Dogs do all kinds of disgusting things, and sometimes their behavior can be downright disturbing to owners who haven’t yet gotten used to the idea that their beloved pets’ habits aren’t as squeaky clean as they used to think. One particularly alarming behavior for new owners is Coprophagy, or the ingestion of feces. This can take the form of either eating their feces, which is called autocoprophagy or eating the feces of other animals, including cats and other dogs.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to eat their poop. They usually outgrow this habit by reaching adulthood, but some dogs never lose their taste for excrement. Eating the droppings of other animals isn’t as standard, but it does happen from time to time.
In this article, we will discuss why do dogs eat poop, the health risks, reasons for coprophagia, and how to prevent your dog from eating poop.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Why do dogs eat poop? A combination of factors may be at play, such as stress or anxiety, a nutritional deficiency, or a poor diet. In addition, some animals eat their feces or other animals for various reasons, including cleaning up their den and disguising their scent from predators.
Hungry dogs are motivated to find food wherever they can. Your dog eats poop because the feces of other animals contain undigested food that he would like to digest. For instance, if he eats grass and then vomits, he may try to get some of that back. If a dog is underfed or malnourished, he may also seek out other animals’ feces since it can sometimes contain seeds and grains that are still undigested. Some veterinarians believe there may be a dietary deficiency causing your dog to eat his feces or the feces of other animals. There are commercial additives available to put in your dog’s food (they taste horrible but cause no harm) that may help.
Dogs who lack self-confidence or are insecure about their surroundings may eat poop as a coping mechanism. In addition, research has shown that dogs who display submissive behaviors during stressful encounters with humans — like licking lips, averting eyes, and turning away — were more likely to engage in coprophagia. A related behavioral trait is an attention-seeking behavior; some dogs will do anything to get your attention, even if it’s negative attention.
When you ask yourself why do dogs eat poop, you can also look at the answer from a broader perspective related to ancestry and disposition. Some reasons are related to medical reasons. Before you look into behavioral causes, have your dog checked by a veterinarian to rule out physiological problems causing the habit. Poop eating can be a sign of illness, especially if it’s a sudden behavior change or if your dog also has diarrhea, vomiting, or weight loss. A few blood tests and maybe a fecal exam can help determine whether there’s an underlying medical cause for coprophagia. Keep in mind that many dogs will eat their stool when they’re sick; this is a normal instinct to keep predators from knowing they are ill.
Other reasons are related to psychological causes. For example, dogs are scavengers by nature. Their wolf ancestors would eat anything they could find, including carrion (dead animals) and feces (poop). But we domesticated dogs, so they shouldn’t be doing it anymore, right? Not necessarily. Some experts say coprophagia may be instinctive in domestic dogs in that they are used to eating whatever they find, including poop. Also, some dogs may not get enough nutrition from their regular meals and therefore look elsewhere for sustenance—even if that means dining on dung.
What Is Coprophagia?
Have you ever asked yourself: “Why do dogs eat poop?” Believe it or not, this is a fairly common problem and even has a name among veterinarians. The scientific term for poop eating is coprophagia. Coprophagy refers to many kinds of eaters of feces, including dogs and other canines, rodents, rabbits, and monkeys. Coprophagia is a behavior with multiple potential causes. Coprophagia can be a normal doggy behavior, but it can also signal an underlying medical problem or another cause for concern.
Most of the time, dogs that engage in coprophagia do so because they find it rewarding. For example, the taste or texture of feces may be appealing to them for some reason. They also might learn that eating waste is an excellent way to get attention from humans.
However, there may be an underlying medical issue at play in some cases. For example, dogs with malabsorption issues — meaning their body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food — are more likely to eat feces because they’re trying to get the nutrition they need from their waste. Diabetes can also lead to coprophagia because dogs with diabetes have trouble processing sugar and end up excreting it with their waste. Coprophagia might also stem from boredom or stress when a dog is left alone for long periods.
In a 2011 study of over 3,000 dogs, researchers found that 16 percent of dogs are categorized as poop eaters, which means they caught more than five incidents eating poop. The researchers also found that 24 percent of the dogs in the study (one in four) were observed eating feces at least once.
In a 2017 survey, 17 percent of dog owners reported their dogs ate feces at least once or twice a week. However, it turns out that not all dogs eat poop; some only do it occasionally while others make it part of their daily diet.
Coprophagy has been observed in some dogs, especially young puppies less than six months old. In addition, puppies will sometimes eat their mother’s feces as a source of natural probiotics.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop and Have Health Problems?
One of the most unpleasant aspects of pet ownership is dealing with your dog eating poop. Coprophagia, or stool eating, is one of the most common behavior problems in dogs and can be challenging to treat. The health risks of dogs eating their poop, also called Coprophagy, are minimal. There are, however, some risk factors to consider.
Coprophagia is especially common in puppies. They usually grow out of it as they mature. Some dogs will never eat their poop, but others will always do it. Anecdotally, female dogs and spayed females are more likely to eat poop than male dogs and intact females.
There’s a saying – “parasites beget parasites” – which means that parasites can cause coprophagia or may be caused by coprophagia. Some dogs eat poop because they have parasites. Parasite eggs can be passed into dog feces. It isn’t apparent why some dogs are more attracted to eating other animals’ poop than others. It may be an evolutionary instinct when dogs had to fend for themselves and eat whatever was available. Or your dog may learn its behavior from living in a household with other dogs who have the habit.
If your dog eats his feces, you will notice it because the smell of his mouth and breath will be offensive. The odor is almost impossible to eliminate, and even professional teeth cleaning won’t help very much. A dog who eats his feces may be suffering from some gastrointestinal problem and needs to see a veterinarian. Your dog may also be suffering from a nutritional deficiency, so taking him to the vet for an examination is essential. If your dog suffers from chronic diarrhea, he may be eating his feces as a way to get extra nutrients into his system.
