Has your dog ever eaten poop?
You may be wondering why your four-legged friend indulges in this habit. Poop-eating, also known as coprophagia, is a problem I see in practice as a vet more often than you might think, and there could be various reasons behind it.
Whether it’s because of instinct, curiosity, hunger, stress, or medical issues, many dogs can’t resist the temptation of eating poop…and this is definitely a habit we want to kick!
In this article, I’ll uncover the reasons behind this behavior and provide you with practical tips to put a stop to this not-so-appetizing habit. Stay tuned!
- Coprophagia is a common behavior in dogs that may be triggered by factors like instinct, curiosity, or hunger.
- Stress and medical issues can also contribute to poop-eating in dogs.
- Identifying the cause and addressing it appropriately can help stop your dog from eating poop.
Facts About Dogs That Eat Poop
Did you know that, according to a 2018 survey of 3,000 dog owners, 16% of dogs were reported to eat poop at least once a month? And here’s another fascinating discovery from the survey: dogs have a peculiar preference for devouring fresh poop (less than two days old) compared to the older ones. It seems like they have a nose for the finest delicacies!
It’s also the case that many dogs prefer the taste of poop of other species – they might go after cats, horses, or even rabbits! Surprisingly though, it’s pretty unusual for them to snack on their own or other dogs’ poop.
Is it Normal for Dogs to Eat Poop?
You might be wondering if it’s normal for your dog to eat poop. I see this issue commonly in my life as a vet and there can be normal and abnormal reasons for a dog eating poop.
While it may seem a little strange and concerning to you, this behavior, known as coprophagia, can actually be quite normal for some dogs, especially puppies. However, not every case of poop-eating is considered normal, and it depends on factors like the type, frequency, and reason behind the behavior.
For example, when puppies are young, they are naturally curious and tend to explore their surroundings by putting everything in their mouths, including their own poop. In fact, some mother dogs will eat their puppies’ poop to keep the area clean, which also serves as an example for the pups. So, in this case, it’s relatively normal for puppies to engage in some poop-eating behavior during their early stages of life.
On the other hand, adult dogs might eat poop for different reasons, some of which might be considered normal, while others could indicate an underlying issue. If your dog is consistently eating poop, it’s essential for you to consider these other factors and consult with a veterinarian to rule out any potential health problems or nutritional deficiencies.
Why is my Dog Eating Poop? (Reasons Behind It)
So, you’ve caught your furry friend munching on some poop, and you’re wondering what could possibly be the reason behind this peculiar behavior…
We can split the reasons why dogs eat poop into the categories of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal.’ While you’ll likely want to stop the behavior regardless of the cause, differentiating between these two is essential to help us rule out any underlying health conditions and prevent it from happening again.
Here are the reasons a dog might eat poop:
There are several normal reasons why your dog might be eating poop, and most of them are natural, instinctive, or common for dogs.
Learned Behaviour: One of the normal reasons is maternal behavior. Nursing female dogs may eat the poop of their puppies to keep them and their den clean and safe from predators or parasites. This is an inherited behavior from wolves, who also eat fresh poop to prevent infection in their pack. Puppies may copy their mother’s behavior and eat poop as a way of learning or exploring. Most dogs outgrow this behavior by the time they are weaned or reach adulthood.
Taste: It’s possible that some dogs just have a preference for the taste or texture of certain types of poop. This could be influenced by the diet or health of the animal that produced the poop, as certain foods or medications might make poop more appealing to dogs. For instance, cat poop may catch a dog’s attention due to the high protein and fat content of cat food. Some dogs may also find the activity of searching for and eating poop to be an enjoyable little adventure.
Nutritional value: Some dogs may eat poop to supplement their diet or digestion with nutrients or enzymes that are not fully absorbed in their gut. This might be more common in dogs fed low-quality food, having poor absorption, or dealing with digestive disorders. For example, some dogs may eat grass or plant matter to aid their digestion, and then eat their own poop that contains undigested fiber. Additionally, some dogs may eat the poop of herbivores, such as rabbits or horses, to obtain vitamins or minerals that are not present in their own food.
While these reasons for a dog eating poo are considered ‘normal,’ this doesn’t mean you should be letting your dog do it. While there are some potential benefits to this peculiar behavior, such as in the case of a mother dog keeping her puppies clean, they are often outweighed by the drawbacks and potential health risks associated.
