Why is my dog eating poop

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While dogs often have some strange habits, this one takes the cake. But wonder no longer, we are taking the guesswork out of the equation. In this article, we will cover:

If it’s normal for dogs to eat poop.

What causes your dog to eat poop.

The effects of your dog eating poop.

How to stop a dog from eating poop.

We always provide you with the most up-to-date information on your dog’s care and behavior. So, let’s dive right into what ‘normal’ is for your dog.




Is It Normal for Dogs to Eat Poop?

Coprophagia, also known as eating poop, is not uncommon in the animal world. While we see it in dogs, it is a habit that can be quite common in the entire animal kingdom.

Poop often contains partially digested food. Re-eating and digesting it makes sense to your dog.

Animals that struggle to survive in the wild eat digested food in poop to survive. The easy meal you have beats the difficult meal you don’t have any day.

Coprophagia is an easy meal for your dog. It contains bacteria and microbes to assist your dog’s digestion. Let’s dive a bit further into the causes of dogs eating their poop.




Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?

There are quite a few reasons why dogs eat their poop. It generally isn’t a whim on their part. These are the top reasons why your dog may be eating their poop.

Nutritional Instincts

Sometimes your dog eats poop because they need nutrients that they don’t get in their normal diet.

If your dog is missing some digestive enzymes, they may eat poop. Poop sometimes has partially digested nutrients. Their instinct is that they didn’t absorb the nutrients the first time around, so they’ll try again.

Before dogs were domesticated, this trait helped them scavenge for food. Their diet wasn’t balanced then, so they ate poop to get leftover nutrients.

The fact that most dogs only eat fresh poop when the nutrients aren’t dried out supports this reason, but maybe your dog is young and just exploring the world.

Puppy Behavior and Exploration

Puppies don’t have hands, so a lot of their exploration of the world early on happens with their mouths.

If you have a puppy, you’ll notice that they put lots of things in their mouths out of curiosity, this includes poop.

Some puppies may be prone to this behavior out of boredom though, so make sure you are giving them plenty of social interaction and playtime.

Attention-Seeking

This brings us to attention-seeking. If your puppy or dog knows they will get a reaction out of you when they eat poop, they may be doing it to get your attention.

If you see your dog eating poop you mustn’t overreact. Giving your dog attention when they exhibit undesirable behavior will make it worse. But sometimes your dog is eating poop for a more troubling reason.

Medical Issues

Your dog eating poop can sometimes be a sign of something much more dangerous. It’s important to notice what other signs and symptoms they may have so you know if it is time to go to the vet.

Malabsorption Disorders

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), is when your dog’s pancreas produces insufficient enzymes to digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins fully, this leads to malabsorption issues.

When a dog has EPI, it can lead to malabsorption issues, and they may show several symptoms:

  • Weight loss despite a large appetite
  • Eating poop or trash
  • Large, oily poops
  • Pooping a lot
  • Gurgling or rumbling stomach
  • Farting
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Dull looking coat
  • Continuous diarrhea
  • Vomiting

One of the biggest signs of malabsorption is eating feces. This is because they are trying to get the nutrients that their body didn’t absorb the first time.

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Let’s talk more about the enzyme deficiencies that EPI contributes to.

Enzyme Deficiencies

Enzymes are proteins that our pancreas produces to speed up the digestion of nutrients. If a dog has EPI, it means the pancreas doesn’t produce enough enzymes to break down all the nutrients the dog needs.

Some of the nutrients going through the digestive system are only partially absorbed. They come out the other end in your dog’s poop.

This undigested food appeals to your dog as it has the exact nutrients that your dog is lacking, leading to your dog eating their poop.

Sometimes it isn’t nutrients in your dog’s poop that make it attractive, but actual parasites that are stealing the nutrients out of your dog’s digestive system.

Gastrointestinal Parasites

If dogs have parasites in their digestive system, they don’t digest all the food that they eat. The parasites steal the nutrients, and this can lead to a deficiency in your dog’s nutrition and can cause coprophagia.

If you think your dog may have parasites, you can have your vet perform a fecal exam to determine which ones.

It is a good idea to deworm your dog regularly anyway as parasites can be common in all animals.

