Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 17, 2018

White Bits in Dog Poop*

Posted at 03:52PM - Comments: (9)

*Warning: This post talks about dog poop. If you are sensitive regarding discussions about dog poop...maybe you don’t actually have a dog, and shouldn’t be reading this blog at all! Just kidding. Not about the poop, just about the dog-owning part.

The rainy season has started in northern California, and though it hasn’t been all THAT rainy yet, it’s been rainy enough that any dog poop that wasn’t picked up shortly after the dog pooped starts to break down and is much more difficult to pick up.

Of course, it’s best to pick up and dispose of dog poop when it is first pooped. But those of us with safely fenced yards – and multiple dogs – sometimes go a day or two between poop pick-ups - especially when it’s pouring rain.

The last of my foster puppies went home a couple of days ago and then the sun broke out. I had time on my hands and trash pickup was the next day. So I went gangbusters on the backyard, doing the most thorough poop search I’d conducted in a week, and I found a few poops that had been out there for a while.

Have you ever found a dog poop that has been out in the rain for a while, and observed (as you were picking it up) that it looked like it was full of what looked like bits of white sand? Only, the “grains of sand” were slightly bigger than actual grains of sand? It might take a good week or so of rain, or a poop that started out on the soft side, for you to see this. I found a few in this condition the other day, and it surprised me, because I hadn’t seen it for a while – but I knew why that was.

The bits of what look like large white grains of sand in a mostly washed-away poop are bits of bone. It comes from the dog’s food. You would find the same thing if you soaked your dog’s kibble in water and then put the whole mess in a fine mesh colander and rinsed it until all the plant and meat material washed away.

“But wait,” you might say. “My dog’s food is a good quality food! It doesn’t contain ‘meat and bone meal,’ that notoriously low-quality ingredient!” (If it did, for SURE you’d be seeing the bits of white “sand” in your dog’s rained-on poop.)

What a lot of people don’t realize is that pet food ingredients with names like chicken and chicken meal, turkey and turkey meal, and lamb and lamb meal, contain a certain amount of bone. When we hear these phrases we imagine that they describe meat, like chicken or turkey breasts or legs. What is actually used in pet food more closely resembles your Thanksgiving turkey the day after Thanksgiving: a turkey “frame” with chunks of meat and bits of skin and tendons still attached. How much flesh is attached to the bones and other tissues depends on the pet food companies’ specifications. They can require their meat suppliers to give them the meat with a certain “ash” content; the “ash” is, essentially, bone. “Ash” is what is left if you incinerate the meat and burn away everything except the minerals that won’t burn.

Have you ever seen a pet food company claim they use “low ash chicken” or “low-ash lamb”? They are claiming that they use a meat or meat meal that contains more meat and less bone.

Bone is a perfectly healthy, natural source of essential minerals for dogs. Some manufacturers formulate their foods with a certain amount of bone contained in the meat or meat meal they use to help meet the requirements of a “complete and balanced diet” for dogs; others use higher quantities of other sources of calcium (such as calcium carbonate), phosphorus, and other minerals.

High-protein foods sometimes have added plant proteins (such as potato protein or pea protein) to reach those high protein levels without having too-high levels of calcium and phosphorus from higher levels of meat or meat meals that contain bone.

I was surprised to see so much ground bone in the poop I cleaned up in my yard this week because I hadn’t seen any for a while – but I just switched the dogs to a type of food I’ve never fed, and it clearly contained more bone than the other foods I’ve been feeding. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a thing to know and understand.

If any of my dogs had been constipated (they weren’t) this could have been the cause. Foods with a high bone content, especially highly digestible raw diets that contain a lot of ground or whole bone, can sometimes cause a dog to have dry, dense poops. These poops might be mostly white (as they consist of mostly bone).

That said, inexpensive, low-quality foods might also contain an unusually high amount of ground bone. If you see a lot of bone in your dog’s poop, take a look at the ingredients of his food. Does it make sense? There is surely a correlation between the amount of bone in his stool and the ingredients in his food, if you understand what you are looking at.