Abnormal reasons are those that could indicate an underlying issue that needs addressing or reasons that are unnatural, unhealthy, or uncommon for dogs to do.
Dietary needs: Sometimes, dogs eat poop because their diet is lacking in essential nutrients or they’re not absorbing them properly during digestion. For instance, a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1) can lead to coprophagia. Be sure to check with your vet to see if your dog’s diet is meeting their nutritional needs.
Behavioral: Some dogs may eat poop due to psychological or emotional factors that affect their mood, stress, or boredom. This may include situations such as anxiety, depression, isolation, confinement, or attention-seeking. If you believe your dog might be anxious, consider working with a professional to help them cope with their stress or try some at-home solutions for anxiety.
Boredom: Yup, even our furry friends can get a little bored sometimes. If your dog doesn’t have enough mental stimulation or physical exercise, they might resort to munching on poop to pass the time. Keep your pup entertained with toys, games, and regular walks to steer clear of this habit.
Medical problems: Some dogs may eat poop due to underlying health problems that affect their appetite, metabolism, or absorption. This may include conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, pancreatic insufficiency, intestinal parasites, or malabsorption syndrome. For example, if your dog has diabetes, they may have increased hunger and thirst, leading them to eat anything they can find, including poop. A dog with pancreatic insufficiency may have reduced production of digestive enzymes, causing them to eat poop to compensate for their poor digestion.
Learned behavior: Some dogs may eat poop because they have learned to associate it with positive outcomes or rewards. This is often a result of poor training and may include situations such as imitation, reinforcement, or competition. For example, if your dog sees another dog eating poop, they may copy the behavior and think it is normal or acceptable. If a dog receives praise or treats for eating poop, they might repeat the behavior, expecting the same results. A dog that is punished or scolded for pooping in the wrong place might eat poop to hide the evidence or avoid further trouble.
It’s important to understand that eating poop isn’t just a gross habit – it can also cause health issues for your dog. By figuring out why your dog is eating poop and addressing the underlying issues, you can ensure your furry friend stays happy, healthy, and less likely to indulge in this unsanitary behavior.
Do all Dogs Eat Poop?
Not all dogs eat poop, but some do more than others. The likelihood of a dog developing this habit depends on various factors, such as age, breed, diet, and environment.
Young puppies may explore their surroundings by putting things in their mouths, including their own poop. This behavior often decreases as the dog matures and learns what is and isn’t appropriate to eat. However, some adult dogs may continue eating poop due to underlying behavioral or health issues.
Certain breeds, like Labradors and Beagles, may be more inclined to eat poop, perhaps because of their natural scavenging instincts. Additionally, dogs on a nutrient-deficient diet might be more prone to this behavior in an attempt to obtain missing nutrients.
Dogs experiencing anxiety or living in overly confined spaces can also develop a poop-eating habit. In some cases, it might begin as a reaction to punishment for soiling indoors, leading the dog to try to “clean up” the evidence of their accidents.
While not every dog will eat poop, some are more likely to develop this behavior due to these various factors. It’s essential to monitor them closely and address any of these potential causes to help your furry friend maintain a healthy and clean lifestyle.
Can a Dog Get Sick from Eating Poop?
Yes, dogs can get sick from eating poop, especially if they consume the feces of other animals or dogs carrying diseases or harmful bacteria.
Some common infections transmitted through the fecal-oral route include salmonella, giardia, campylobacter, and intestinal parasites such as worms. Exposure to these pathogens may lead to various health issues in your dog, ranging from mild to severe.
If your dog happens to consume contaminated feces, you might notice signs of illness like diarrhea, bloody poop, vomiting, weight loss, or lethargy. These symptoms could suggest an underlying infection or disease that would need immediate veterinary attention.
To protect your dog’s health, it’s best to try and stop your dog eating poop. If you suspect that your dog is eating poop and showing signs of illness, consult your veterinarian.
How do I Stop my Dog from Eating Poop?
So you have a better idea why your dog eats poop, you’ll probably want to stop your dog from doing it. Well, I’ve written a whole article on how to stop your dog eating poop, but here’s a brief overview:
- Firstly, positive reinforcement is crucial. Redirect their attention to a toy or obedience training when they show interest in poop. Reward them with treats or praise for resisting the urge.
- Ensure their diet is balanced and nutritional. Consult a vet to determine the best diet for your dog.
- Provide mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom. Regular play and exercise will reduce their fascination with feces.
- Keep the environment clean and free of feces. Regularly remove waste to minimize their access.
