Dogs eat poop. It’s a bad habit that can have many causes. There’s even a technical name for it … coprophagia. It’s gross to humans, but for many animals, it’s a common behavior.
Reasons Dogs Eat Poop
There are two main causes of dogs eating poop … either medical reasons or behavioral reasons. If your dog’s a poop eater, read on.
Medical Reasons Dogs Eat Poop
There are a few possible medical issues that could cause your dog’s poop-eating behavior
- Enzyme deficiency
- EPI – Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
- Other malabsorption diseases like IBD
- Diabetes or thyroid problems
Today, dogs typically eat less diverse diets than wild dogs did prior to domestication. As a result, their bodies don’t always have enough digestive enzymes to digest their food. By supplementing your dog’s diet with a good digestive enzyme, you can ensure he is getting good nutrient absorption.
EPI – Exocrine Pancreative Insufficiency
Dogs with EPI can’t break down and absorb nutrients, so they need supplements to keep them from slowly starving. Symptoms include weight loss, ravenous hunger, stool eating and diarrhea. EPI is a serious disease but you can manage it with diet and supplements.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The chronic inflammation of IBD can stop your dog absorbing nutrients … so he may resort to stool-eating. Other symptoms include chronic diarrhea and unexplained weight loss.
RELATED: Read about solutions IBD in dogs …
Other Causes Of Poop Eating
Diabetes and hypothyroidism can make your dog feel hungry. Drugs like steroids can make your dog ravenous. If your dog is missing nutrients, he’ll look for it in poop. Dogs eat stool when they have a nutritional deficiency.
If your dog is losing weight, it’s possible he needs more food. Be sure to feed a fresh, whole diet, to provide an array of nutrients.
Behavioral Reasons Dogs Eat Poop
There may be behavioral issues behind your dog’s poop-eating. Here are a few reasons for this natural behavior …
- Attention seeking
- Learning from other dogs
Cleanliness And Puppies
Female dogs will clean up after their puppies by eating their stool, and it’s possible other dogs eat poop to clean up. Puppies, on the other hand, want to discover everything around them, including poop! Puppies will often outgrow this behavior as they get older.
Dogs explore with their sense of smell, and to them, fresh stool smells great. If your dog is bored, he might eat poop for entertainment.
If you react to your dog eating poop, he might eat more to get your attention. On the other hand, if your dog has accidents in the house, he might eat his poop because he’s worried about getting in trouble.
Stressed dogs sometimes relieve stress by eating things they shouldn’t … including poop. It’s also a sad fact that dogs who come from puppy mills grow up in stressful environments … and haven’t been nourished well.
If your dog’s ever been punished for pooping in the house, he might try to hide the evidence by eating his stool.
Dogs learn from other dogs … so if your dog sees another dog enjoying a yummy poop snack, he might think it’s a high-value treat and decide to try it.
Cat litter boxes are easy places for your dog to find a tasty treat. You may not even realize he’s doing it, until you wonder why the litter box is clean.
But why do dogs like cat poop? Likely, your cat’s poop smells like food to your dog … because it’s digested cat food. Many dogs are partial to canned cat food (which is why vets often recommend it for giving dogs medication). If your cat’s digestion isn’t ideal, than his poop will smell even more like food, enticing your dog to grab a quick treat when you’re not looking.
What Are The Risks For Dogs Who Eat Poop?
For dogs, there are minimal health risks to eating their own poop. But if your dog is a kisser, you might worry about him passing on bacteria and parasites to you and your family. So if your dog insists on eating poop, you might want to discourage licking people, and wash your face and hands thoroughly if necessary! Teach your kids to do this too.
Monitor your dog for parasites if he eats other animals’ poop – especially wild animals. It’s easy to drop off a fecal sample at the vet for testing.
Your dog may also have bad breath from eating poop so you might need to brush his teeth more often.
Be careful if any animals in your home are on medication. There have been cases of drug toxicity from dogs eating poop from housemates on medications like carprofen and thyroid drugs
How To Stop Your Dog Eating Poop
Once you’ve figured out the medical or behavior reason your dog’s eating poop, you can work on stopping this undesirable behavior.
If your stool-eating dog lives with other dogs and cats, clean up the poop as soon as it happens. Keep your cat’s litter box clean too. This will minimize poop-eating opportunities.
Keep Your Dog Active And Stimulated
Avoid boredom with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Playing games, offering toys, doing agility or other sports are great ways to keep your dog’s brain and body active and occupied. This is especially true with working breed dogs – they really need to be kept busy.
Feed A Great Diet
Feeding real food instead of a processed commercial diet can make a big difference. Give your dog a balanced, whole food, preferably raw-meat based diet to make sure he’s getting the nutrition he needs. Be sure to include enough organ meats, as they’re especially rich in vitamins and minerals. Add pre and probiotics and digestive enzymes to make sure he gets all the benefits of his food.
RELATED: Try some easy raw dog food recipes …
Don’t Make Poop A Big Deal
Punishing your dog for eating stool just isn’t effective. Don’t make a fuss about him eating poop. Instead, pay attention to your dog’s digestive health and make sure he gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
With some time, patience, and detective work, you can figure out why your dog is eating poop, and get him to stop. But remember, poop eating is normal behavior!
Benjamin L Hart et al. The paradox of canine conspecific coproophagy. Veterinary Medicine & Science, Vol, 4, issue 2, May 2018.
Joanne A.M. van der Borg and Lisette Graat. Pilot study to identify risk factors for coprophagic behaviour in dogs, Wageningen University.
Rae G Hutchins DVM et al. Suspected carprofen toxicosis caused by coprophagia in a dog. JAVMA, September 1, 2013, Vol. 243, No. 5, Pages 709-711
Shadwick SR, Ridgway MD, Kubier A. Thyrotoxicosis in a dog induced by the consumption of feces from a levothyroxine-supplemented housemate. Can Vet J. 2013;54(10):987-989.