Dogs do a lot of things that humans wouldn’t even dream of. One of the most disgusting things they do is eat poop! We all love our dogs, but the second you see them eating poop, you don’t want to be near them for a couple of hours.
…and then you start thinking about all the times they licked your face and wonder how many times they ate feces right before that without you noticing. Yuck!
There couldn’t possibly be a reasonable explanation for your dog being a poop eater, right? Wrong! As always, animal behavior that seems bizarre to us actually makes sense when we understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.
But just because we understand why they’re eating poop doesn’t mean we should allow them to continue. Other than the undeniable fact that it’s gross, there are some potential health risks for both you and your dog. Other than a few specific circumstances (which we will talk about shortly), you should do your best to put an end to this behavior.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
The technical term for when a dog eats poop is coprophagia. Coprophagia breaks down into three types:
- Autocoprophagia: This is when they eat their own poop.
- Intraspecific: This is when they eat the poop of another dog (not specific to the breed, just dog in general).
- Interspecific: This is when they eat feces of other animals from a different species.
Regardless of the type of coprophagia your dog is displaying, the cause is one of the following:
Technically there could be a third reason which is “Instincts,” but instincts in dogs are brought out because of behavioral and medical issues. This is why we decided to include instinctive reasons within both the sections below.
The Behavioral Reasons
Hiding The Evidence
One of the more common potty training techniques is to shove the puppy’s nose near the feces or potty and say “NO!” when the puppy doesn’t go outside or on their potty pad. This is a horrible potty training method for multiple reasons, one of which is it increases the chances of them eating their own poop.
A puppy has no idea what they did wrong when their nose gets shoved near the feces, all they know is they went to the bathroom and got yelled at for it. This will cause them to believe that going to the bathroom in general causes you to be unhappy, so when they go poop, they’ll eat the evidence so you don’t get mad at them.
Maternal Survival Instincts
When a female dog just had puppies, she has a powerful instinct to eat her young puppies poop. As strange as this sounds, it’s actually a survival instinct. The mom’s number one job is to protect her pups. She wants to get rid of as much scent as possible to protect the “den” from being attacked by a predator. In her mind, if she keeps the den clean, predators won’t find them. Obviously, your dog is completely safe at home, but it’s something their instincts will still cause them to do.
New pups learn a lot from their mother by watching her day to day life. If the mother is eating the puppies poop, the puppies may start doing the same thing. If you see a puppy eat poop, make sure you try to end the behavior ASAP. If they start doing it at a young age, they may learn to love the taste.
Looking For Attention
Sometimes children act out to get their parents attention. Dogs do the same thing! Even if they know it will be negative attention, they still want it. If they know eating poop will get your attention, they’ll do it! This is one of the many reasons pet owners need to give plenty of attention to their pets.
Ever heard the term “comfort foods.” Well, some dogs eat poop as a self-soothing process. It’s like their own southern comfort food…yeah, we don’t get it either!
This one applies mostly towards puppies but can also apply to some adult dogs. Puppies are curious creatures that get bored quickly. They love exploring the world and everything it has to offer. If they see something they are curious about, their way of “checking it out” is by putting it in their mouth. Ironically, human babies do the same thing. If they find something they’re curious about, the first thing they’ll do is try to eat it.
Before we get into some of the medical reasons a dog eats poop, it’s important to know that we are just listing the most common causes. There could be many other medical reasons your dog is displaying this behavior. When it doubt, it’s always best to take a trip to the vet.
Malnutrition From Worms or Intestinal Parasites
Dogs are prone to worms and other parasites. In fact, if you don’t get your dog dewormed twice per year, there’s a good chance they’ll get infected at some point in their lives. One of the primary dangers involved with worms is malnutrition. Worms eat up a large portion of nutrients, not leaving much for your dog. This will cause your dog to crave his own stool in an attempt to get the required nutrients.
Malnutrition From Lack of Food
Most dog owners tend to overfeed their dogs, but some dog owners are so concerned about keeping their dog at a healthy weight, they underfeed them. Make sure you look up how much food your dog’s breed should be eating every day. Don’t feed them less just because you’re worried about them losing their waist.
Yup, dogs can get food addictions as well. This is common in rescue dogs who were found on the street. Dogs that lived life on the street had to eat anything edible in sight quickly so they didn’t starve to death. Once a dog develops this habit, it’s hard to break. Some dogs even get to the point where they’ll eat their own poop because their food addiction is so strong.
Lack of Digestive Enzymes
There’s a condition in dogs called EPI. This means the dog is creating no (or minimal) digestive enzymes. No digestive enzymes means food can’t be absorbed. This will cause your dog to eat poop in hopes that it will provide them with the nutrition they need for survival.
When a dog is sick, a lot of changes are happening in the gut. These changes cause the stool to smell differently. In some cases, this new smell may be delightful for your dog so they’ll want to eat it.