When Should I Consult a Veterinarian About My Dog’s Poop-Eating Behavior?
Consulting a veterinarian is important if your dog’s poop-eating behavior is persistent, excessive, or problematic. There are several situations or scenarios when you should seek professional help from a veterinarian:
- If your dog eats poop more than once a week or every day
- If your dog eats poop despite following tips and advice in other sections
- If your dog eats poop that is contaminated, toxic, or harmful to their health
- If your dog shows any signs or symptoms of illness or infection after eating poop
When you see a veterinarian, we’ll ask questions about your dog’s history, diet, behavior, and health condition. We will also examine your dog physically and perform some tests if necessary, such as blood work, urine analysis, fecal analysis, or x-rays.
Based on the results, the veterinarian will diagnose the cause of your dog’s poop-eating behavior and prescribe the appropriate treatment or medication if needed. They may also provide you with friendly recommendations or referrals on how to manage or modify your dog’s poop-eating behavior at home or with a trainer.
To prepare for the visit, you should:
- Collect a fresh fecal sample from your dog and bring it to the clinic in a sealed container.
- Write down any questions or concerns you have about your dog’s poop-eating behavior and the tips and advice you have tried or followed.
- Bring any relevant documents or records of your dog’s health, diet, or behavior, such as vaccination certificates, food labels, or training logs.
- Be honest and cooperative with the veterinarian, and follow their instructions and suggestions.
In this article, we’ve discussed various reasons why your dog might be eating poop, also known as coprophagia. This behavior can stem from a variety of factors, including evolutionary instincts, nutritional deficiencies, medical issues, and behavioral problems.
If you notice your dog engaging in excessive or persistent coprophagia, it’s important to reach out to your veterinarian. This behavior could indicate an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, if it’s more occasional and driven by curiosity, training and positive reinforcement can often help put an end to this undesirable habit. Don’t hesitate to seek professional advice for your furry friend!
Just remember, it’s important to remain patient and consistent with your training efforts. Don’t forget that consulting a professional trainer or animal behaviorist might be necessary in some cases to help resolve the issue.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can my dog get worms from eating poop?
Yes, your dog can potentially get worms from eating poop, especially if the feces they consume is infected with parasites like roundworms, hookworms, or tapeworms. White specks in the poop could indicate worms, so try to check both your own dog’s poop and the poop they are eating.
Can puppies eat poop as a part of exploring their environment?
Puppies are naturally curious and may eat poop as a part of exploring their environment. This behavior often diminishes as they grow older and learn what’s appropriate to eat. However, you should still make efforts to limit their exposure to feces and redirect them when they start to show interest in poop.
What can I add to my dog’s food to prevent poop eating?
There are commercially available additives you can add to your dog’s food to discourage them from eating poop. These additives usually make the poop taste unpleasant to dogs. However, it is important to consult your veterinarian before using any additives to ensure they are safe and suitable for your dog.
How do I stop my puppy from eating poop during walks?
To stop your puppy from eating poop during walks, use positive reinforcement and redirection. You can carry treats and give them when your puppy ignores the poop or responds to commands like “leave it” or “come.” Keep your walks engaging by providing plenty of stimulation through toys, games, and opportunities to sniff and explore.
Should I be concerned about my dog eating poop?
While eating poop might be a normal behavior in some cases, it can also be an indication of an underlying issue, such as a nutrient deficiency, stress, or an illness. If your dog suddenly develops this habit or does it persistently, consult your veterinarian to rule out any health concerns.
What remedies can help stop my dog from eating poop?
Some natural remedies to help stop poop eating include adding a small amount of canned pumpkin, pineapple, or meat tenderizer to your dog’s food. These ingredients can make the feces taste bad, thus discouraging your dog from eating it. Always consult your veterinarian before trying any new supplements or remedies.
Can dogs get sick from eating their own poop?
While not always the case, eating their own poop can potentially cause illness in dogs, especially if they have any gastrointestinal parasites or infections. Keep an eye on your dog and consult your veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy.
Why do dogs sometimes eat cat poop?
Dogs may eat cat poop because it contains a higher protein content than dog feces. The strong smell of cat poop can be appealing to dogs, making them find it more palatable. To discourage this behavior, clean your cat’s litter box regularly and consider placing it in an area that is difficult for your dog to access. If it’s cat poop outside that your dog is getting hold of, then be sure to regularly clear your yard of cat poop.