Humans have over a long time been grossed out by their pet dogs’ behavior of eating their poop and that of other animals. The act of animals eating poop is known as coprophagia. This habit, mainly found in dogs, including pregnant dogs and puppies, has left many wondering whether it is normal behavior or cause for medical concern. Interestingly, chimps and bunnies also feed on poop, so maybe, why not dogs then?
Turning our attention to their counterparts in the wild, coprophagia is evident in wild canids as a way of marking their territories. Whenever sneaky canines invade marked territories, they drop their markings, but the owners of the said territory eat the invader’s poop and replace it with theirs to reclaim their marked area. It is thus possible that pet dogs inherit this coprophagia from their wild ancestors.
A recent study found that 16% of dogs eat poop, with 24% of the dogs in the study eating poop at least once. One of the reasons behind this is simply because your dog may find its poop or other animal’s poop tasty. The smell and high protein content of a cat’s poop make it one of the top tasty treats, among others like rabbits and deer poop.
Is Eating Poop Normal for Dogs?
Coprophagia in dogs is primarily standard and behavioral. However, on very few occasions, it can occur due to different medical conditions like food allergies and intestinal complications. Notably, it is normal for mother dogs to lick their puppies as a way of enticing them to poop and afterward eat the puppies’ poop to clean up their space. The puppies grow accustomed to this habit after watching their mothers do it and adopt it as they grow.
Facts About Dogs Eating Poop
People often assume that dogs lack certain nutrients in their meals; hence they eat poop, which is considered to have the nutrients they need. Surprisingly, even dogs fed with highly nutritious and quality meals still eat their poop and other animals.
Dogs enjoy eating poop, and just like humans find it arduous to quit their pleasurable habits, stopping your pet dog from coprophagia is not a simple task.
Punishing your pet dog for eating poop will not help to eliminate this behavior because your dog may interpret the punishment differently. Depending on how dogs interpret the punishment, they may eat their poop faster the next time to avoid the negative reinforcement.
Dr. Benjamin Hart, a researcher from the University of California, observed that:
- Dogs that eat poop aren’t harder to house train.
- Coprophagia is more common in households with more than one dog.
- Females, unlike males, were more likely to eat poop
- Most dogs that enjoy eating poop prefer it fresh, only a day or two old
- 85% of dogs with coprophagia don’t eat their poop but that of other dogs.
- Dogs that tend to steal food from the table are more likely to be poop eaters.
Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
There are a number of reasons why your dog could be eating poop. If your older dog is eating poop, it is important to consult with your vet to rule out health problems such as drugs such as steroids, malabsorption syndromes, diet deficiencies, and parasites.
Some reasons why your dog may be eating their poop or that of other animals includes:
Isolation and restrictive confinement
Research shows that dogs left alone in the basement or kennel are more likely to eat poop than those who live close to people. Your dog is also more likely to dine on their dung if they spend a lot of time in a small confined space. It is not unusual to see dogs from crowded shelters suffering from coprophagia.
Protecting puppies from parasites
Dogs’ feces contain parasites that can infect puppies as they poop in the same area they spend most of their time. This makes them highly vulnerable to infections. Consequently, the mother dog eats their pup’s poop and licks their bottoms to keep them clean and prevent them from getting infected by the parasites.
To recoup lost nutrients
Just like humans take vitamin supplements to aid in their nutritional needs, dogs also need to supplement their diets with some nutrients present in their poop, likely due to poor digestion. Feces of other animals like hippos and horses contain antioxidant segments that are of high nutritional value for your dog.
When pet owners result to punishment or harsh methods during house training, it may lead to coprophagia. Your dog will eliminate and eat its own poop to get rid of the evidence. When you punish them again, it turns into a vicious cycle as your dog isn’t learning that eating poop is the problem.
Some health conditions like thyroid problems and diabetes in dogs can make dogs ravenous even when they don’t need food. This feeling will be enough to make your dog eat poop whenever it’s in its periphery.
Whenever your pet dog is alone at home, he probably gets bored and chooses to keep himself busy by playing around with its toys, other times chasing his tail or entertaining himself with some poop around before he gets a treat out of it.
