Dogs partake in plenty of stomach-churning activities, but it can be especially concerning to see your four-footer munch on another canine’s poop.
But don’t panic just yet.
While the behavior is definitely something you want to prevent, poop-eating isn’t the end of the world, and it’s more common than you’d think.
Below, we’ll explain why dogs sometimes eat poop, outline some of the potential problems this habit may cause, discuss a few ways to clean your pup’s mouth afterward, and share strategies for stopping poop-eating behavior.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
So, with all the yummy treats you offer and the overall ick factor, why do dogs eat poop?
Well, that depends on the doggo.
Coprophagia (poop-eating) is a natural canine behavior with several potential causes.
The most common reasons behind poop-eating include:
- Boredom: If your dog is bored, he might kick up his own fun and start sampling poop in passing. The behavior can be worsened if you react upon the discovery, even if it’s just with a “yuck!” That reaction can cause your dog to associate eating poop with getting your attention, starting a not-so-fun cycle of poopy behavior.
- Insufficient Cleaning: If an area contains too many droppings, your dog may start sampling other dogs’ poop. This is common in indoor, kennel, and doggy daycare settings, especially if your dog was harshly punished using aversive techniques for indoor pottying in the past. He may try to “clean up” after other dogs to prevent discipline.
- Motherly Maintenance: Mama dogs often eat their puppies’ stool to keep the whelping area tidy. Most dogs stop the behavior as their puppies wean, but others may continue with the stomach-churning habit post-puppy-rearing.
- Fondness for the Taste: As gross as it sounds, some dogs acquire a taste for the brown stuff. This can be a quirk left over from puppyhood or puppy-rearing, or it might be a newfound obsession.
- Curiosity: Puppies are babies who love to explore the world around them – often with their mouths. Your puppy may scarf down other animals’ waste (or his own) because it smells new and interesting.
- Food Obsession: Gluttonous dogs are more likely to gobble down droppings than other canines. These pups will devour anything, even doo-doo, despite being well-fed.
- Hunger: On the flip side, if your dog isn’t getting enough food or if too much time passes between his meals, he may eat waste to fill his tummy. Feed your dog the proper amount of food, (and make sure it is one of the healthiest dog foods available) to prevent this kind of poop-eating.
- Anxiety: As previously mentioned, dogs who are punished for soiling indoors or in certain areas may eat stool to prevent punishment, even if the stool belongs to other dogs. Your dog may also eat poop as a self-soothing mechanism when stressed, similar to stress-grooming and pacing.
- Health issues: Your dog may look to poop for supplementation if his diet isn’t well-rounded or if his body isn’t absorbing nutrients properly. Malnourished doggos are typically thin and may have noticeable digestive issues.
Always mention your dog’s poop-eating to your vet, particularly if it’s a newly-acquired habit, as ruling out underlying conditions is essential. The behavior can be perplexing, but it isn’t that rare or anything to be embarrassed about. In fact, 28% of dogs in a 2018 study published in Veterinary Medicine and Science were found to be stool eaters.
Once you identify why your dog is eating poop, you can work on a solution to cease the foul habit.
Will Eating Poop Make Your Dog Sick?
Eating another dog’s poop isn’t just gross – it can cause tummy troubles or worse in your pup. Feces is loaded with bacteria and potentially parasites, including coccidia and various types of parasitic worms, that risk severe illness in your canine, especially in puppies and senior dogs. Don’t allow your dog to chow down on any droppings, whether it’s his, another dog’s, or your cat’s.
Signs your dog may be sick from eating stool include:
- Lack of appetite
Have your dog examined by your vet if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms or other changes in behavior after ingesting another dog’s stool.
If you notice the poop your dog’s eaten contains worms, try to collect a small sample and contact your vet to have it analyzed and have treatment rendered.
What Do You Do After Your Dog Eats Another Dog’s Poop?
Your first instinct may be to gag, and that’s OK, but next up, you want to work on redirecting your dog away from the feces without making a huge scene.
We know it’s hard, but you don’t want to associate stool-eating with getting attention. Instead, you want to shift your canine’s focus onto something else, like sniffing a new object.
At the same time, you want to note what exactly your dog ate, if possible. It’s gross but important, as parasites like worms are often visible in feces. If you see visible parasites, scoop a portion in a poop bag and contact your vet for instructions. If there are no visible issues with the stool, you can take a watch-and-wait approach.
How to Clean Your Dog’s Mouth After Eating Poop
Once you’ve redirected your doggo and assessed (and potentially collected) the poop he’s been nomming, you’ll want to turn your attention to his mouth. Specifically, you want to wash it out for hygiene’s sake.
Luckily, there are multiple ways to safely clean your noxious nibbler’s mouth before he tries slipping you any kisses. Best of all, you most likely already have most of these on hand.