Postscript: I was discussing this post with a friend at a major pet food company, and he asked me if I had ever seen this video. I hadn’t but it made my day. I wonder if Sarah Silverman knew why dog poop was often white in the 1970s. (The regulations that exist now to limit the amount of calcium and phosphorus – and hence bone – in dog food didn’t exist then!)


Comments (9)

Regarding Purina and Blue. You are right to question the Purina products. With Blue, every puppy in my girl’s puppy class who was eating Blue Buffalo Puppy formula had the runs. In addition, my vet suggested to get her off the pup formula ASAP....when I asked why he said “many puppy formulas have too high levels of calcium and protein. The pups over grow and have joint issues later.” When I asked what the correct amounts should be he said to “keep the protein under 30%”, which totally eliminated Blue Puppy and most other puppy formulas also. I went then to Taste of the Wild Puppy, or adult formulas.

Posted by: PiperPan | April 3, 2018 8:22 PM    Report this comment

I am very concerned about the Purina product that I am feeding my dog. My husband thinks I am being concerned about nothing. But, I just do not understand what exactly some of the ingredients are. Meat by-products and phrases like that. I tried to switch to Blue, but my dog began to have loose stools. I realize there may be some period of adjustment to the new food. Also, my dog was not wanting to eat the new food (Blue) unless it was mixed with her current food. Anyway, I was uncomfortable with the situation after a week or so and returned to the original food that I had been giving her.
If anyone has any helpful advise, I would appreciate if you would share it with the Whole Dog Journal Blog. Thank you,Marylyn

Posted by: Harrington | January 19, 2018 3:27 PM    Report this comment

I fed a canned food on the WDJ list and all was well for a couple of years. I have a small Jack Russell terrier. She started regurgitating small amounts of food and liquid every couple of days. She did it during a barn hunt competition and I got disqualified. I took her to the veterinarian and an x-ray showed white bits in her stomach. He said it was probably bone from the food irritating her stomach. I examined the food and found some fairly large bits that hadn't been in the cans in the past. So the manufacturer either didn't grind them up enough or started adding bone to the formula. Once I switched food to one without ground bone, the bits made their way out and there was no more regurgitation.

Posted by: BebeRussell | January 19, 2018 9:44 AM    Report this comment

As I first read this, my thoughts were tape worms or maggots, but as I read further and discovered these white bits weren't moving, I knew exactly what it was.

Posted by: Hlevin | January 18, 2018 3:28 PM    Report this comment

I feed my 2 dogs raw dog food and give them bones occasionally. They are healthy and happy. White color is dependent on how many bones they've had. There are some in the raw food, but not enough to cause color changes

Posted by: LaciHudson02 | January 18, 2018 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Interesting that you describe raw diets as "highly digestible." I think that says it all. One of the pluses of raw feeding is that the stools are firm and relatively odorless because so much of the food is actually used. I can usually tell when a dog is raw fed just by looking at its poop.

Posted by: GiftofGalway | January 18, 2018 11:43 AM    Report this comment

Gracie my GSD is on a raw diet and gets bones (pork neck, shoulder) every other day, plus RMBs (every day) and will have the white poops that crumble, if left to 'dry' out for a day. I'm always glad to see this after she eats the bones because I know that it's going through her digestive system well.

Posted by: LoveGSDs | January 18, 2018 10:53 AM    Report this comment

I've been making a homemade diet for my dog(s), (previous & current dog), for 6 years. I find white poops in the yard a day or 2 after he's eaten a raw turkey wing or chicken thigh. It's much smaller in size and crumbles easily. They also have very little odor to them. I also feed a homemade raw meat diet to my 3 cats and if I grind chicken with the bones, they too have smaller whitish poops in the litter box.

Posted by: SueW | January 18, 2018 10:21 AM    Report this comment

unless the white bits are moving, but that’s a whole other post. 😉

Posted by: llf | January 18, 2018 10:18 AM    Report this comment

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