Why Did My Dog Eat Poop?!
Although poop-eating, or coprophagia, is relatively normal for dogs and puppies, it’s a wildly unsightly habit. Not to mention, there’s really nothing more grotesque than watching your pup munch on its own or another dog’s stool before moseying over and planting a wet one on your face.
Among all of the gross hobbies your dog could have––drinking toilet water, rolling in mud, licking their behinds––poop-eating is among the least ideal. Fortunately, there are several ways to discourage it. Here are some key tips for how to prevent dogs from eating poop altogether.
Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
American Kennel Club (AKC) shares that in many cases, dogs will take up poop-eating as a result of some sort of environmental stress or behavior triggers, including:
- Isolation: Research shows that dogs cooped up in a kennel or basement away from their families are more likely to eat stool than those living in spaces near their family.
- Confinement: Dogs who spend excessive amounts of time confined in small spaces can develop poop-eating habits, which means it’s not uncommon to see this in dogs who have been rescued from shelters.
- Anxiety: Coprophagia is a typical response to punishment or harsh house training methods. In this case, dogs may eat their own poop to remove any evidence of using the bathroom where they shouldn’t have.
- Seeking Attention: Dogs who consume their own poop may be out to get a reaction or consider it a game.
- Association With Real Food: Dogs fed in the same proximity as their poop may make a connection between the odors and ultimately, over time, be unable to differentiate.
- Nursing Mothers: Nursing females often eat the feces of their young to keep their space clean.
- Nursing Pups: In some cases, puppies will become confused by sniffing fecal odor on their mother’s breath after she’s cleaned them or their den. Mothers may often vomit food mixed with fecal matter, which may lead the puppy to develop this same habit.
- Elderly/Sick Pet: Sometimes, a healthy dog will consume feces from a weaker canine family member. Researchers predict this may be related to a dog’s instinct to protect its pack.
- Taste: Dogs sometimes eat the stool of another species like cats or horses solely because they find the taste enjoyable.
Furthermore, if your pet starts snacking away on poop, you should consult with your vet to rule out other underlying problems like:
- Nutrient-deficient diets
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Diabetes, Cushing’s, thyroid disease, and other appetite-increasing conditions
- Steroids or other drugs
How to Prevent Dogs From Eating Poop
Is it bad for dogs to eat poop? Stool, especially found in other species, often contains certain beneficial nutrients. However, it can also contain harmful bacteria, so it’s best to dissuade them as best as possible. Try out strategies like vitamin supplementation, enzyme supplementation, and taste-aversion products like poop-eating deterrents. Along with that, dog owners have seen improvements following training and environmental management methods such as:
- Keep the dog’s living space clean
- Keep the yard clean and free of poop
- For owners with both dogs and cats, store the litter box out of reach
- Closely monitor dogs on walks and immediately pick up after them
- Work on commands like “leave it” and “come,” rewarding with a treat
Additionally, AKC provided these facts on fecal-eating for pet parents to consider:
- Coprophagia was more common in multi-dog households. In single-dog homes, only 20 percent of dogs had the habit, while in homes with three dogs, that rose to 33 percent
- Poop eaters are no harder to house train than any other dogs
- Females are more likely to eat poop, and intact males were least likely
- 92 percent of poop eaters want fresh stuff, only one to two days old
- 85 percent of poop eaters will not eat their own feces, only that of other dogs
- Greedy eaters—dogs who steal food off tables—tend to be poop eaters
So, is it normal for dogs to eat their poop? Yes. But as you’ve learned, the causes and solutions to this are not always simple. Assess the situation as well as your dog’s everyday living and eating environment, and adjust accordingly to minimize exposure and ultimately any poop-eating opportunity. If you find these at-home prevention tips and tricks are ineffective, contact your local AZPetVet so we can help you come up with a plan for how to prevent your dog from eating poop.
Disclaimer: Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.