Though it’s a pretty nauseating thought for us humans, it’s not at all uncommon for dogs to eat their own poop. Of course, I’m not saying it’s a practice you’d ever want to encourage, since if your dog eats poop regularly it’s something you’ll want to stop. However, your dog isn’t strange simply because it eats poop.
Poop eating is actually quite common. My Whippet Misty will occasionally try to eat her own poop, which we of course try to discourage. Since this is something we’ve experienced, I decided to try to provide some background for those of you asking yourself, why does my dog eat poop?
Table of Contents
- Poop Eating Has a Name!
- Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
- Should I Be Worried That My Dog Eats Poop?
- How Do I Stop My Dog Eating Poop?
Poop Eating Has a Name!
Like most behaviours, there is a scientific name for dogs eating poop: canine coprophagia. To be honest, coprophagia doesn’t sound terribly pleasant even if you don’t know what it means!
Like many of our medical sounding words, the term coprophagia comes from the Ancient Greek language… it’s a conjunction of copros (feces) and phagein (to eat).
Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
Whilst it seems disgusting to us on any level, dogs eat poop for a number of reasons:
Behavioural Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
Some behavioural reasons why dogs eat their poop involve a dog’s environment. Like humans, dogs want a clean space in which to live. Consequently, some dogs eat poop to remove it from their environment.
Stress is another factor that can result in canine coprophagia. A dog might be stressed about its home environment in scenarios such as:
- The introduction of a new dog into the household.
- The birth of a new family member.
- Major building work at home.
- Being left alone for long periods.
Nutritional Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
In many cases, nutrition is the reason why dogs eat poop. A dog may not be getting enough food, nutrients could be missing from its diet or perhaps it’s not absorbing nutrients as it should be.
Sadly, poop can be seen as a reliable source of food for a dog.
It’s repulsive to us, but many animals eat their own poop as a natural part of their digestive process to extract all the nutrients possible from the food they eat.
However, in general this is not the case for dogs, so it’s not something we want to encourage in them. Although eating poop is one way they might try to get nutrients they’re missing, a healthy dog should generally not need to eat poop to get the nutrients it needs.
Consequently, sometimes there may be a medical reason why they do so.
Medical Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
If your dog is eating food that’s highly nutritious and yet still eats poop, there may be a medical reason why.
There are some medical conditions that lead to either an increased appetite or a reduced capability to absorb nutrients in food.
Thyroid diseases and diabetes or medications such as prednisone can increase appetite. In these cases, poop may seem like a reliable source of food for a dog if it’s constantly hungry or unable to absorb all the nutrients it requires.
The same goes for parasite infections. Tapeworm, roundworm and whipworm (and other parasites that live in the gut) can lead to a dog being nutrient deficient. This too can result in a dog eating poop.
What About Dogs Eating Other Animals’ Poop?
It’s one thing for a dog to eat its own poop… but it’s entirely something else for it to eat that of another animal.
A dog may eat another animal’s poop for any of the reasons listed above, however there could be other reasons.
For example, if you have a cat at home and you find your dog is eating it’s poop, it may indicate that the cat is having digestive problems. A cat that isn’t digesting food properly may produce poop that smells like food, which may be appealing to a dog.
Some animals have a high fibre diet and produce poop that may also appeal to your dog. I know that my Whippet can be extremely tempted to eat horse poop if she comes across it and my assumption is it’s because it smells like food to her.
Should I Be Worried That My Dog Eats Poop?
In some scenarios, eating poop is a natural behaviour for dogs:
- Female dogs clean their puppies by licking them and eating their poop to keep their living areas clean.
- Puppies eat their poop as a natural way of exploring and understanding the world around them, though this behaviour tends to stop when the puppy is around 9 months old.
However, eating poop, especially that from other animals, can result in canine health problems and that should be discouraged.
Toxins, parasites and viruses may pass into an animal’s stools. If your dog eats such poop, they may consume something that will make it unwell.
Asa a consequence, it’s best to prevent your dog from eating poop.
How Do I Stop My Dog Eating Poop?
There are a number of things you can do to stop your dog eating poop.
If your dog is eating poop as a behavioural trait to keep its environment clean, the best thing to do is remove the opportunity for it to do so.
Don’t leave poop lying around for your dog to eat. If you’re at home and your dog poops in your garden, bag it up as soon as you can to remove the opportunity.
The same rule applies if you’re away from home on a dog walk. Of course, if your dog has the inclination, you’ll need to be vigilant to ensure you bag it up before the temptation arises.
You might also change your dog’s behaviour by diverting attention with a treat whenever an opportunity to eat poop occurs. Positive reinforcement might help your dog understand eating poop is not a practise to be tolerated.
If your dog eats poop because it’s not getting the nutrients it needs, you may need to consider changing its diet. Or perhaps your dog may have a medical problem that makes eating poop appealing. In both cases you should speak to your vet to understand the best way forward.
There are natural deterrents available that can help to break a dog’s poop eating habit. These supplements contain ingredients that create a more unappealing and bitter flavour once digested and some reduce stool odour.
Supplements may also help your dog digest food and absorb nutrients more effectively.
Natural poop eating deterrents can be helpful, but they should be used as part of an overall strategy rather than a single cure.
Though it’s an unpleasant thing to witness, eating poop is not as uncommon in the animal kingdom as we might imagine.
There are a variety of reasons why our dogs eat poop: these can be behavioural, nutritional or medical.
That said, it’s a behaviour we ought to discourage in our dogs through training, diet or veterinary assessment.
If your dog eats poop on the odd occasion it may not indicate any sort of problem. However, if you’re concerned about why your dogs eats poop, it’s always best to seek guidance from a veterinary professional.
Does your dog eat poop, or have you had an habitual poop eater? Please tell us your experiences and what you did to overcome them.
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Emily Edmondstone says
My 9 year old jack russell she is constantly and I mean constantly eating her poop i have tried everything even the Coprophagia chews and no success. I use to pick it up but now not able to due to health issues I need to use a Walker now and am simply unable to pick it up. My fur baby mollie also has cushings disease which is out of control. I need some help please.
Linnette Thomas says
Do dogs eat their poop when they are with worms?
As I understand it Linnette, this can be the case.