The name is a little deceptive, as your dog doesn’t gargle a doggy mouthwash as we might, but doggie mouthwashes — like this one like this one from VETOQUINOL — help freshen your dog’s breath. Just spritz the liquid in your dog’s mouth while outdoors (or in the bathtub) and say goodbye to poo breath and bacteria.
Grab your dog’s tooth brushing kit and get to work as soon as possible to remove any lingering yuckiness and freshen his breath.
You can make a homemade DIY dog-safe toothpaste with items you likely have in the cupboard if you don’t have a commercial dog toothpaste on hand. And while a canine toothbrush is the best tool for the task, you can use a washcloth or gloved finger in a pinch.
Dog-Safe Water Additive
Several dog-friendly water additives — like this one from TropiClean — are available to help freshen your dog’s breath as he drinks. While effective against stinky mouth odors, water additives aren’t as thorough as doggy mouthwash or an alternative to good old-fashioned tooth brushing.
A quality dog dental chew can power through the funk and clean your dog’s mouth. This is the best option if your dog won’t tolerate toothbrushing. It can also be a tasty treat after a tooth brushing session that helps eliminate any lingering odors or debris while rewarding him for being the bestest boy.
Doggie Dental Wipes
Canine dental wipes are a convenient way to freshen your dog’s breath without pulling out the tooth brushing kit. Just wipe these over your four-footer’s teeth, gums, lips, and jowls for a quick touch-up. Wipes are great in a pinch, but they may not clean or improve your pup’s breath as well as a traditional tooth brushing.
You can wipe your dog’s teeth, gums, lips, and jowls with a washcloth or paper towel to remove any mess in a pinch. This is only recommended when a toothbrush or dental wipes aren’t available, as odors will likely still be an issue, along with bacteria.
Let Your Dog Eat Some Basil or Cilantro
Offering your pooch dog-friendly herbs like basil or cilantro to eat can eliminate some of the stink from your sniffer’s breath. It won’t combat bacteria, however, and not every dog will willingly eat herbs.
Dog Oral Sprays
For a quick burst of freshness, try a canine dental spray — such as this one from Pets Are Kids Too.
These products are usually small and easy to tote, making them the perfect addition to your to-go bag for dog park trips and other adventures. Most dogs tolerate dental sprays better than brushing, and some products kill odor-causing bacteria, though they can be messy and don’t offer the same deep-cleaning as standard tooth brushing.
Give Dog a Dog-Safe Fruit or Vegetable
Munching on dog-friendly vegetables is a great way to naturally freshen your dog’s breath. These tasty snacks are loaded with nutrients, help clean away any leftover yuckiness, and can combat odor. Carrots are most dogs’ favorite to nom on, but celery can also serve as a refreshing chew.
Just Let Your Dog’s Mouth Clean Itself Naturally
While these other methods offer quick results, you can let your dog’s mouth clean itself without them.
This is obviously the easiest route, but it doesn’t save you from stinky smells or bacteria in the meantime. If you’re in a bind without any products, offer your dog clean water to rinse away any immediate odors or debris.
How to Stop Dogs from Eating Poop
The age-old idiom “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to poop-eating, as the easiest way to stop your dog from eating poop is to prevent him from doing it in the first place. Luckily, it’s not too tricky to do, either.
To stop your dog from eating another dog’s poop:
- Clean up stools regularly: Keep your yard or dog’s kennel free of stools by picking it up as soon as possible. This prevents your pooch from having the opportunity to sample any unmentionables.
- Leash your dog: Always leash your canine while walking in areas where dog feces may be present. Most jurisdictions have this rule anyway, but it may need to be implemented in dog park settings if your pooch has an appetite for poop.
- Use a shorter lead: Long leads are great for sniffari walks and enrichment, but for doo-doo diners, they may provide too much freedom. If you’re walking in areas where dog stools might be present, keep your dog on a closer lead so you can steer him clear of poop.
- Notify your dog walker or doggy daycare: Changing your dog’s behavior requires a group effort if multiple people are involved in your canine’s care. Let others know about your dog’s less-than-savory habits, so they’re on board with your training and prevention methods.
- Teach your dog to “leave it”: The “leave it” command can make walks far more enjoyable and safer if you can quickly redirect your dog away from off-limit items, like feces or fallen food. During training, remember to maintain a positive attitude to avoid triggering an anxious response, worsening poop-eating.
- Provide enrichment: Canine enrichment is a vital part of your dog’s daily life, with a lack of attention and exercise causing frustration and possibly negative behaviors, including stool-eating. Always make time for your pup and ensure he’s receiving enough mental and physical exercise to ensure he’s happy and well-adjusted.
- Block off litter boxes. It’s best to keep temptation out of your pooch’s reach when it comes to kitty poo. Placing your cat’s litter box in a utility room with a gate or a door featuring a cat-specific entry is best, though you can also try a dog-proof litter box or make sure to scoop the box after every feline bathroom break.