Dogs who eat poop because they are hungry or bored might have an underlying medical condition such as hyperthyroidism or chronic pancreatitis that causes them to feel hungry all the time. Still, there could also be too much space between meals, or they don’t get enough exercise.
This is not something that’s often talked about, but it does happen. If a dog is on medication, the medication passes through its body and into its feces. If another dog eats the poop, they can get a very high level of medicine in their system. Some dogs have gotten sick from eating their housemate’s poop if the other dog is on medication. For example, a dog could get sick from eating carprofen (Rimadyl) or thyroid drugs.
Suppose your dog has eaten another pet’s poop, and you are concerned about them getting sick. In that case, you should take them to see your veterinarian as soon as possible, so that they can be evaluated for drug toxicity.
Do I Have to Go to the Vet Every Time My Dog Eats Poop?
For most people, the answer is no. However, if you’re familiar with the symptoms of coprophagia — the term for when dogs eat their poop or that of other animals — and you understand how to help your dog break the habit, you probably don’t need to bring him to your vet every time he eats a pile.
On the other hand, if your dog is new to you or she has always had this problem, and it hasn’t gotten better with training or behavior modification, it’s worth having a conversation with your vet about what might be causing it. Other dogs can develop coprophagia due to a veterinarian’s health problems. So, let’s go over what you should do if you catch your dog eating poop. If it happens occasionally, don’t be too concerned about it.
But if you’re concerned about it, you can take steps to help reduce the behavior. For example, dogs can have an upset stomach or be deficient in nutrients and turn to eat poop. They may also suffer from anxiety or stress, which leads to the behavior. Or they may like the taste!
If you’re seeing signs of illness such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in behavior, it’s time to see the vet. However, if your dog is showing no other signs of illness, there are some things you can do at home to help break him of this habit.
If your puppy is eating feces more than once or twice a week, you should take him to see your veterinarian. Feces eating is not normal behavior and can be symptomatic of other health issues. Your vet will test your puppy for parasites and vitamin deficiencies. He may also examine your puppy’s anal glands to ensure no infection is present. If this frequently happens over an extended period, you should take him to see your vet rule out any other health problems.
Most veterinarians agree that the practice of eating poop is a pretty normal behavior for dogs. Of course, it could be a sign of medical or behavioral issues, but it’s nothing to worry about in most cases. There are reasons why you should be concerned if your dog eats poop, though. This habit can lead to gastrointestinal upset and even cause your dog to have an upset stomach. It may also increase the risk of your dog contracting intestinal worms like roundworms and hookworms.
If you notice that your dog is constantly licking their butt, or if you consistently find poop-smeared toys in the house, your dog may have an upset tummy and needs to poop. Even though it’s gross, it’s not usually a cause for concern — just a sign that your dog’s digestive system is out of sorts. However, if your dog eats their poop every single time they defecate, and you’re worried they might be sick, you should take them to the vet to get checked out if you’re not sure if they have an upset stomach or if they ate something dangerous (like a candy bar). Talk to your vet about how to handle the situation.
So, now that you understand the why, what, and how your dog may be eating poop, it is essential to know how to prevent your dog from eating poop.
How to Prevent My Dog From Eating Poop?
The first step to preventing your dog from eating poop is to make sure they are healthy and well-fed. Next, provide plenty of opportunities for exercise so your dog will be less inclined to seek out a snack. Next, feed your dog twice daily rather than leaving food out all day. This will reduce the likelihood that he’ll scavenge for food between meals. Finally, increase the fiber content of your dog’s diet. Filling him up with more fiber may help reduce his desire to eat any other items that happen to pass his way.
To prevent your dog from eating poop, try using bitter apple spray or another bad-tasting but nontoxic substance on areas where your dog likes to eat defecate or other animals’ litter boxes so he will avoid them. Some pet owners feed their dog’s pineapple to make their stool less palatable. This method has not been proven successful, though. Many dog owners believe it makes his stools taste bad and deter him from eating them.
If your dog eats poop, you may have a puppy who hasn’t learned that this is not acceptable. You can correct this with training and close supervision. However, suppose your dog is eating the poop of another animal in the house. In that case, it’s essential to rule out any medical causes (diabetes or other metabolic disorders) before determining whether you should use behavioral methods to prevent this behavior.
If your dog eats the poop of other animals, keep them separated from those animals so they cannot get the poop. Only allow your dog outside when supervised so they cannot eat other animal poop they find outdoors. Also, clean up feces immediately after your pet uses the bathroom so that he does not have access to them anymore.
When you see your dog eating any poop, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise and then distract them with something else like throwing a ball or their favorite toy. Do not punish your dog for eating the poop, as this may increase stress and anxiety and make them more likely to do it when you’re not around. Instead, train your dog not to eat other animals’ feces by keeping him leashed when you take him out for walks, so he doesn’t have access to other dogs’ droppings. If he is already loose when he eats feces, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise and immediately bring him back inside.
Some dogs eat poop. It’s a nasty habit, but it’s not uncommon. It’s a behavior that many owners find distasteful and even disgusting. But why do dogs eat poop? Is it normal? And should we be worried if they do? The good news is that poop eating doesn’t indicate health problems in most cases. Eating poop is just one of the many weird things dogs do — and something that most dogs grow out of on their own. While you won’t have to take your dog to the vet every time he eats poop (unless he has other symptoms or if you notice any changes in his health), it’s essential to know when to seek help from your vet.