10 Reasons Why Your Dog is Eating Poop

stop your dog from eating poop

We've all had that horrifying moment: you witness your beloved canine companion eating their own poop. The act of a dog eating their own feces, or that of other animals, is known as Coprophagia. Understanding why dogs indulge in this behavior, is essential to addressing it. Let's explore ten reasons why dogs might turn to this unsettling habit and solutions to each. And here is a hint: our furry friends may be trying to tell us something about their health, and it could be more straightforward than you think to address.

 

Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop
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1) Nutritional Deficiencies

Why:

The #1 reason dogs consume poop is due to a lack of essential nutrients in their diet. In the wild, animals often have to make the most out of limited resources. If food is scarce, eating feces could be a survival mechanism that allows canines to extract as much nutritional value as possible from available resources. When our dogs are lacking certain nutrients in their diet, they instinctively seek out alternative sources to satisfy their nutritional needs. Poop can contain some residual nutrients that were not fully absorbed or digested, making it from the dog's perspective, a source of supplemental nutrition. Commercial dog foods often lack essential nutrients or may not be adequately balanced. In such cases, dogs may resort to eating poop instinctively seeking missing elements in their diet.

How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop Due to Nutritional Deficiencies

Add a Comprehensive Daily Multivitamin specifically designed for dogs to your pups daily routine. This first and simplest thing to do for poop eating is to minimize any nutritional deficiencies. Simply adding well-rounded daily multivitamin will address multiple possible reasons for eating poop.

  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Malabsorption
  • Pica
  • Stress
  • Digestive Issues
  • Ulcers & gastritis

No matter how high-quality a dog's diet might be, there are often gaps. The smallest gap can lead to significant problems. Small gaps can play a critical role in the body's functioning, proving that even minor details should not be overlooked. Adding such a multivitamin can add treasure trove of nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and essential minerals like zinc and magnesium, effectively discouraging your pup from eating poop. 

 

2) Learned Behavior

Why?

Dogs can be trained to eat poop in a variety of ways. When the mother dog has a litter of puppies, she cleans up after their poop the only way she can, by eating it. Not only does this keep her den clean; it also protects her puppies from nearby predators, who could be drawn in by the smell. Puppies often learn this behavior from mom, as it coincides well with their natural curiosity and desire to smell and taste everything. Owners can inadvertently teach the behavior when potty training their pup. When a dog has been scolded for pooping inside or in the wrong area, they will eat the poop in an effort to clean the area. They can also learn it from watching other dogs. While most dogs grow out of this habit, some dogs eat poop as adults out of boredom, a lack of proper nutrition, or a lack of training against the behavior. 

How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Learned Behavior:  

Training and environment control are your best allies here. Dogs that have learned this behavior have to be retrained or untrained. Be consistent in your training methods. Use a firm but non-punitive command like "Leave it” or “drop it" and redirect their attention to appropriate behaviors. Praise and treat them for following commands. Separate your dog from any other animals that may be teaching them this behavior until it's unlearned. Consistency is key when it comes to retraining a dog. Ensure that all family members and caregivers are on the same page regarding how to handle instances of coprophagia.

3) Pica: the craving for non-food items

Why?

Pica is an eating disorder where they develop an appetite for non-edible items such as metal, wood, stones and - yes - feces. It can be due to lack of nutrients/dietary imbalance, certain medical conditions like anemia, or behavioral issues such as boredom, stress, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Pica:  

  1. Add a high quality multivitamin rich in essential nutrients and probiotics can also help to balance the digestive system and may reduce the cravings for non-food items.
  2. Try to keep their mind working. Play interactive games with your pet or hand out chew toys so they have something else to focus on instead of the usual poop snack.
  3. Training to redirect their attention to acceptable items and providing ample mental stimulation can help.
  4. Rule out any potential medical issues with your Veterinarian.

Consider engaging a canine behaviorist to address psychological issues.

 

4) Hunger

Why?

Hunger may drive dogs to eat whatever is available to them, including feces. This could be due to irregular or inconsistent feeding schedules or not enough sustenance provided during meal times..