- Feed a balanced diet. Ensure your dog is getting adequate nutritious food for his needs. Confirm that your dog’s current diet meets AAFCO standards for his life stage and addresses any health conditions he may have. Not only does this keep him satisfied and less likely to snack on poo, but it also avoids any nutrient deficiencies that may lead him to seek them elsewhere.
- Use a poop-eating deterrent. Several supplements are available that make poop taste less appealing in doggos, hopefully preventing future stinky snacking. Vetrinex Labs has a poop-eating preventative that also includes probiotics for gut health. As always, check with your vet before offering any canine supplement.
- Feed supplements: Stool-eating deterrent supplements are popular options for dogs who like to eat their own stools and that which belongs to other dogs in the household. They are said to make stools taste and smell unappealing to your dog, preventing snacking. Unfortunately, efficacy is up in the air, with some pup parents reporting zero improvements in poop-eating.
- Discuss the issue with your vet. For example, you’ll want to make sure your dog isn’t suffering from a health problem or nutritional deficiency that’s causing the poop-eating behavior. It may even be wise to add a dog multivitamin or canine probiotic to your daily routine to help ensure your pup’s body is operating in tip-top condition – provided that your vet gives you the green light to do so.
If you catch your dog eating poop, try not to make a big fuss about it, as you don’t want him to associate the behavior with receiving attention. We can’t stress enough not to punish your dog either, as this can worsen your dog’s stool-eating. Simply redirect your dog, and move on. One slip-up isn’t the end of the world.
Help! My Dog Ate Another Dog’s Poop FAQ
While it’s no one’s favorite topic, it’s still important to know what to do when your dog eats another canine’s stool. Let’s run through the basics together.
Can eating poop kill your dog?
Eating another dog’s stool usually won’t cause any serious illness, but your dog can get pretty sick – and possibly die – in rare cases.. This is most common in puppies or seniors, but it can happen to any dog if harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites are present.
Will eating poop make your dog sick?
Yes, eating poop can make your dog ill. This can occur whether he’s eaten his own stool or another animal’s droppings. Stomach upset with vomiting and diarrhea are the most common complaints, but your dog can also catch serious illnesses or parasitic infections when eating feces that lead to far more severe symptoms.
Contact your vet if you notice a change in your dog’s behavior after he’s eaten another dog’s stool. It’s better to be safe than sorry, no matter how small the change seems. You know your four-footer best.
Is it normal for dogs to eat poop?
Unfortunately, poop-eating is pretty common in canines. Puppies often go through stints of the noxious behavior due to curiosity, while older dogs may pick it up because of boredom or anxiety. Medical issues can also cause poop-eating, so always mention it to your vet to rule out hidden illness.
How do I clean my dog’s mouth after eating poop?
You can offer your dog water to drink for a quick fix, but the best way to clean your pup’s mouth is to brush his teeth with a dog-safe toothpaste and toothbrush once the initial yuckiness has been cleared away. You can also use a dog-safe rinse or dental chew for additional breath freshening.
What should I do after my dog eats poop?
Divert your dog’s attention from the poop and check it over while he’s distracted. For worm-free stool, you can take the “watch and wait” approach for signs of illness, but for poop containing visible worms, you want to take a sample and call your vet for instruction.
How do I get the smell of poop out of my dog’s mouth?
The easiest way to eliminate odors is to brush your pup’s teeth with a dog-safe toothpaste and toothbrush. This helps brush away debris and bacteria, removing the smell more efficiently than other methods.
If your dog doesn’t tolerate tooth brushing, you can offer a dental chew or use an oral spray as a fast-acting alternative.
Why is my dog throwing up after eating poop?
Eating stool can lead to stomach upset, whether it’s the waste not sitting well in your pooch’s stomach or a bacterial infection transmitted by the habit. If your dog vomits after eating waste, call your vet. This is vital if your dog is ill after eating stool that doesn’t belong to him.
Will pineapple make my dog stop eating poop?
Pineapple contains bromelain, which is thought to change the scent and taste of stool, preventing your dog from eating it. Typically, you add a few cubes of fresh pineapple or a splash of juice to his food.
Unfortunately, this method isn’t always effective, and many owners report the trick doesn’t work. Dogs often aren’t a fan of pineapple’s taste, either.
How long does it take for a dog’s mouth to clean itself?
There are no definitive studies on this, unfortunately. There are just too many variables to measure.
The amount of time it would take for your dog’s mouth to freshen after a poop snack depends on everything from your dog’s size to his current oral hygiene to how much waste he ingested.
It’s important to note that dogs have over 600 types of bacteria hanging out in their mouth at any given time, so it’s always a little dirty in there, poo or not. We wouldn’t recommend French kissing your fur kid anytime soon. Belly rubs are just fine.
Eating stool is unsettling, but it’s a relatively common canine quirk. Don’t feel too embarrassed about your dog’s grody habit, but do your best to prevent him from chowing down on any droppings, especially those that belong to other animals.
Has your dog overcome this yucky habit? Any tips for other pup parents? Share with us in the comments.