Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
It’s gross and probably turns your stomach a little. Why do dogs eat poop? Is there something wrong with their diet? Are they sick? What should I be doing about this odd, and maybe even unhealthy, behavior?
Dogs eating their own, or other animals, feces (also known as coprophagy) isn’t quite the disgusting mystery it may seem. In this article we’ll cover the reasons why dogs eat poop, whether it’s just gross or something more serious, and how to stop your dog from eating poop.
One thing I do want to stress before we get going is that when you see your dog eating feces, do not begin yelling and screaming and getting angry at your dog. This won’t solve anything, and could very well likely make it worse (as well as creating new issues).
Now, with that out the way… let’s get into why do dogs eat poop and how you can stop it!
Why Dogs Eat Poop
Before we get into how to stop your dog from eating poop, let’s first figure out why they’re doing it. That’ll help us to figure out what we need to do next to address the issue.
1. They Learned From Mom
Many dogs learn this behavior while still puppies. Dog mothers by instinct will sometimes eat their puppies’ stool to keep the den clean and because the scent attracts predators. Mothers of many other animal species also practice this behavior.
And though the threat doesn’t really exist these days, the behavior remains in dogs, and not surprisingly many puppies will copy it. The mother will usually stop this behavior once the puppy is on solid food and able to leave the den to defecate.
Some puppies, however, will continue what they’ve learned from mom as they grow. For most, continuing is just a matter of curiosity about new tastes and smells, but if they’re still eating poop as an adult then there are other possible reasons which we’ll cover.
2. They’re Having Digestion Problems
If you still find your dog is eating poop once they’ve grown into adulthood, or picks up the behavior at that time, one of the most likely culprits is poor digestion. This can usually be corrected with a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet.
Your dog may not be digesting their food properly because its food is low in digestible nutrients. This means that when they eat, their body is only able to receive small amounts of nutrition from the food, and most of what goes in comes out the same way.
In these cases, their food will taste very similar to the way it did when they first ate it, so it’s easy to see why they might want a second helping. These cases should be solved by switching to a higher quality dog food which is both nutritious and digestible.
3. They’re Bored
Another possible reason your dog is eating stool is simply just that they’re bored. This is a problem you’ll usually only have with puppies, who are naturally going to have more interesting in experimenting by playing or even eating stool.
4. They’re Avoiding Trouble
If you’re still house training your puppy, they’ve probably figured out having accidents inside the house is something that gets you upset at them. Some will attempt to hide the evidence by eating it before you can make the discovery.
5. They’re Stressed
This is a possible reason for both adult dogs as well as puppies. If your dog is experiencing something new and stressful, like being introduced to a new home for instance, they can sometimes show it many different negative ways.
For some, it will be displayed through separation anxiety, but there are plenty of dogs or puppies who will find relief by eating poop. We’ll cover how to stop the behavior later, but for now just know that getting angry will only increase their stress.
6. They’re Hungry
We covered earlier that digestion issues due to poor quality food can cause dogs to eat stool, but there could be other nutritional and health reasons occurring as well. Worms and other intestinal parasites can leach nutrients from your dog, causing them to seek out other sources.
It can also just be a factor of your dog not eating enough. If your dog is still a puppy, they need to be fed 2 to 3 times per day. Consult your veterinarian if you need advice about the amount your dog is eating or have concerns about worms.
7. They Want Attention
This one isn’t very common, but it’s still something you’ll see from time to time. Some dogs, both adults and puppies, will seek out any attention they can get — even when it comes in a negative form. (You might be reminded of some humans you know right now, too.)
Now that we’ve covered why dogs eat poop, let’s move on to how to stop your dog from eating their stool.
Is it Safe for Dogs to Eat Poop?
Coprophagia (“eating poop”) will typically be harmless, but should be stopped as it can sometimes spread infectious disease or parasites to your dog. Gastroenteritis resulting in vomiting or diarrhea can also be a result.
It could also be a sign of an underlying health issue such as diabetes, parasitic infection, or gastrointestinal disease. Usually, however, if this is the case it’s a sign of a larger health issue and not simply a behavioral problem.
If your dog is vomiting, has diarrhea, excessive thirst, lethargy, and/or is losing weight in addition to the poop eating, you should schedule a consultation with your veterinarian to discuss things.
How to Stop Dog Eating Poop
We’ve covered “why do dogs eat poop” and harmful signs you should be looking out for; now let’s get into all you need to know about how to stop your dog from eating poop. Follow these tips below and you should quickly put an end to this gross and sometimes harmful issue.
Feed Them Well
Always make sure to feed your dog a nutritious dog food that is easily digestible. A common reason why dogs eat poop is that they’re eating poor-quality food which they’re having trouble getting all the nutrients from the first time around.
Other than stool eating, some signs you need to switch dog food are that your dog is:
- not growing at the proper rate
- watery stool
- stool with large chunks of undigested food
These could also be signs of something more serious, so in addition to seeking out a higher quality dog food you should consult your veterinarian.
Keep Them Stimulated
Coprophagia in dogs is also commonly seen in dogs that are just bored. Make sure that your dog is getting all the playtime, walks, and attention they need. If you’ve been avoiding walks because your dog gets excited and pulls on their leash, click to read our article on how to solve that issue!
Clean Up Regularly
Dog mothers will often eat feces due to instinct, because the smell can attract predators (this is a common behavior in many animal species). Puppies will observe the behavior and sometimes pick it up themselves. Make sure to always pick up your dog’s waste to prevent this.
Make It Less Attractive
While rotting, gross smells will repel us, remember that for many animals (dogs included) this can actually be attractive. If you don’t have time to pick up your dog’s waste in the yard, spraying it with something they find nasty like hot pepper sauce can work.
This is an option that should only be used occasionally when you’re very pressed for time, however. It’s best to just get it cleaned up as soon as you can so that your dog won’t even have to make the decision about whether or not to eat their stool.
Keep Your Dog on Their Leash
Make sure that whenever you walk your dog you have them on their leash so that you can prevent them from eating any stool you might encounter left by other animals. If you come across some and your dog begins sniffing, give a gentle tug away from it.
The attraction may be a bit much for some dogs, especially when you’re first working on this issue, so it’s a good idea to also give some verbal distraction to get their attention. Give a verbal praise and a quick pet when they return their focus to you.
It might seem difficult at first when training your dog, especially with something that maybe we’d rather keep out of sight and out of mind. But of course, you know that’s exactly what not to do, right?
Be sure to stay consistent with the methods already listed in this article. Always give positive praise and (loving) discouragement when appropriate. It’s important to not give your dog mixed signals or they’ll be confused and the behavior will continue.
Hopefully this has given you all the information you needed to know about why dogs eat poop. It’s gross and easy to try to pretend it doesn’t exist, but it’s great that you’re still seeking information because of the possible health problems that could be behind the behavior.
Follow the tips on how to stop your dog from eating poop and it should put an end to the issue soon, but you’ll want to go ahead and pin this in case the behavior starts to re-appear sometime down the road and you need a reminder on what to do. Good luck!