It is normal for your pet dog to seek your attention by eating poop regardless of whether you will punish it or not. They are just looking to draw a reaction from you. So if you notice your dog doing this, do not overreact.
Inappropriate association with real food
Dogs fed close to their poop tend to make a connection between food odor and poop odor and cannot tell the difference if it occurs too often.
Scenting it on their mothers
It is normal for puppies to catch the scent of fecal odor on their mother’s breath after cleaning them and their sleeping area. Mothers also may regurgitate food mixed with fecal matter, which eventually leads to appetitive inoculation. This tendency may lead to the puppies developing this bad habit.
Other reasons why dogs eat poop include:
- Intestinal parasites
How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?
One of the greatest misconceptions about preventing your dog from indulging in poor behavior such as coprophagia is punishing them. Punishment will not stop your dog from consuming fecal matter. Instead, try cleaning it up immediately. This way, you deny your dog the opportunity to consume it, and over time, the behavior gets forgotten and, in effect, eliminated.
Here are more tips on how to stop your dog from eating poop:
A long-standing theory about why dogs eat poop is that they are missing some nutrients in their diet; therefore, a multivitamin could be helpful. One of the prime suspects is Vitamin B deficiency revealed in a 1981 study. Take time to regularly add a vitamin or enzyme supplement to your dog’s meals. You can also switch to high fiber formulas if you have changed your dog’s diet to cut calories.
Use of stool eating deterrents
Certain smells and tastes tend to be gross to dogs, just as the idea of eating stool is to us. Adding poop eating deterrent to your dog’s treats and food is a great way to make poop less appealing. These products contain pepper plant derivatives, camomile, garlic, and yuca, among other ingredients. Adolph’s meat tenderizer and bromelain in pineapples are good examples. However, some of these substances may not work for every dog, as some won’t eat food containing these substances.
Cleaning the dogs living area
It is important to keep your dog’s living area clean, including the yard. This ensures there is no poop lying around, tempting your dog into consuming it. If you own a cat, keep the litter box clean or out of your dog’s reach.
Supervise your dog during walks
Keep your dog under close supervision when outside during walks. This ensures you notice when your dog is attracted to interesting things such as poop so that you can quickly redirect them. Remember to carry some tasty treats for him to give immediately every time he poops to prevent him from consuming them. Repetition of this habit will lead to a psychological association. Consequently, your dog will always run to you for a treat every time he poops instead of turning to his poop.
Using positive reinforcement such as treats, use commands such as ‘Leave it’ or ‘No’ to discourage your dog from consuming fecal material. Although it may take a while to break the habit, it will eventually happen when done the right way, so be patient.
It’s advisable to consult a veterinarian to check your dog for other health issues if the habit persists.
FAQs About Dogs Eating Poop
Can eating poop kill my dog?
It’s not harmful to your dog to eat their poop. However, other animals’ poop may be contaminated with parasites and viruses, which are harmful to your dog’s health.
Why is my dog eating poop all of a sudden?
This happens mainly because of either poor digestion or lack of some nutrients in your dog’s meals. Poor digestion will make dogs eat their poop all of a sudden, while lack of nutrients will make them eat other animals’ poop to compensate for these nutrients.
Why does my dog eat cat poop outside?
Dogs that are frequently fed with processed foods experience enzyme deficiency, making them eat cats’ poop to get digestive enzymes. They may also eat cats’ poop as a general behavior or a way to deal with boredom, intestinal parasites, and stress.
Why is my pregnant dog eating poop?
Pregnant dogs eat poop for various reasons, including satisfaction with their nutritional needs and also boredom. They are constantly in need of a high-quality diet both during pregnancy and lactation. They end up eating other animals’ poop to get the nutrients they miss in their diet.
What does it mean when your dog eats toilet paper and diapers?
The tendency for dogs to eat non-food items such as toilet paper and diapers is known as pica. This condition is often the result of malnutrition or another underlying issue. When consumed in small amounts, toilet tissue is harmless. However, napkins, larger paper towels, and diapers can cause blockages and require professional help.
In a nutshell, eating poop is normal and not harmful for your dog. However, if the behavior doesn’t sit well with you, the above tips are a great place to start to manage the problem. Consult a veterinarian if the behavior causes medical problems or becomes a nuisance.