As a dog owner, you know that dogs do some strange things. Like, they are willing to vomit and then try to eat it, no matter the dog’s breed, size, or temperament.
If you have a feline as well, you have probably caught – at least once, your dog sniffing inside your cat’s litter box.
Simply said – have you ever caught your dog doing something nasty and asked yourself. “Ugh, why do you do that?”
First of all, you aren’t alone, and your dog isn’t unique; there are other dogs doing that as well, including poop-eating. Here is everything that you should know about this habit and what you can do about it.
Coprophagia: Dogs Eating Poop
Poop-eating is a common practice in dogs that there is even a professional name for it – coprophagia.
Dogs eat poops for many reasons. Some are normal, while some are signs of underlying issues. Also, it’s often uncommon for adult dogs to eat their own poop or another dog’s poop.
If you have a poop eater, don’t despair because this habit can have both behavioral and physiological background for why your dog loves to eat poop.
A 2012 study shows that poop eating is a common phenomenon. This study found that:
- 16%, or one in six dogs are classified as “serious” stool eaters, which means that they were caught in the act five times
- 24%, one in four dogs were caught in the act five times
The study was conducted by Dr. Benjamin Hart, from the University of California, Davis, who wrote:
“Our conclusion is that eating of fresh stools is a reflection of an innate predisposition of ancestral canids living in nature that protects pack members from intestinal parasites present in feces that could occasionally be dropped in the den/rest area.”
Simply said: It’s in a dog’s DNA to eat poop.
The study consisted of two separate surveys sent to almost 3,000 dog owners. From your point of view, eating poop can seem awful and repulsive, but from a dog’s point of view, poop-eating is logical.
Dogs evolved as scavengers, eating whatever they found on the ground or in the trash heap, so the idea of a good meal is much different to dogs than it is to humans.
This is the main reason why they love to explore trash can and whatever they can find inside.
Poop Eating Is Normal for Dogs and Puppies
For some species, such as rabbits, eating poop is a normal way of keeping key nutrients.
For rabbits, eating fecal droppings is so important that if you prevent them from doing this, they will almost instantly develop health problems, and young ones will fail to thrive.
However, when it comes to dogs, they don’t need feces this much in order to survive. Yet, it’s still a normal and natural behavior at some dog life stages.
Mother dogs will lick their puppies to urge them to eliminate, and that’s normal behavior, and clean up their feces by eating it, for about the first three weeks after birth.
Almost identically, puppies will engage in this behavior, eating both their own poop (autocoprophagia), poop from other dogs (allocoprophagia), as well as poop from cats and other animals.
Some dogs adore horse manure and goose droppings, especially delicious.
Important: eating their own poop is fine, it won’t harm dogs. However, eating poop from other animals may eventually cause health problems if the stool is contaminated with parasites, viruses, or toxins. In most cases, this behavior will fade before the puppy turns nine months.
Information About Dogs Who Eat Poop
When poop-eating occurs in puppies, coprophagia is considered to be a part of the process of merely exploring the world around them.
Most puppies will be satisfied with a short and straightforward sniff, but a few will want to put everything in their mouth, similar to human children.
For some reason, dogs will ignore soft and poorly formed stools and almost always turn around when they see diarrhea content.
They also appear to be attracted most to hard stools and frozen stools are a form of treats for them.
In an identical 2012 study, Hart made some additional observation about why dogs eat poop:
- Coprophagia was frequent in multi-dog households than in dogs who lived in single-dog homes
- Poop eaters are harder to train
- Females are more likely to eat poop
- Poop eaters usually want fresh poop, not older than one, maximum of two days
- Almost 90% of poop eaters will not eat their own feces
- Dogs who love to steal food off tables tend to be poop eaters
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
We have already explained that it comes naturally to dogs to eat the poop, but there are expectations – situations when you should consult your veterinarian to rule out specific problems.
When poop-eating is excessive, you should definitely take your dog to the veterinarian to rule out the following health problems:
- Diets deficient in nutrients and calories
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Thyroid Disease
- Drugs, like steroids
In many cases, dogs tend to eat poop due to some environmental stress or various behavioral triggers, such as:
Isolation. Dogs who are kept alone for a longer period of time can develop anxiety and may develop various and difficult behavior changes, and poop-eating can be one of the signs.
Dogs are non-verbal beings, and they know that the best way for us to understand them is to show us what they want. With that in mind, certain actions, such as poop-eating, are a clear way for your dog to ask for extra love and attention.
Whenever you notice any unusual behavior, make sure that you visit a vet and spend more time with your dog.
Show your dog that you care about him, have interesting training lessons, and use grooming for bonding moments.
Inappropriate association with real food. Where your dog eats matters. Make sure that you keep the dog’s bowl in a clean and quiet area.
You should never feed your dog close to his feces area, or close to a litter box if you have a feline. This way, you are separating the toilet area from the food corner.
If you keep these areas too close, your dog may make a connection between the odors of food and those of poop – as a result; he will not be able to tell the difference.
It’s also important to note that you shoudl be extra careful if you have a senior dog.
A healthy dog will consume stools from a weaker canine member, especially in cases of fecal incontinence. Scientists claim that this need is related to the instinct to protect the pack from predators.
Can You Stop Your Dog From Poop-Eating?
Just like with any other dog behavior issues, different strategies can provide the best solutions. Here’s what you can do to stop your dog from eating poop:
- Vitamin supplementation. One of the oldest theories related to poop-eating is that dogs are missing something in their diets. The main suspect is Vitamin-B. Even a study from 1981 showed fecal microbial activity synthesized thiamine, a B-vitamin. Other research found other missing nutrients, so this theory is yet to be confirmed with certainty.
- Enzyme supplementation. Just like the human diet, dogs’ diet evolved over time. So, today’s canine diet is significantly higher in carbohydrates and lower in meat-based proteins and fats than the canine ancestral diet.
- Taste-aversion products. Thios theory claims that cartian smells and tastes are as disgusting to dogs as the idea of stool eating is to us, so adding it to a food ir even treats will make the poop less appealing. Many of these products contain monosodium glutamate, camomile, pepper-plant derivatives, yucca, garlic, and parsley.
On the other hand, dog training experts claim that the best way to treat any dog’s problem is through training and environmental management methods, including:
- Keeping the dog’s eating area clean
- Keeping the litter box clean and far from the dog’s reeach
- Suprvisign yoru dog on walks
- Always keeping your dog on a leash when outside
- Work continually on basic commands such as ‘come‘, ‘sit’, and ‘leave it.’
One simple exercise is to teach your dog to come to you for food and for a food treat. This way, your dog will develop a habit of running to you for delicious food.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to dogs eating poop, the most important thing that you can do as a dog owner is to distract your dog from poop.
Some people have tried placing basket muzzles on their dogs to deter them, but some determined dogs can easily smush the muzzle on top of the poop to eat it.
So, your best solution is to make poop uninteresting.
Make sure that your dog knows basic commands and that you associate yourself with delicious and enjoyable food. When in a walk, have distracting toys with you and, if needed, use training tools.