OK, so you’ve gotten past the headline.
That means …
a) you have a strong stomach
b) you know having a dog means dealing with poop. (But they’re worth it!)
As gross as stool eating is to humans, it’s actually a common habit of many dogs.
The possible reasons why dogs find poop akin to a highly prized delicacy vary … including behavioral to medical in nature.
Poop eating may be something as simple as boredom … or it may be related to a health issue like diabetes.
So, I know discussing why dogs eat poop may not be easy for some … but it really is important.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
First, let’s begin with possible medical reasons that may cause your dog to eat poop.
1. Enzyme deficiency
Before domestication, a wild dog’s diet would be dependant on whole prey and local vegetation. When a dog eats whole prey it includes the digestive tract … which naturally provides the appropriate amount of digestive enzymes needed.
Unfortunately many dogs today are fed highly processed diets.
Digestive enzymes help ensure your dog is able to properly absorb his nutrition. If he doesn’t have the enzymes needed … food will pass through undigested.
Dogs can create enzymes on their own but they aren’t always enough. This is why you need to make sure they’re part of his daily diet.
And by ensuring he is getting the proper nutrition you’ll help keep diseases away.
2. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
EPI is a genetic condition that some young dogs struggle with … but they can develop symptoms later in life too. It’s also known as pancreatic insufficiency.
Dogs with EPI aren’t able to create many if any digestive enzymes in the pancreas. If your dog has EPI they’ll need to be supplemented with enzymes as they can slowly starve from not being able to digest nutrients.
Symptoms of EPI include:
- Weight loss
- Stool eating
Intestinal parasites need food too. If your dog has a worm burden he has to compete for nutrients with the parasites. This leaves him getting less nutrition as the parasites mature.
4. Conditions causing increased appetite
Certain diseases like diabetes and thyroid issues can make your dog feel hungry … even if he’s not actually hungry.
Steroids can also make your dog ravenous enough to eat stool. And let’s be honest … many dogs don’t need much of a push.
5. Other deficiencies
It’s possible that your dog may have a hydrochloric acid deficiency. Roger DeHann, DVM cautions that this can be a result of a poor diet or aging.
Hydrochloric acid is used by the body to break down proteins. If your dog doesn’t have enough he won’t be able to digest food and it’ll just pass through. He’ll then seek out poop for missing nutrients.
You may also see poop eating behavior if they have a mineral deficiency according to Joseph Demers, DVM.
Any condition that leads to poor nutrient absorption can, in turn, lead to stool eating. He may resort to eating his own in attempts to get undigested nutrients back. Or he may find your cat’s stool even more delightful.
It’s important to consider whose stool he is seeking, because it may also be an indicator of a deficiency or illness in that pet.
Make sure you’re feeding your dog enough food at regular times. If your dog is losing weight on a fresh, whole diet, then feed him more!
And keep to a schedule, a hungry dog will look for other food sources you may not like.
Now that we’ve covered some of the possible health reasons your dog may eat poop … let’s move onto possible behavioral reasons.
There’s one key time that a dog will eat stool and it’s very much in the natural order of things. This is when a female dog cleans up after her puppies to keep the nest clean. This drive for cleanliness could also account for other dogs that “clean up” stool.
Puppies are curious and exploring their surroundings is an important part of their development. It’s not unusual for them to eat many things, including poop as part of their adventures.
The good news is that most puppies grow out of the poop eating stage.
Dogs are natural scavengers and smells are a big part of that. Poop stinks to us … but to our dogs it’s amazing.
If your dog is home alone all day with not much to do, he’ll find something. If there happens to be some poop within his reach … he may just find a new way to entertain himself and get a little treat in the process.
12. Attention seeking
Our dogs love us and want our attention. It might seem odd, but for some dogs getting in trouble is still a good thing. They get your attention and the added fun of poop hunting all at once.
Dogs who are stressed can sometimes eat things they shouldn’t … and some may relieve stress by eating poop.
14. Puppy mills
It’s a sad truth but puppy mill dogs are more likely to develop this habit. They grow up in stressful environments and often have poor nutritional starts.
Punishment for having accidents in the house might leave your dog worried that poop is a bad thing. Dr Becker, cautions owners to not make a big deal of accidents as some dogs may “hide the evidence” later.
16. Doggie see, doggie eat doo-doo
If you have a younger dog they can pick this habit up from an older dog. Sometimes they learn this from their Mothers who do this as a natural housekeeping skill.
How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop
By now you’ve ruled out or in, all the reasons why your dog may be eating poop. Now it’s time to review what you can do to kick this gross habit at home.
1. 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.
2. The 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.
3. Feed The Best Diet You Can
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. Learn more about raw green tripe, here.
4. Add Supplements When Needed
For a trace mineral deficiency, you can add some kelp, according to Dr Demers. And for a hydrochloric acid deficiency, try some apple cider vinegar (1 tsp per 25 pounds in food), which may help mimic the missing acid and help the body compensate for the deficiency, according to Dr DeHaan. Learn more about the health benefits of sea vegetables like kelp, here.
5. Screen For Parasites
Any time you find your dog is struggling to absorb nutrients you want to check for parasites. This is a quick and easy test that your holistic vet can run for you.
6. Don’ t Make Poop A Big Deal
Avoid punishment! According to a pet owner survey at Davis … punishment isn’t effective. The study also found food additives used to stop poop eating are only effective up to 2 percent of the time.
Positive reinforcement training wasn’t very effective either.
Keep on top your dog’s digestion always. Remember, your dog may be attracted to another dog’s or cat’s stool, not only because he is deficient in something … but because he’s not absorbing food well.
In short poop eating isn’t simple … but with some detective work and easy changes at home you can have fresher kisses down the road. Just be patient and be consistent.