Sometimes it isn’t creepy crawlies in your dog’s digestive system that are causing the problem. There are a whole host of other medical conditions that can affect digestion.

Underlying Medical Conditions

If your dog suffers from health issues, it affects the absorption of key nutrients.

Conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Cushing’s Disease

All these affect your dog’s appetite and ability to absorb nutrients. Because your dog isn’t absorbing the nutrients, coprophagia can be a secondary effect.

If there isn’t a medical reason for coprophagia then it can mean that there is a behavioral problem going on.

Behavioral Issues

Many different behavioral reasons can lead a dog to eat their poop.

  • Isolation and loneliness can be a cause of coprophagia
  • Confinement for long periods
  • Anxiety due to harsh potty-training methods. Hiding the evidence of their accident
  • Attention seeking
  • Being fed too close to where they poop can result in confusion

If your dog is eating poop, make sure you aren’t contributing to the problem with your training methods. Give them plenty of stimulation and socialization to avoid behavioral poop eating.

Now you know what causes a dog to eat its poop. But how serious is coprophagia? What are the consequences if your dog is eating poop?




Can a Dog Die from Eating Their Own Poop

While eating their own poop won’t kill them, it’s still not a great habit for your dog to develop.

Eating their own poop, other dogs’ poop, or even other animals’ poop can cause parasites to spread. It can also cause the spread of diseases.

It’s best to try and stop your dog from eating poop or better yet never let the habit begin in the first place. Here are some key tips to avoid the problem.




How to Stop a Dog from Eating Poop

There are many ways to give your dog the best chance of avoiding the nasty habit of eating poop.

Maintain a Clean Environment

Dogs most often eat poop within 1-2 days. They are much less likely to eat old poop. This makes it very important to clean up their environment promptly when they poop.

If they are pooping outside, make sure you scoop their poop after every trip. If you know they like to eat it, it’s best to be out there with them to scoop it up right after they go.

If your dog has an accident in the house, make sure you clean it up right away. Don’t make a big deal out of it as you don’t want your dog to start pooping in the house and eating it to hide the behavior.

Simply remove the poop and clean it with an enzymatic cleaner that gets rid of the smell completely.

Keeping the environment clean is one of the best ways to stop coprophagia. If there is no poop to eat, your dog can’t eat it.

Another way to stop coprophagia is to make sure they are getting a balanced diet.

Proper Nutrition

As you have read, lack of proper nutrition is a big reason for a dog to eat its poop.

A balanced diet for a dog consists of:

  • Proteins: 18% to 22%
  • Carbohydrates: 30% to 60%
  • Fats: 1-2%
  • Vitamins: A, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, and Choline
  • Minerals: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Selenium, and Iodine
  • Water: 2.5 times the amount of dry food they eat

It is important to read the nutritional label on the back of the dog food bag. It will help you to determine that it has all these necessary nutrients.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you can consult your vet for good food recommendations.

If your dog is getting all the nutrients they need, it might be time for some positive reinforcement.

Positive Reinforcement

Using positive reinforcement can be of huge benefit to training your dog to not eat their poop. However, timing is everything.

You need to be with your dog when they poop and then give them a treat when they leave it and don’t eat it. For your dog to link the treat with not eating the poop, it needs to be instantaneous.

It’s a good idea to give a treat, verbal praise, and a hand gesture. That way the reward is loaded. Later in their training, if you ever don’t have a treat on hand, verbal praise, and hand gestures will stand in its place.

You should give your dog positive reinforcement any time they avoid undesirable behavior. Something that goes hand in hand with positive reinforcement is behavioral training.

Behavioral Training

Behavioral training is just one step beyond positive reinforcement. With behavioral training, you are providing a command that they should listen to. Then when they follow the command, they get positive reinforcement.

It is good to start off small with behavioral training. You can create your own training sessions that don’t involve poop.

