviglia, N. (2015, September 22). What Does Dog Poop Color Mean? – Canine Journal. Canine Journal. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://www.caninejournal.com/dog-poop-color/
Tapeworms | Pets & Parasites: The Pet Owner’s Parasite Resource. (n.d.). Tapeworms | Pets & Parasites: The Pet Owner’s Parasite Resource. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://www.petsandparasites.org/dog-owners/tapeworms/
Paddock, A. (n.d.). Symptoms and Treatment of Roundworms in Dogs. American Kennel Club. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/roundworms-in-dogs-symptoms-treatment-and-prevention/
Whipworm Infections in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital. (n.d.). Vca. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/whipworm-infections-in-dogs
Hookworms in Dogs. (n.d.). Small Door Veterinary. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://www.smalldoorvet.com/learning-center/medical/hookworms-in-dogs/