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[UPDATED MARCH 2020]
If you’ve landed on this page then you have obviously gotten past the disturbing title, and you want to find out for yourself the answer to the question of why do dogs eat dog poop?
As embarrassing as it is for us dog owners to even talk about the subject and admit that we have a poop-eating dog, it is actually a very common problem. What we see as a disgusting and repulsive form of behaviour, is actually quite common in dogs.
The scientific name for poop eating is “Coprophagia”, and those who have never heard of it might think it is some kind of fancy food item, well… to some dogs it is a delicacy. Coprophagia is often one of the reasons that dog owners try to rehome their dogs.
There are some dogs that eat poop, while others do not, and some dogs will only eat their own, and others will only consume the poop of other animals. So weird and confusing right?
If you have a poop eater at home, don’t despair because the reasons why dogs eat poop fall into 2 categories, medical or behavioural, and there are ways to discourage this disgusting habit.
Poop Eating Is Natural Instinct For Mothers & Pups
A mother dog who has a litter of pups will lick her puppies as a way to encourage them to eliminate. The mother will then lick the feces clean in order to keep the den area clean and scent-free. This is a natural instinct, and in the wild mothers do this as a way to keep potential predators away.
The mother dog will usually stop eating her puppies feces around the time the puppies have started to consume solid food, and are able to leave the den to eliminate.
This instinctive behaviour is passed on to puppies, and puppies will often eat their own feces. Some puppies will grow out of this behaviour, and some puppies will continue to eat poop into their adult lives.
It is a learned behaviour, along with the curiosity that leads them to smell and eat their own poop, or poop of another dog.
This instinctive behaviour is seen in the wild, and it can be discouraged at home by the breeder. The breeder should clean up after the puppies so that the puppies will not have a chance to eat their poop.
Why Do Dogs Eat Dog Poop? 13 Reasons
Besides being a natural instinct, there are other reasons that may motivate your dog to eat the feces of another dog or animal, or their own.
The reasons behind poop eating can be classed in to 2 categories, behavioural and medical.
1. Anxiety & Stress
Your dog may result in eating poop as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. Dogs who are in confined spaces like a kennel, or locked in a basement all day alone, are more likely to eat poop than dogs who have human interaction throughout the day.
2. Your Dog Wants Your Attention
Dogs love any attention given to them by their humans whether it is a good reaction or bad reaction from you. If you have witnessed your dog eating poop for the first time, then I’m sure you reacted by shouting loudly in disgust. Your dog will anticipate this loud reaction and eat poop just to get your attention.
3. Dogs Are Scavengers
Dogs are natural scavengers, they are always on the hunt for food and will follow any scent. Unlike humans, dogs are not grossed out by feces of other dogs or other animals and just might take a bite out of something that smells good to them.
Other dog feces may contain an ingredient that your dog finds tasty. Perhaps your dog is eating the feces of a dog that has been fed human food and enjoys the taste.
Dogs will also eat other animal’s waste such as cow and horse manure, and cat poop. Cow and horse manure may contain undigested corn or other stuff your dog will find appealing, and cats are often fed a high protein diet that will be appealing to your dog.
Dogs are also drawn to rabbit poop, which is loaded with digestive enzymes and B vitamins.
4. Your Dog Is Bored
Dogs who are left alone all day with nothing to do will become bored, and the opportunity of eating poop may present itself.
5. To Avoid Being Punished
Dogs who have received harsh house training by being punished for pooping in the house, or who have had their noses rubbed in their poop, will think that poop is bad and will eat the evidence to avoid being punished.
6. Your Dog Wants A Clean Space
If your dog is outside in the yard all day, and there are numerous piles of dog crap lying around, your dog may resort to eating poop, as a way to tidy up his space.
7. Enzyme & Nutrient Deficiency
Dogs that are fed a highly-processed diet such as kibble often lack digestive enzymes needed to properly absorb their food. A dog’s body will naturally create digestive enzymes, but not enough to effectively complete the digestive process. Dogs need to get digestive enzymes from their food.
Before dogs were domesticated they were catching and eating their food in the wild. They would eat their prey, and that included everything, guts and all. Digestive enzymes would naturally be present in the guts of their prey, giving them the appropriate amount they needed.
The modern canine diet is often lacking in digestive enzymes, and dogs result in eating poop as a way to get their enzymes and nutrients that they need.
8. Gut Health
Your dog may have an imbalance of healthy gut bacteria. Dogs are often prescribed Antibiotics and other drugs, which kill any healthy gut bacteria naturally found in your dog’s gut.
9. Pancreatic Insufficiency
Dogs with this condition also known as (EPI), create very little or no amount of digestive enzymes in the pancreas. Dogs with this condition will show symptoms of starvation, weight loss, diarrhea, and poop eating. Find out more in this article from PetMD.