How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Pica:  

  1. Ensure you are feeding your dog the right amount based on their age, size, and activity level.
  2. Make sure they always have access to fresh water.
  3. A complete health multivitamin can supplement their nutritional intake, ensuring that even if they are a bit hungry, they won't resort to eating feces for lack of essential nutrients.

5) Malabsorption: not enough nutrients from regular diet

Why?

Malabsorption is a condition where the dog's digestive system fails to properly absorb nutrients from the food consumed. In such cases, dogs may turn to poop, which could still contain undigested food particles and nutrients.

How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Malabsorption: 

Add digestive enzymes or prebiotics and probiotics to your dog's diet. These can enhance nutrient absorption and make their regular food more satisfying.

6) Parasites

Why?

Parasites such as worms can rob a dog's body of essential nutrients, leading them to seek alternative sources like feces to fulfill their dietary needs. Parasitic infections can manifest in a variety of ways in dogs, depending on the type of parasite and the severity of the infection. Here are some common symptoms:

Gastrointestinal Parasites (e.g., Roundworms, Hookworms, Tapeworms)

  • Vomiting: Often accompanied by the presence of worms.
  • Diarrhea: Sometimes with blood or mucus.
  • Scooting or Dragging Rear: Due to irritation around the anus.
  • Weight Loss: Despite normal or increased appetite.
  • Distended Abdomen: A pot-bellied appearance, especially in puppies.
  • Lethargy: General weakness and decreased activity.
  • Visible Worms: In feces or around the anal area.

External Parasites (e.g., Fleas, Ticks, Mites)

  • Excessive Scratching, Licking, or Biting: At the skin.
  • Hair Loss: Often due to constant scratching or licking.
  • Red, Irritated Skin: Particularly around ears, paws, and belly.
  • Black Flea Dirt: On the skin or in the fur.
  • Visible Parasites: Such as fleas or ticks on the skin.

Heartworm

  • Coughing: Mild, persistent cough.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Labored or rapid breathing.
  • Lethargy: Reluctance to exercise.
  • Weight Loss or Anorexia: Decrease in appetite.
  • Protruding Ribs and Bulging Chest: As disease progresses.
  • Collapse: In severe cases, due to blockage of blood flow to the heart.

Protozoal Parasites (e.g., Giardia, Coccidia)

  • Diarrhea: Often watery and may contain mucus or blood.
  • Vomiting: Occasionally.
  • Dehydration: Due to diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Weight Loss: Over time, if not treated.

 How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Parasites: 

If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Treatment may include medications, lifestyle changes, and in severe cases, hospitalization. Early detection and treatment are critical for effectively managing parasitic infections. Regular deworming is critical. Your Veterinarian can provide appropriate medications and a schedule for this. A comprehensive daily multivitamin can give your dog's immune system an extra boost, making it easier to fend off parasitic infections.

 

7) Attention-seeking behavior

Why?

Some dogs quickly learn that engaging in shocking behavior, like eating feces, gets them immediate attention—even if that attention is negative. If this is your pooch's strategy to get more out of their you, then they will take advantage of any opportunity there is to achieve what they aim for, especially if they notice it provokes a strong reaction.

How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Attention-seeking behavior: 

  1. Avoid giving your dog the reaction they seek when engaging in coprophagia. Instead, redirect their attention and reward them for following your cues.
  2. Train them to engage in alternative behaviors to get your attention.
  3. Reward positive behaviors with treats or attention.
  4. Consistency is key

8) Stress-induced Poop Eating

Why?

If poop eating suddenly starts in a dog that has previously not shown this behavior, and if it coincides with a stressful event or change in environment, stress could be the reason. The sources of stress can vary widely and may include changes in the living situation/environment, new additions to the family (both human and animal), absence of the owner, or boredom.

How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Stress: 

  1. Identify and address the root cause of your dog's stress. By understanding the potential causes and signs of stress-induced coprophagia, you can take targeted steps to manage the behavior effectively.
  2. Incorporate a Comprehensive Multivitamin: Multivitamins can play a role in managing stress-induced coprophagia. Dog Multivitamins with B-complex vitamins, in particular, are known to help with stress management. Additionally, a well-rounded multivitamin can address any potential nutritional deficiencies that may be encouraging the behavior.
  3. Behavioral Training: Techniques such as positive reinforcement can be employed to reward non-coprophagic behavior.
  4. Increase Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Boredom can often lead to stress, and physical activity can be an excellent stress-reliever for dogs.
  5. Environmental Management: Make sure the dog's living environment is as stress-free as possible, which may involve adding comfortable bedding, toys, and possibly even pheromone diffusers that can help reduce stress.
  6. Professional Help: In severe cases, consulting a Veterinarian behaviorist can provide more specialized behavioral plans tailored to your dog's needs.

