Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?

Yes, this is a totally disgusting topic. Coprophagia is a pleasant term for stool eating.

Although the thought of this activity is nauseating, there is actually one stage in a pet’s life when coprophagia is expected.

When mother dogs and cats have litters, they deliberately consume the feces of their puppies or kittens to hide their scent while the litter is vulnerable and sheltered in the den.

Beyond that, stool eating — although a very common complaint among dog owners – is just plain gross.

Reasons Behind Coprophagic Behavior

Pets eat poop for a variety of reasons. Medical problems are a common cause, including pancreatic insufficiency or enzyme deficiency. Intestinal malabsorption and GI parasites are also common medical reasons that can prompt a dog to eat his own poop.

This is why I recommend dogs have their stools checked by the vet’s office every six months to make sure they’re parasite-free.

The pancreas of dogs secretes some digestive enzymes to aid in the processing of food, but many dogs don’t secrete enough enzymes and wind up deficient. Since the feces of other animals are a source of digestive enzymes, dogs with a deficiency will ‘recycle’ by eating the enzyme rich poop.

Rabbit poop is one of the richest sources not only of digestive enzymes, but also B vitamins. Many dogs, if they stumble upon rabbit droppings, will scarf them right up to take advantage of those nutrients.

And dogs on entirely processed, dry food diets, who eat no living foods at all, will intentionally seek out other sources of digestive enzymes to make up for their own lifelong enzyme deficiency.

Cats fed poor-quality diets can provide litter box temptations for dogs in the family. Many cheap dry foods contain ingredients that are not bioavailable, so food is passed out in the stool undigested, providing scavenging dogs with the opportunity to ‘recycle.’

Feeding your pet a diet containing human-grade protein, probiotics and supplemental digestive enzymes can sometimes curb the urge to find gross sources of free enzymes around the yard or in the litter box.

Coprophagia Can Also Be A Behavioral Problem

Some dogs, especially those in kennel situations, may eat feces because they are anxious and stressed.

Research also suggests dogs who are punished by their owners for inappropriate elimination develop the idea that pooping itself is bad. So they try to eliminate the evidence by consuming their feces.

Another theory that seems to hold some weight is that coprophagia is a trait noted in all canines – wolves, coyotes and domesticated dogs – and arises when food is in short supply.

Sadly, I see this most often in puppy mill dogs. Puppies who go hungry, are weaned too young, have to fight for a place at a communal food dish, or are forced to sit for weeks in a tiny crate with nothing to do, are at high risk of developing habitual stool-eating behavior that becomes impossible to extinguish.

Coprophagic behavior can also be learned. Older dogs with the habit can teach it to younger dogs in the household.

Like a dysfunctional game of ‘monkey see, monkey do,’ one dog can teach the rest of the pack that this is what you do while wandering around the backyard.

When Poop Eating is Compulsive

Some scientists believe dogs eat poop simply because it tastes good to them.

I disagree with this.

Some dogs have weirdly strange ‘standards’ about the poop they eat. For example, some dogs eat only frozen poop (we affectionately refer to these as poopsicles at my practice).

Others consume only the poop of a specific animal. Still others only eat poop at certain times of the year.

So some dogs who stumble upon feces occasionally decide to sample it, while others become completely obsessed with eating certain specific poop.

Tips for Curbing Your Dog’s Revolting Habit

Fortunately, there are some common sense ways to reduce your dog’s coprophagia habit.

  • Pick up your dog’s poop immediately, as soon after he eliminates as possible.
  • If you have cats, get a self-cleaning litter box or place the box in a location where you dog can’t get to it.
  • Improve your pet’s diet as much as possible, and add digestive enzymes and probiotics at meal time.
  • Offer toys to your dog that challenge his brain and ease boredom.
  • Sufficient exercise is also crucial in keeping your dog’s body and mind stimulated. Bored dogs tend to develop far stranger, disturbing behaviors than dogs that get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

 

If your pet’s coprophagic behavior seems to be going from bad to worse, make sure to talk to your vet about your concerns. You definitely want to rule out any underlying medical reason for this very gross, yet very common behavior problem.







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8 comments

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    May 2, 2012 12:50 pmPosted 2 years ago
    PetLover

    I have all rescued dogs (3 at the moment), two young ones (6 & 7) who came from puppy mills and one (14) whose person passed away. The 14-yr-old tries to eat it as soon as he finishes pooping—it’s race between him and me to see who can get to it first. This may be behavioral as his person may have scolded him for pooping in the house or something like that. The the 7-yr-old was a puppymill mom for only a year and a half and, surprisingly, she does NOT eat poop. The 6-yr-old came to me at the age of 8 months from a mill and I can’t stop her. I’ve tried everything. I feed them raw food and a high-quality dry food so I guess I have just the ones that will never stop. It is so disgusting, yet they are otherwise wonderful, well-trained dogs.

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    November 3, 2012 8:00 pmPosted 1 year ago
    Anonymous

    I walk my dogs alot in the woods and on horse trails for miles at a time. Yes it is disgusting I have a name for it trail serfing. Horse, deer and rabbit seem to be their favorite. I’ve also found them trying to eat coyote scat either that or roll in it. I think eating herbivore droppings is probably kind of normal they do not get sick from it I figure there must be something in it they need. I do believe if they were of lease and hunting prey they would not be wasting their time with poop. They do not always do it but it sure irritates me when they do.

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    June 14, 2013 11:25 pmPosted 1 year ago
    dookie hater

    My dog eat it the minute it gets drie…. help me!!!!!!!!!

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    November 19, 2013 6:18 pmPosted 9 months ago
    Debbie

    My girl 6 month old staffy x only started eating cat poop after my cat gave birth to her kittens. At the time of the birth of the kitten my dog sat with the cat and helped clean each kitten as they were born then stood guard over the mother & her babies. It was a race between the mother cat and my dog to clean up poop. That was 8 weeks ago now. We only have 1 kitten left (we have found homes for the others) and the mother cat has stopped eating the kittens poop. But our dog has continued. She will only eat the rabbit poop if the rabbit has been inside and misses the litter tray. However the cat & kitten it’s a race between my dog and I to clean it out of the cat trays. I clean poop out of trays as soon as it’s done. How can I stop my dog from this.

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    January 16, 2014 9:42 amPosted 7 months ago
    Anonymous

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 13

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    February 4, 2014 5:44 pmPosted 6 months ago
    scotia boab

    to anonymous- your dog is normal, its you that needs help. call your shrink asap.

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    March 14, 2014 9:47 pmPosted 5 months ago
    Anonymous

    Lol

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    April 5, 2014 7:35 pmPosted 4 months ago
    Mikka

    My older dog started eating (haha) poopsicles and taught my younger one to eat them too :( not only that, but now the younger one eats fresh poop. We have another dog (the youngest, 1 year) and I’m afraid she will also start eating poop…

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