If your dog has intestinal parasites, it could be a reason why your dog is eating poop. Intestinal parasites absorb the nutrients that your dog should be getting from food, so your dog will eat poop in order to replenish his nutrients.
11. Conditions That Cause Increased Appetite
There are certain diseases such as diabetes and thyroid issues that can increase a dog’s appetite. Dogs will become so ravenous that they will eat anything they can find.
Drugs such as steroids will also increase your dog’s appetite. While on steroids your dog will be hungry all the time and will eat anything, even poop.
If you are not feeding your dog enough food, your dog will look for other food sources such as poop.
Is Poop Eating Harmful To Your Dog?
When your dog eats his own poop it is not going to do your dog any harm, other than the foul breath, and the ick factor. However, if your dog consumes the feces of other dogs or animals there is a risk of health problems, especially if the poop has parasites, viruses or toxins.
If your dog has allergies and consumes poop that contains an allergen, then that will cause problems for your dog. Whenever your dog consumes poop from an unknown origin, your dog is at risk of getting sick.
Some signs that your dog may be sick from eating poop include:
- Vomiting & Diarrhea
- Intestinal Parasites
- Loss of Appetite
While eating their own poop may not be harmful, poop eating should be discouraged and stopped. Not only is your dog at risk of getting sick, but there is also a potential that you may get sick as well if your dog licks you.
How To Stop Poop Eating Behaviour
If you notice your dog eating poop, you should make sure to visit your vet in order to rule out any medical issues. If your dog has a clean bill of health, then you will need to address the behavioural reasons.
- Feed At Regular Intervals: If you are feeding your dog once a day, consider feeding 2 or 3 times a day to keep your dog more satisfied and less hungry.
- Change Your Dog’s Diet: As we determined earlier, the modern canine diet which is kibble is highly processed and lacks digestive enzymes that your dog needs. I recommend feeding your dog a raw food diet, that consists of a variety of quality proteins. Raw food contains digestive enzymes that your dog needs.
- Restore Your Dog’s Gut Health: Probiotics are a great way to restore your dog’s gut health. Probiotics add healthy bacteria to the gut.
- Pick-up After Your Dog: Clean up any dog poop immediately, and keep your dog’s area clean, to avoid the temptation.
- Keep Your Dog On Leash: Supervise your dog while walking, by keeping your dog on a leash.
- Keep Cats Litter Box Clean & Away From Dog: If you own a cat, you will want to keep the litter box in an area that your dog can’t get to. A good idea is to place it in a small space such as under the stairs, and have a stair gate with a flap door big enough for only your cat.
- Practice Good Recall Commands: Work on the “Leave It” and “Come” command, and offer a treat to your dog when he obeys.
- Provide Plenty Of Daily Stimulation: Keep your dog from getting bored, by offering plenty of mental stimulation and exercise, and make sure your dog has plenty of toys to help keep him entertained.
- Don’t Punish Your Dog: When you see your dog eating poop, naturally you will be disgusted and want to yell at your dog, but your reaction may cause excitement in your dog, making your dog more interested in the poop.
- Try A Poop Deterrent: Many dog owners swear by a product called Forbid. It is a poop deterrent that you sprinkle onto your dog’s food to make his poop taste awful. It has worked well for dogs who eat their own poop.
Do Home Remedies Work?
There are certain home remedies that claim to prevent your dog from eating poop, such as feeding your dog pineapple and pumpkin. Dogs like the taste of pineapple and pumpkin, but it makes their poop taste awful.
While pineapple and pumpkin are healthy for your dog, feeding too much can be a bad thing. Pineapple contains a lot of sugar which is not good for your dog, and feeding an excessive amount of pumpkin can provide your dog with a toxic amount of Vitamin A.
Another poop deterrent is sprinkling Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or lemon juice onto your dog’s poop. Seriously?? If you have the time to go outside into the yard and sprinkle this stuff onto your dog’s poop, then you have the time to pick the poop up!
Sadly, these home remedies don’t work on all dogs, and in most cases, they only work for a short period. I do not recommend these home remedies.
At the first sign of your dog eating poop, you are naturally grossed out, and maybe even a little embarrassed, but it’s important to remember that coprophagia is more common than you think. You should always take your dog to the vet to rule out any medical issues, and then work on the behavioural reasons.
The best way to discourage this nasty behaviour is to always pick up after your dog, lower your dog’s stress levels, feed a good diet, and practice the recall commands.
Remember that punishing your dog will not work, and will only make things worse.
What About You?
Have you ever witnessed your dog or another dog eating poop? Do you have any tips to share?
I would love to hear from you, please share your thoughts below.