 

9) Boredom

Why?

If your dog is left alone for long periods of time without any toys or playmates, then they might resort to eating feces out of boredom. Puppies and dogs that are not properly trained will feel like they have nothing else to do but eat their own stools rather than looking for other things to do.

How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Boredom: 

  1. Increase physical and mental stimulation. Toys, training sessions, and playtime can keep them engaged. Daily walks are the simplest way to keep a dog active. The length and frequency of walks may depend on your dog's breed, age, and health. Playing a game of fetch in a fenced yard or safe open space can provide both physical exercise and mental stimulation.
  2. Enhance your dog's environment with toys, puzzles, and regular exercise.
  3. Viewing Window: If possible, arrange a space where your dog can safely observe the outside world. Many dogs love watching birds, cars, and passersby.
  4. Sound Stimulation: Some dogs appreciate music, or even audiobooks, specially designed for canines.
  5. Regular Meal Times: Like humans, dogs feel more comfortable with a routine. Regular feeding can help break up the day and reduce boredom.
  6. Chewing Options: Provide safe bones or chewing toys. Chewing is a natural behavior that can also relieve boredom.
  7. Hide and Seek: This game can be played both indoors and outdoors and is an excellent way to engage your dog's sense of smell.
  8. Obstacle Course: Using pillows, boxes, and furniture, you can create a simple obstacle course that will challenge your dog both mentally and physically.

 

10) Medical Conditions

Why

Finally, dogs might start eating poop due to underlying medical issues such as liver problems (which cause foul breath), intestinal worms , chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, Addison's disease, hyperthyroidism or even Alzheimer's.

How to stop your Pup from eating poop Due to Medical Conditions: 

  1. Regular vet check-ups can catch and address medical conditions.
  2. Prevention: Exercise, diet, and nutritional supplements, support overall health and help prevent more serious medical concerns. Prevention is the key to a long healthy life and wellbeing. It is always preferred to treatment.

Mistaken theory: Pregnancy hormone causes dogs to eat their own feces?

Claims suggesting that a "pregnancy hormone" in female dogs causes feces-eating are unsubstantiated. There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of such a hormone influencing this behavior in dogs.

Additional Tips

Clean The Environment: Promptly clean up after your dog or any other pets in your household to remove the temptation.

Create a Safe Space: If your dog tends to eat poop in the yard, consider creating a designated potty area away from the eating zone to minimize the eating poop. Provide plenty of playthings and chews that will take its mind off the habit

Add Fiber: Increase the amount of fiber in its diet so that stool becomes harder and your pup stops finding them appetizing.

Dangers

Consuming feces can expose you and your pup to a variety of health risks and complications, including:

  1. Potential for Spreading Disease: If your dog eats feces and then licks its paws, or your face, it could spread harmful bacteria or parasites.
  2. Toxocariasis: This is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can transfer from animals to humans. The eggs of the Toxocara canis worm can be found in dog feces and can cause illness in both dogs and humans.
  3. Parasite Infestation: Feces may contain eggs of parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms, which can infect the dog.
  4. Bacterial Infections: Consuming feces can lead to bacterial infections such as Salmonella or E. coli, which may cause gastrointestinal issues and other health problems.
  5. Viral Infections: Diseases like parvovirus can be spread through feces, posing a significant health risk to unvaccinated dogs.
  6. Malnutrition: In some cases, eating feces might be indicative of a dog's inability to absorb nutrients properly, leading to malnutrition.
  7. Digestive Issues: Eating feces can upset a dog's stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
  8. Toxin Exposure: If the feces consumed contain any toxic substances, like medications or poisons ingested by the animal that produced them, your dog could be at risk.
  9. Bad Oral Health: Regularly eating feces can also lead to dental problems and bad breath.
  10. Behavioral Issues: The act itself can reinforce a negative behavior pattern that may be difficult to break.
  11. Public Health Risk: Some parasites and bacteria in dog feces can also infect humans, so there's a public health aspect to consider as well.
  12. Allergic Reactions: Less commonly, some dogs may have allergic reactions to substances found in the feces they consume.

