Dogs have a few quirky behaviors and habits that make them quite unique. Probably the most repulsive canine habit for us as humans is eating poop. So why do dogs eat poop? Let’s find the answer!
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but that doesn’t mean we’re not occasionally embarrassed by some of their habits. One common undesirable behavior that dogs show is when they eat poop.
Dogs love to use their mouths to explore the environment around them, leading to many of them eating poo as they investigate.
If your dog eats poop, you’re not alone. It is actually a relatively normal behavior for many dogs, particularly puppies, and is seen in roughly 25% of dogs.
There’s a scientific name for the gross habit of dogs eating poop. It’s called coprophagia. Coprophagia is a form of pica, or an improper ingestion of nonfood items.
There are two types of stool eating:
- Your dog eating its own poop.
- Your dog eating the poop of another animal.
Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Poo?
If your dog is eating its own poop, this might be an indication that his body is not properly digesting and absorbing the food being fed and that nutrient assimilation is poor. In other words, he’s not getting the full nutritional value out of the food he’s consuming.
That’s an indication of a potential medical issue. Therefore, if you notice your dog is suddenly eating its own poop, take them to the veterinarian for a checkup to rule out any medical causes.
Low levels of vitamin B-complex and vitamin K have been associated with dogs eating their own poop, but this has not been proven.
Just like the rest of us, parasites get hungry, and they need food too. If your dog is infected with intestinal parasites, he’ll be competing for essential nutrients. As the parasites mature, he’ll get less and less nutrition, which could lead him to eat his poop.
If your best furry friend is home alone all day, without things to do, it could also lead to poop-eating. Though it hasn’t been scientifically proven, some experts believe coprophagia in dogs may be triggered by chronic stress, anxiety, and boredom.
In addition, isolated dogs, or those who spend too much time in a crate or other confined space are more likely to eat poop.
In some cases, dogs just eat their poop to seek attention. Once they’ve realized that eating their stool is a highly effective way to get the attention of the people around them it can become a habit.
Causes of Dogs Eating Poop
There are several reasons why a dog may eat poop, and they can all lead to this challenging habit. However, most reasons can be narrowed down to two categories: behavior and nutrition.
According to a 2018 study, coprophagia may be an inherited tendency from dogs’ ancestors, wolves.
Wolves defecated outside their dens, but if a wolf was too sick or injured to go do their business elsewhere, it would eat the poop in order to protect the pack.
Another possible explanation is that puppies naturally mimic this behavior from their mum. New mothers will eat the poop of her pups to encourage them to defecate, to keep the den clean, and to prevent potential predators from smelling her pups.
So some pups learn this behavior from their mothers or siblings, but most of them stop doing it by the time they’re weaned.
Elsewhere, another reason could be that dogs consider poo as being valuable, as it looks like their owner is running to clear it up quickly before they do. This, however, may accidentally encourage the dog to eat it even quicker.
Your dog’s sense of smell and taste are very different to ours and they may be able to detect undigested fats, proteins or other material that smell delicious to them.
Coprophagia can be a symptom of gastrointestinal disease or nutritional deficiency, including malnutrition and starvation. Dogs may seek out feces to supplement their diet, looking for nutrients in undigested food remnants.
While the type of diet and coprophagy in dogs are not considered to be directly related, some experts believe that stool-eating behavior is caused by the inability of the dog to digest their diet.
To ensure your pooch’s food contains the necessary nutrients for optimal health, search for a product that meets the standards set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Can a Dog Get Sick from Eating Poop?
While eating their stool rarely causes problems in dogs, it’s a totally different case if they start ingesting the poop of other animals.
The main danger posed by dogs eating poop is intestinal parasites.
The most common parasite in dogs is the roundworm, which is spread through the ingestion of feces containing roundworm larvae. Many infected pets have no outward signs, only developing symptoms as the parasite continues to reproduce internally.
Keep in mind, that parasites rarely pose a serious danger to healthy adult dogs, but can be fatal if left untreated in puppies.
Therefore, make sure your pet is protected with year-round flea, tick, and heartworm medications, and stay current on all necessary pet vaccinations.
How Do I Stop My Dog from Eating Poop?
If your puppy’s mowing down on poop, the good news is they’ll probably stop doing it by the time they’re about 9 months old.
On the other hand, if you have an adult dog that does it, the first step to stop a dog from eating poop is have him examined by a vet. It’s important to distinguish if the coprophagia is a behavioral or medical issue, as that determines the course of treatment.
There are supplements and prescription medications formulated to treat these issues. Your vet may recommend a new dog food or diet plan to fill gaps in nutrition.
Unfortunately, poop eating is generally a normal dog behavior, and attempts to abolish it don’t seem to work.
However, if you catch your dog in the act, redirect his attention to something more positive and then discreetly cleaning up the mess. Punishment or harsh tones are ineffective and could even increase your dog’s predilection for poop.
In addition to, the following tips may help break the habit.
- Make your dog’s current diet more appealing! Block his access to any litter boxes at home and move his food bowls away from litter zones.
- Avoid areas in dog parks where forgotten feces might linger.
- Training might work. Teach your dog to “leave it” or “drop it” on command and practice so you dog is 100% reliable.
- Making sure that your dog is given enough attention can help reduce the incidence of boredom-related coprophagy.
Generally, the science isn’t completely clear on why dogs or puppies eat feces.
Our advice is before you begin treating your dog for eating faeces, work with your vet to determine the most likely cause.
And don’t forget – first of all, scoop the poop. Making it unavailable for your dog and other dogs is really the surest way to decrease the behavior.