Natural Ways To Get a Dog to Stop Eating Poop
Dogs eating feces is such a common issue, over the years many methods have been discovered to put an end to this behavior. Here at K9Nerds, we ALWAYS recommend you try natural methods before anything else.
Also, the best way to get your dog to stop eating droppings is to prevent it from happening in the first place. This means cleaning up the mess right away. A dog can’t eat what’s not there!
Below are our top natural methods to get your dog to stop eating poop.
Check To Food Quality
Lack of nutrients is one of the primary reasons dogs eat poop. Although most dog food these days is full of nutrients, there are still some brands out there that are low quality and don’t provide a dog with the nutrients required. Make sure the food label says “whole and balanced”. If it has those words on the label, you’re good to go.
Supplement With Digestive Enzymes
It’s one thing for a dog to eat enough nutrients, it’s another for them to digest those nutrients. If you’re feeding your dog whole and balanced food, the issue might not be with what your dog eats but what happens after they eat. Digestive enzymes supplements for dogs are inexpensive. Give some to your dog for about two weeks. If this solves the issue, then you know the reason your dog was eating poop was that they weren’t properly digesting the nutrients.
Bust Out The Pineapple
Your dog is going to love this tip! Pineapples are highly acidic. If you feed your dog pineapples, the acidity will change the flavor of the poop, and there’s a good chance it will repel your dog.
Unlike pineapple, canned pumpkin won’t change the taste of your dog’s stool. However, it will keep your dog feeling full for a long time. Some dogs eat their poop because they feel like they are starving. If you keep your dog feeling full, it will prevent them from eating feces.
Some may find this cruel, but if it’s going to help break the habit of eating poop, then I don’t see anything wrong with it. Next time your dog uses the bathroom, instead of cleaning it up right away, put some hot sauce on it. Your dog is NOT going to like the taste of hot sauce and will immediately spit it out. The goal is to get your dog to eventually associate eating stool with a horrible flavor. It may take a few weeks, but over time it will happen.
MSG Meat Tenderizer
This tip has a surprisingly high success rate. Take a trip to your local grocery store and purchase some meat tenderizer that is high in MSG. Our favorite is Adolphs Meat Tenderizer (Unseasoned). If you sprinkle some on your dog’s food, it will cause their poop to taste bad (gives it a metallic taste). Most dogs are going to be thoroughly repelled by this taste and will stop eating the stool.
However, this is a very temporary fix. MSG isn’t the greatest for a dogs system, and long term use can cause damage. The goal is to use this method to break the habit for 1-2 months and hope they never return to this old habit even when you stop putting meat tenderizer in their food.
Is it Bad For Your Dog to Eat Poop?
Autocoprophagia – Disgusting But Generally Safe
As disgusting as autocoprophagia (dog eating their own poop), it’s not much of a health concern for your dog. The exception to this rule is if your dog has worms and they eat their own poop. A dog that is infected with intestinal worms will eliminate some of those worms when defecating. The last thing you want is for your dog to eat them again.
Although autocoprophagia in most cases isn’t bad for your dog, remember that it could be a health concern for you. Chances are good your dog licks you all over. If they just got done eating their own poop, it can pass on some germs to you that might make you sick.
Intraspecific and Interspecific Coprophagia – Not Safe
Intraspecific and Interspecific coprophagia can be harmful to your dog. When a dog ingests the feces of another animal, it’s eating whatever illness or infection that dog may (or may not) have had. Going back to the example of worms. If your dog eats the stool of a dog that has worms, your dog will now have worms.
These health concerns are why it’s essential to try to end this behavior as quickly as possible.
What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Poop?
Schedule an Appointment With The Vet
As we always say, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you notice your dog is eating poop, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your vet. If something is medically wrong with your dog, you want to know ASAP!
Begin Testing Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Once your dog gets a clean bill of health from the vet, the next thing you want to do is supplement with digestive enzymes for about two weeks. If that fixes the issue, then you know your dog isn’t properly absorbing nutrients. Make sure to let your vet know what’s going on.
Use Taste Aversion Techniques
The taste aversion techniques we talked about in this article are pineapple and MSG meat tenderizer. Both work well, but we’ve noticed better results from the meat tenderizer.
Don’t Let Your Dog Lick People
This last part might sound obvious, but until you get this situation under control, don’t let your dog lick anyone. Some worms can actually be spread to humans. If a dog eats stool that has worms in it, the dog now has worms and can pass it onto you or someone else.
It’s Gross, But It’s Natural
Figuring out how to stop a dog from eating poop can take some creative thinking, but with hard work, you can put an end to this behavior. Just remember that your dog isn’t a freak for doing this. It’s natural behavior in the dog world, and there is a logical reason they’re doing it. Whether that be for survival, protection, or curiosity, they do have a reason. Don’t get mad at them and don’t yell at them, that won’t correct the behavior. Do your best to get to the root of the problem and figure out why they are eating poop in the first place. Once you know the why, you can put together a plan to end the stool eating.
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