WHY DO DOGS EAT POOP?

Of all the disgusting habits our dogs have—drinking from the toilet, rolling in swampy muck, licking their privates and other dogs butts — nothing tops dogs eating poop. Their motivation may not be to gross us out, but it sure does. Sadly, poop eating is often a reason people try to rehome a dog or even opt for euthanasia.

There are few studies on it — poop eating is a relatively common phenomenon. In a 2012 study presented at the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior annual conference, researchers led by Dr. Benjamin Hart, from the University of California.

Coprophagia: Dogs Eating Poop

There’s a scientific name for this poop eating habit— coprophagia (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh)—and also both behavioral and physiological reasons why some dogs view poop as a delicacy. In certain situations, it’s not uncommon for dogs. 

Dogs eat poop for a variety of reasons. Some are normal and some are signs of an underlying issue. 

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

If your adult dog starts to dine on poop, you should consult with your vet to rule out health problems like:

  • Parasites
  • Diets deficient in nutrients and calories
  • Malabsorption syndromes
  • Diabetes, thyroid disease, and other conditions that might cause an increase in appetite
  • Drugs, such as steroids

In many cases, dogs start to eat their own poop because of some kind of environmental stress or behavioral triggers.

2 Common Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop

Poop-eating is normal in the following scenarios:

  • Nursing female dogs: They eat the poop of their young to keep their den clean.
  • Eating the poop of another species: The stool of other animals, such as horses or cats, contains nutrients that can be beneficial (but it can also contain harmful bacteria, so it’s best to discourage this).

However, there are dogs out there that eat poop outside of these scenarios, and you’ll need to figure out what’s behind the habit.

4 Abnormal Reasons Why Your Dog May Be Eating Poop

Eating their own poop or another dog’s poop is not a common behavior. Here are four reasons why an adult dog will do this.

1. They Want to Get Your Attention

Some dogs may have started eating poop when they are young because they feel like it’s a game. For example, when puppies are young, they may explore by grabbing their poop with their mouths. If your dog does this, you will probably run towards them and yell some form of “drop it.”  

When this happens, some puppies may be startled and will drop the poop and never touch it again. Other puppies may interpret the yelling as an excited invitation to play.

As a result, they dart away, and then suddenly, an impromptu game of chase occurs. These puppies have learned another way to get their owners to “play” with them.

Your dog may not even necessarily want to play but might simply want you to engage with them. This is then carried over as your dog becomes an adult as a learned behavior that gets them attention.

It’s really difficult to not pay attention to your dog when they are eating poop.

2. They’re Not Feeling Well

Some dogs may engage in this behavior when they are not feeling well.

When you have a puppy or dog that eats his own or other dogs’ stool, you should have your pet examined by your veterinarian. Coprophagy can be associated with diseases of the intestinal tract and sometimes other parts of the body (liver, brain, etc.).

If your adult dog has never been a poop eater and suddenly develops the habit in association with symptoms of disease, like weight loss, lethargy, discomfort, other behavioral changes, vomiting, or diarrhea, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will need to perform diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has an underlying medical problem, such intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies, or gastrointestinal disease.

3. They Have Anxiety

Other dogs may eat poop as a displacement behavior when they are anxious. If an anxious dog is confined, they may defecate and eat their own poop.

Possible sources of anxiety that can cause coprophagia include:

  • General anxiety
  • Worrying about being confined
  • You being away from them (separation anxiety)
  • Lack of enrichment activities when confined
4. They’re Scared of Being Punished for an Accident

Some dogs may learn as a puppy to eat their poop if they have been repeatedly punished by their owners for defecating in the house.

The dog may eat the evidence because they’re worried about being punished.

WHY DO DOGS EAT CAT POOP?

If your dog is eating the poop of other pets in the household, then those pets digestion should also be considered. If the cat’s poop still smells like food to your dog, it only makes sense your dog will want to eat it. The better your cat’s digestion, the less their poop will smell like food because more of the real food will stay in their body.

Dogs That Eat Cat Poop

Even though it’s considered normal, you might not want your dog to be diving into the litter box for a snack.

For dogs that eat cat poop, make sure you put up a pet gate or door that allows the cat access to their litter box while keeping the dog out of that room. You can also place the litter box on a table that is longer than the box to allow a spot for them to jump up onto.

Keep in mind, dogs usually repeatedly eat things that taste good to them. Poop may just appeal to their taste buds.

There are dog chew products that are made to discourage dogs from eating poop that may change the taste of the poop.

How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop

If you have a poop eater, don’t despair. There are ways to discourage the habit. Veterinarians and dog owners have seen improvements with a handful of strategies, including:

  • Vitamin supplementation: There’s been a long-standing theory that dogs eat feces because they are missing something in their diets, so a could be helpful. Vitamin-B deficiency, in particular, has been a prime suspect, and studies have backed this up. In 1981, scientists showed fecal microbial activity synthesized thiamine, a B-vitamin. Other research found other missing nutrients.
  • Enzyme supplementation: The modern canine diet is higher in carbohydrates and lower in meat-based proteins and fats than the canine ancestral diet. Some people have had success with a meat tenderizer that contains .
  • Taste-aversion products: The theory is that certain tastes and smells are as disgusting to dogs as the idea of stool eating is to us, so adding a to food or treats will make the poop that’s being produced less appealing. Many of these products contain monosodium glutamate, camomile, pepper-plant derivatives, yucca, garlic, and parsley. Just remember to treat all the dogs in a multi-dog household if there’s a poop-eating problem!
  • Be Clean

    Keep things clean and simple. By supervising your dog out on walks or in the yard, you can clean up poop when it happens. And if you have cats at home you’ll want to keep the litter box clean often too.

  • Power Of Play

    Keep your dog’s brain healthy and active. Develop a play routine that provides exercise and mental stimulation. This is really important if you have a working breed. You may even want to sign up for agility or fly-ball class for added learning. Choosing safe toys that provide entertainment is also a great idea for times when you can’t play together.

  • The Best Diet

    Make sure he’s eating a raw, whole, varied diet of quality proteins. Raw food has those digestive enzymes your dog needs to help him process his meals. If you’re feeding cooked food only, you’ll definitely want to add digestive enzymes. Raw, green tripe is particularly high in digestive enzymes, as well as probiotics.

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