We all love puppy kisses, but who wants to get up close and personal with their pup after they have just finished eating poo?
In this article we’re covering all things poop – including why dogs eat poop and how to put a stop to your pup’s fecal feasting.
Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?
Eating feces – or coprophagia – is considered a pretty gross act to us humans. Many owners find themselves wondering – why does my dog eat poop?
The sight and smell of stool is enough to make our stomachs turn.
For dogs it is considered to be the complete opposite. Many dogs perceive poop (with rabbit poop being especially popular) as a tasty treat. Everything from the scent to the contents is desirable to our canine friends.
This is why they just can’t get enough!
There are several reasons why your dog is eating stool (whether he’s chowing on rabbit’s doo-doo or eating another dog’s poop). Many of the causations for poop eating are medical or psychological.
- Boredom. Often times, dogs left to their own devices outdoors will begin to eat stool. It is theorized that this happens because they are bored or seeking attention. Dogs begin to coin in on the fact that eating stool will get a reaction out of their owners – even if it is a negative one.
- Taste. Dogs simply enjoy the taste of poo! Foods high in protein create stool that is particularly attractive to dogs. This is why so many of our pooches LOVE cat poop. Cat food is much higher in protein and thus our dogs believe cat food and cat poop are both delicacies. Opt for a dog proof cat feeder if your dog continuously goes after your kitty’s dinner! While eating a bit of cat food won’t kill your dog, it can be a problem over the longer term, plus your cat probably isn’t too pleased about it!
- Hunger. The simplest answer is that your dog is just hungry. This is thought to be an ancestral survival technique. When food is scare, dogs will eat feces. It is important to make sure your dog is eating well and being fed the correct amount.
- Medical Problems. Sometimes eating poop can be a sign of an underlying health problem. This could include intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies, or maldigestion disorders. If your adult dog suddenly develops this behavior, it is a good idea to have him or her checked out by a veterinarian.
- Confined Spaces. Dogs kept in smaller areas, close to where they defecate, are more likely to eat their own poop. This is because dogs prefer not to sleep where they go to the bathroom. Eating the feces may be their way of cleaning it up. This can commonly be seen in shelter and puppy mill dogs.
- Stress. Dogs suffering from stress or anxiety are more likely to eat their own stool. Also, when dogs are inappropriately punished for soiling in the house, it is theorized that they may eat their poop to hide the evidence.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? Medical vs. Behavioral Causes
The first thing you need to do is to determine is whether or not your dog’s poop eating behavior is caused by a medical problem.
Poop eating is quite normal behavior for puppies, but can be a sign of illness in older dogs.
Have your dog checked out by a veterinarian just to be safe.
Medical Related Coprophagia: Is Your Dog Eating Poop Due to Illness?
Eating feces can be a sign of a medical illness – especially in older dogs. Something may be preventing your dog from getting the right amount of nutrients. As gross as it sounds, dogs will try to compensate for this by eating poop.
Common illnesses that may be connected to your dog’s fecal consumption include:
- Enzyme deficiency – Malabsorptive issues are commonly seen with enzyme deficiency. When dogs lack certain digestive enzymes, they cannot absorb nutrients properly. A blood test can diagnose this problem and your veterinarian will prescribe an enzyme replacement to be added to your dog’s food.
- Intestinal Parasites – Parasites also leech vital nutrients from your dog’s digestive tract. An easy stool analysis can diagnose an infection. Your veterinarian can then recommend the appropriate deworming medication. Parasites are extremely common, which is why we recommend biannual stool testing.
- Nutritional Deficiencies – These problems are typically caused by improper diets because they lack of vital nutrients needed for survival. Dogs that come from starvation situations may also have nutritional deficiencies. Always feed a complete and balanced diet, designed for dogs, to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
If you suspect your dog may be eating feces due to a medical-related issue, make sure to contact your vet and discuss possible solutions.
How to Stop Dogs From Eating Poop: Changing Bad Behavior
Poop eating is a self-rewarding behavior – your dog will continue to do it because it makes them feel good once they have committed the act.
The best way to stop your dog from eating stool is to prevent it all together. Here are some smart strategies for preventing poop eating and changing your pup’s behavior.
1. Clean poop up right away
Pick up the poop immediately after your dog goes to the bathroom and clean your yard daily, removing any remains.
If dogs don’t have access to the poop, they cannot eat it.
Try to keep track of where your dog poops (or train them to poop in a specific spot) and then scoop the poop ASAP. From there, you can dispose of the poop in a variety of ways.
2. Keep your dog away from cat poop
If your dog is constantly getting into the litter box, devise a technique to keep them away. Try placing the litter box in a raised area that only your cat can get to, or opt for a self-cleaning litter box or other dog proof litter box to avoid the cat poop temptation.
Alternatively, you can try setting up an indoor dog gate with rungs that are narrow enough to keep dogs out, but wide enough for your cat to slink through.
3. House Train Your Dog Correctly
Try not to punish your dog for soiling in the house after the fact. Use positive based training techniques and reward good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior.
Properly house training your puppy will make your dog feel more confident and less likely to act out by eating poop.
4. Train Your Dog To “Leave It”
Teaching this simple command will encourage your dog to divert his attention from the tasty poo onto you. Always give your dog a reward for following through.
5. Prevent Boredom With Engaged Toys
Keep your dog active and mentally engaged! Walk your dog instead of simply letting them outside. Play games including fetch or hide and go seek.
Give them something fun to do in the yard, or consider brain-stimulating treat dispensing puzzle toys! A dog that is engaged in a mentally or physically tiring activity will be less likely to eat poop.
6. Food Additives To Make Poop Less Appealing
There are some products on the market specifically made to change the flavor of your dog’s stool. There is no guarantee that these products will work, but it may be worth a shot. Ask your vet if you’re interested in trying this as an option.
In the video below, Howcast explains a bit more about why dogs eat their poop, and some basic way to prevent it from happening.
Now that you know how to stop this yucky behavior, put a plan into action. Tell us what your experience is with dogs eating poop or how you’ve managed to stop your dog from eating poop. We’d love to know how you resolved this problem!
September 29, 2016
Thanks!! It seems to be working great!!!
September 14, 2016
This is a very good article.. I am so glad I came across this.. I have a blue tic hound and although she was very easily house trained.. I haven’t figured out how to get her to stop eating poo.. she is just now a year old and is fed a grain free gluten free diet.. I didn’t understand why she eats the poo.. I try to keep it cleaned up but can’t always get out in the heat to get it up.. I am going to try these tips and I will post our progress.. wish us luck!!!
September 29, 2016
I’m so glad you enjoyed this article! I have a hound mix too who LOVES to eat poop. Not necessarily her own, but the poop of any other animal. It can be really frustrating. I’d think a good way to prevent this behavior is to provide your dog with highly appealing treats or toys outdoors. She will be so distracted by her treat that she will be less inclined to eat poop. Hope this works for you.