  1. Put a treat on the floor. It should be one that your dog likes but doesn’t love
  2. Then choose a command, “leave it” would work great
  3. Make sure the command you choose is consistent to avoid confusing your dog
  4. Walk your dog alongside the treats on a leash
  5. Give the command as you pass each one
  6. If your dog listens and doesn’t go for the treat, give them positive reinforcement and a better treat
  7. If your dog tries to eat the treat on the ground, quickly cover it so they can’t get to it
  8. Once your dog is successfully ignoring the whole row of treats give them an even bigger and better treat at the end
Behavior dog training using treats
Image Credit: Freepik.com

Some tips to make this training more effective:

  • Use many locations to train in. Start in a quiet environment and then move to a more distracting environment once they master it
  • When you are in a noisy environment, make sure the treats you have are of high value
  • In time, replace the treats on the ground with toys your dog loves
  • Remember to use loaded rewards with treats, praise, and hand gestures

Once your dog listens to you through behavioral training, it will be easy to tell them to leave the poop they find. But what if it isn’t just a behavioral issue?

Supplements and Additives

There are some great additives that can help your dog to avoid eating their own poop. Your dog may be missing certain enzymes to digest their food.

It can be hard to get all those enzymes to them through diet alone. So, there are several supplements and additives that can make it easier. Specific ingredients in those supplements can be helpful, specifically:

  • Glutamic acid: makes poop taste bitter. This deters dogs from eating poop again
  • Yucca Schidigera extract: makes poop less stinky and less attractive to your dog. As well as providing your dog with vitamins A, B, and C

Both additives can be extremely helpful (and safe) in your quest to stop poop-eating. If you don’t feel comfortable looking for an additive yourself, this is a good topic to bring up with your vet.

If you don’t think you want to add more supplements to your dog’s diet, then it might be time to bump up their enrichment.

Behavioral Enrichment

Spending more time with your dog can decrease boredom which is one of the causes of coprophagia. Here are some good ways to do that:

  • Playing fetch
  • Taking them for walks
  • Teaching them tricks
  • Redirecting them to play when they are starting a negative behavior
  • Puzzle toys that they have to solve the puzzle to get a treat

All these are good ways to redirect your dog’s behavior if they are eating poop to get your attention. But if the behavior still persists, it’s time to find a professional.

Consulting a Professional

When you’ve tried it all and it’s still not working, it is time to look for professional help. A veterinarian or an animal behaviorist is your best solution.

Every dog is different and has different needs. It can be hard to determine the exact cause of coprophagia if you haven’t dealt with it before. Professionals have a lot more knowledge and experience dealing with coprophagia.

There are some home remedies that you can try with your puppy first that have been a success for some dog parents.




How to Stop a Puppy from Eating Poop: Home Remedies

There are several home remedies that you can try to stop your puppy from eating poop.

  • Pumpkin: adds fiber to your dog’s diet. It is also anti-inflammatory, adds healthy oils and omega fatty acids, and helps with allergies.
  • Raw pineapple: adds fiber, but don’t use canned or dried. This can be fed to your dog in moderation. Pineapple makes your dog’s poop taste acidic and unappetizing.
  • Commercial deterrents: Like For-bid, Solid Gold, and Nutri-vet. There are many more that are vet-approved and recommended. These deterrents often use enzymes and tastes to make your dog stop eating their poop.

Do you still have some questions about why your dog eats certain poop? We have the answers!




FAQs

Why is my puppy eating poop?

Your puppy may be eating poop due to medical or behavioral issues. They also may be eating it out of curiosity, to play, or even out of boredom.

Why does my dog eat other dogs’ poop?

Dogs often eat other dogs’ poop out of curiosity or to determine who is more dominant or submissive. A stronger dog will often eat a weaker dog’s poop to show dominance.

Why does my dog eat my cat’s poop?

While cat poop smells gross to you, it often smells like cat food to a dog. Just another treat that they want to eat.

Why does my dog eat chicken poop?

Your dog may enjoy the taste of chicken poop. Or they may be missing key nutrients in their diet. Make sure you have them on high-quality dog food with all the nutrients they need.

Why does my dog eat rabbit poop?

Dogs may eat rabbit poop out of curiosity. Or they might have nutrient deficiencies in their diet. Make sure there are no medical reasons that your dog is eating your rabbit’s poop.




In Conclusion

Dogs can eat poop for a whole host of reasons. Medical, behavioral, and plain old curiosity.

You need to understand that coprophagia can be a natural behavioral trait in dogs. You should still work hard to stop them from doing it.

Behavioral training and home remedies may not work. At this point seek out professional help to find a cause and solution. You will never have to ask, why does my dog eat poop, again.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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