Polka Dot Stools in Dogs: Did My Dog Eat Party Confetti?

If your dog’s poop looks like somebody just had a birthday party in their belly, somebody did. Cooties… in other words, parasites!

Unfortunately, it will not look as cute as in this illustration.

Polka Dot Stools in Dogs: Did My Dog Eat Party Confetti?

How fresh is the poop?

If the pie isn’t freshly baked, the worms might not have come out of your dog’s bum. They might have just shown up after the party’s started, so to speak. I have seen freaked-out people sharing photos of worms that invaded their dog’s poop after it’s been on the ground for a while, and I have seen that happen now and then, too; guests showing up for an open buffet.

It is also possible that your dog ate something that didn’t digest well, and that’s what you’re seeing. Some foods don’t digest, particularly when eaten whole. However, you might need to freak out if you see rice-like things in your dog’s poop or around your dog’s rear end. They’re probably tapeworms.

Tapeworm segments

Once you’ve seen the tapeworm segments, you will recognize them.

Polka Dot Stools in Dogs: Tapeworm
Image: Public Domain Graphic, CDC Division of Parasitic Diseases

If a tapeworm is a worm, why does it look like rice? Well, it doesn’t until it does. They look like worms inside your dog’s body, but they shed body segments as part of their life cycle. When the segments first appear, they are small, white, and may even wiggle. But as they dry, they shrink up into what looks like rice. I saw a couple of them crawl right out of Cookie’s bum and then experimentally watched one shrink.

Cookie most likely got them from eating a squirrel or from fleas. An ingested flea is the most common way dogs get tapeworms.

Which worms can you see in your dog’s poop?

Tapeworms and roundworms are the only ones you’ll usually be able to see with your eyes.

You have a leg up if you see worms in your dog’s poop. Because only two of the four common intestinal worms can usually be seen in the stool; tapeworms and roundworms.

Roundworms look more like what you’d think of a worm looking like. Long and, well, round. Unless your dog has lots of roundworms, you probably won’t see any in the poop. But, just because you don’t see any doesn’t mean they’re not there.

Other symptoms

You may or may not be able to tell whether your dog has worms by other symptoms, such as:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • a pot-bellied appearance
  • weight loss
  • or dry hair

That said, I am not a fan of treating a problem I don’t have; I wouldn’t routinely deworm my adult dog. I do, however, have the poop checked regularly. Worms are not only gross but severe enough that infestation can be dangerous.

Related articles:
What’s in the Poop?
A Primer On Intestinal Worms: Types, Symptoms, and Diagnosis of Intestinal Worms in Dogs

Further reading:
Intestinal Worms in Dogs and Cats

Categories: ConditionsIntestinal parasitesIntestinal wormsParasitesPolka dot stoolsSymptoms

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

  1. I didn’t realize that tapeworms shed their bodies and look like rice in poop. That’s good info! I’m totally with you on not treating something that your dog doesn’t have. However, always checking for parasites is a great idea. Who’d want to take medication just for kicks and giggles?

    Henry was just checked about a month or so ago when he was at the vet. Thank goodness he’s worm free – and all other nasty parasite free too. 🙂
    Very good details on what to look for and do with worms in dog poop. I’m sharing with all my dog parents.

  2. Oh, that is so gross! I wonder if my dog could still get these worms if she’s on a flea & tick medication? I’m assuming that the monthly meds would kill any flea or but she might ingest throughout the month – but am I correct? Excellent post, thank you!

  3. I would not have known about tapeworms wigglng UGH!!! Yikes this all sounds pretty revolting doesn’t it? I assume a dewormed tablet would clear any problems and the dog would be OK?

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