Poo… it’s something most dog owners are used to dealing with. But what if your pet’s poo is looking a little unusual at the moment? If your dog’s stools are paler than normal then you may have some concerns, particularly if they are showing other symptoms too. Let’s explore the reasons why your furry friend’s faeces might be a bit pale and what you can do to help.
Table of contents
First, it’s important to discuss what normal poo should look like. Most healthy dogs should be passing stools once or twice a day, depending on their diet and exercise regime. Normal poo should also be well-formed with some segmentation. When you pick it up it should have a firm (but not hard) consistency, and not leave much residue behind on the ground. Some vets will refer to a faecal scoring chart when discussing the consistency of your dog’s stools.
Your dog’s faeces should be a uniform chocolate brown colour with no blood or noticeable mucus. We know that poo can vary slightly in shade depending on what your dog has eaten. But if it is much paler than usual or your dog is unwell then this could be a sign of an underlying problem.
Reasons why your dog’s poo might be pale
There are several reasons why your dog’s poo might be more pale than normal, some of these are more serious than others. Let’s look at each in turn.
The type of food your dog is eating can affect the colour of their stools. Different brands of commercial dog food can cause varying shades of brown due to the different ingredients and colours of the kibbles. Also, a sudden change in diet between two brands could cause tummy troubles leading to a change in stool colours, as well as other symptoms like diarrhoea or mucus.
Dietary indiscretion (eating something you shouldn’t do!) could cause stomach upsets in dogs too, leading to a change in poo colour. Feeding your pet lots of rich, fatty table scraps could produce a similar effect.
Also, dogs that are raw-fed or have bones in their diets may produce poo that varies in shade. Increased amounts of calcium, as well as shards of bone in the stools, could cause a pale or even white appearance. Most vets advise against feeding bones as sharp fragments can cause damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract as well as constipation.
Infection (bacterial, viral or parasitic)
Infections of the gastrointestinal tract could lead to changes in stool colour, as well as consistency. Bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections could all cause problems. Try and reduce the risk of this from occurring by routinely using deworming treatments. And making sure your pet’s vaccinations are kept up to date.
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is a condition where the body struggles to produce enough enzymes from its pancreas to help with the digestion of fats in the diet. Certain breeds are prone to this condition, including German Shepherds, and affected animals can suffer from pale, loose, smelly faeces. Other symptoms include weight loss and an increased appetite.
Inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis, can cause affected animals to suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and inappetence. The pancreas produces enzymes that aid with digestion so if this organ is impaired then changes in stool colour and consistency can occur. Pancreatitis is more common in certain breeds like miniature schnauzers and cocker spaniels and can be triggered by eating fatty foods. Repeated episodes of pancreatitis and the resultant scarring of the pancreas could contribute to some animals developing EPI later down the line.
Liver and biliary issues
Disorders of the liver or gallbladder may cause a dog to produce paler poo than normal. Bile that is released by the gallbladder helps to digest fats and gives poo its characteristic brown colour. If the dog’s liver is impaired or if there is an issue such as blockage in the bile duct, then a reduction in the amount of bile released can occur.
When should I take my dog to the vet?
The odd day or two of having pale faeces are unlikely to be too concerning if your dog is otherwise well. However, if your dog’s tummy troubles last longer than this or they show any of the following symptoms, then you should see a vet sooner rather than later–
- Changes in appetite
- Diarrhoea, especially if very watery or large amounts
- Blood or mucus in the stools
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
What are the treatments for pale poo?
Treatment for pale poo very much depends on the underlying cause. Some cases may resolve with some bland food for a few days, or even just a return to their normal diet if they’ve been eating something they shouldn’t have done. Other animals may need thorough investigation, depending on the vet’s initial examination. Blood tests and imaging like x-rays or ultrasound scans can be helpful when diagnosing liver and pancreas issues.
If your dog is very unwell, they may be hospitalised while investigations take place, with intravenous fluids and pain relief. Antibiotics, changes in diet or pancreatic enzyme supplements could also be recommended depending on the diagnosis. Your vet will talk you through their plans depending on your dog’s condition.
Pale poo should be taken seriously if it is persistent, especially if accompanied by other symptoms. In some cases, it may be nothing to worry about, but it’s always best to check with your vet if you are concerned about your dog.