Many pet owners underestimate the seriousness of dogs eating poop, possibly because it doesn't seem as revolting as other behaviors our furry companions might exhibit. Nonetheless, this habit can jeopardize your dog's health, making it essential to curtail this behavior as soon as possible if observed.

If you suspect your pup's feces-eating behavior has escalated, it's vital to address it promptly.

While poop consumption might be prevalent, it is not typical canine behavior. It is essential to comprehend the underlying reasons for such actions before reprimanding our pets. If simple interventions, like incorporating a comprehensive multivitamin, does not deter your dog from this behavior, consult with a veterinarian to explore treatment solutions that address the root of the issue.

 

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40 comments

My 1 yr old Yorkie ( female) is the one who eats her poop- not all of it and not all of the time- she is feed well- has plenty of chew toys nard actives to keep her from being bored- and I have 1 year old toy Poodle who is her playmate and the poodle doe not eat her poop. I can stand it – I have go out when they go out and she will not eat her poop wane I am there- but if I turn my back for one minute,, ugh.. I cannot stand it- never had a dog like this ever and it makes me ill- I’ve tried probiotics- poo chews- they have canned pumpkin in wet food every morning… I am at a loss of what to do- she has no not one of the symptom’s in this article- not a one to indicate anything is wrong with her. I really need help with this!!!

Deanna King

I have 2 Shih Tzus: 5 1/2 yrs male & 1 1/2 yrs female. Brother & sisster, same mother, different father. Both eat their poops. The male is real sneaky & hard to catch in the act. If the female was by herself, I think she would overcome it. I can tell when she’s ready to poop, but I can’t with Cookie, the older. I take them outside & wait but nothing from Cookie. Come back in & Cookie will sneak around & when I’m not looking will poop & eat it before I can blink my eyes. I am trying to keep my cool & not react, but it’’s hard. I give them the best food: multivitamins, probiotics, enzymes raw meat with organic raw veggies. I kinda blame it on the breeder. She had so many puppies, I think it was probably difficult for her with her age & physical challanges. I did not think about that when I got them.

Becky Smith

I have 2 puppies. One 5 month’s the other 3 months. They are king Charles Cavaliers. I noticed the first one as soon as 8 wks. She eats everything. Leaves, grass, mulch everything i even I seen her eating a worm. Can’t stop her. The other one does the same thing. I’ve never seen a puppy do this. Blue buffalo for puppies 3xs a day. I go to vets tomorrow. All up to date on shots. 2 older dogs 7 & 6yrs old never did this. The puppies seem to only eat thier own or each others. We clean up all of it. But puppies seem to eat right after they go. Ugh. Makes me sick. Need help. I can’t stand it. Breeder said just clean it up soon as they go. They both are fast. Hoping vet does something. I can’t deal with this. Ugh

Kathy Robinson

I have 2 puppies. One 5 month’s the other 3 months. They are king Charles Cavaliers. I noticed the first one as soon as 8 wks. She eats everything. Leaves, grass, mulch everything i even I seen her eating a worm. Can’t stop her. The other one does the same thing. I’ve never seen a puppy do this. Blue buffalo for puppies 3xs a day. I go to vets tomorrow. All up to date on shots. 2 older dogs 7 & 6yrs old never did this. The puppies seem to only eat thier own or each others. We clean up all of it. But puppies seem to eat right after they go. Ugh. Males me sick. Need help. I can’t stand it. Breeder said just clean it up soon as they go. They both are fast. Hoping vet does something. I can’t deal with this. Ugh

Kathy Robinson

My 4 month old dachshund is eating her poop but I haven’t tried vitamins. Theres 2 older dogs in the house and they don’t eat their poop, I know, cause I am the one who cleans it, and I am just desperate to prevent this from becoming a problem

Lindsay

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