If you’re reading this article, chances are you know the feeling of having your dog lick your face only to watch them eat poop when you take them on your daily neighborhood walk 15 minutes later. Woof. Not a pretty image. You always make sure that your fur baby is well fed, so why do dogs eat poop?
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop
Although unpleasant, the fact is that some dogs eat poop and it needs to be addressed. Dogs may eat poop for more reasons than you may think. In fact, while it is entirely in the realm of possibilities that your pup is eating poop simply out of boredom, their poop eating tendencies may be a sign of something much more severe.
What is Coprophagy or Coprophagia
Coprophagy (or coprophagia) is the medical term for the act of dogs eating stool. No matter how you phrase it, it doesn’t sound pleasant.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop: Medical Reasons
There are several possible medical reasons why your dog may be eating their fecal matter. Because medical issues notoriously develop into additional issues, it is imperative that dog owners don’t write off their pup eating their own poop as “nothing” … as this can be far from the truth.
When wild dogs hunt their prey, they eat the entirety of whatever animal they catch, including the guts. Although it’s not a pretty image, the dog needs the digestive enzymes found in the stomach to properly absorb the nutrients that the food has to offer.
Today, most domesticated dogs are fed a highly processed kibble diet that does not have the necessary enzymes needed for absorption. Therefore, the dog essentially poops out the nutrients that should have been fully digested. If the dog has an enzyme deficiency, they will seek out the feces that they just discarded because it is full of nutrients that their body needs.
Your dog may be eating stool due to a parasitic infestation. Intestinal parasites absorb the nutrients that your dog needs and therefore creates a nutritional deficiency.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is a condition where the dog’s body is severely lacking digestive enzymes in the pancreas. The digestive enzymes are imperative to the dog’s health. Without the enzymes, the dog will begin to lose a substantial amount of weight and will start to eat feces as its body craves and needs the nutrients.
Diseases Causing Appetite Increase
Disease such as thyroid conditions and diabetes can cause your pup to have such an increased appetite that they will eat their stool. Additionally, steroids can cause your dog to be much hungrier than usual, leading to them eating feces.
Additionally, poor digestion stemming from a hydrochloric acid deficiency can also lead to a dog that is desperate for nutrients and therefore consumes their own stool.
Dog owners should make sure that they are feeding their pups enough food at regularly scheduled times. If you’re unsure if your dog is getting enough food, be sure to ask your veterinarian. A hungry dog will look for food, even if that food is their own feces.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop: Behavioral Reasons
If everything health-wise seems to be good to go, your dog may be eating their own poop for a behavioral reason. Luckily, most poop eating due to behavioral issues can easily and quickly be resolved.
Puppies are naturally curious about their new, unexplored surroundings. It is pretty common for your new puppy to try their own poop as part of their curiosity. Luckily, most puppies don’t continue this behavior into adulthood. However, it is important for pet owners to recognize the act and ensure it doesn’t grow into a habit.
A primary behavioral reason for dogs eating stool when a female dog is cleaning up after her puppies in an effort to keep their surroundings clean. While mother dogs cleaning up after her puppies is the most common example of dogs eating their poop out of cleanliness, the desire for tidiness may be a reason why other dogs also eat their feces.
Dogs are not repulsed at the smell or idea of feces. Therefore, if your dog is left home alone for hours on end, it is completely in the realm of possibilities that they will entertain themselves with the mess they’ve made.
Experts suggest that if a dog is stressed, mainly if they are in confined spaces all day (such as a crate), they may eat their own feces as a way to relieve the stress.
It’s not new information that dogs crave their owner’s love and affection. If they don’t feel like they are receiving as much attention as they would like, you may find that Fido acts out in ways that aren’t ideal, including consuming their own poop.
Additionally, studies suggest that dogs may develop a behavioral issue such as eating poop from the environment that they were raised in. For example, dogs that have spent time not knowing when their next meal will be, such as dogs in puppy mills or shelters, may eat their own poop for fear of being hungry in the future.
Most dogs know that they shouldn’t be doing their business in the house and if they do, punishment will ensue. Therefore, experts believe that some dogs may eat their poop to hide the bad behavior or “evidence” in order to avoid their favorite human being upset with them.
Copying the Behavior of Other Dogs
Coprophagia in dogs may occur if your pooch sees another dog eating their own feces in a kind of copy-cat situation. This more or less means that the older dog of the household as already developed a liking for stool. Trust us, one poop eating pup is bad enough, you don’t want two dogs eating poop. It’s best to handle the issue ASAP.
Why Do Dogs Eat Other Animal’s Poop
Unfortunately, your pup eating their own feces isn’t the only thing that dog owners have to watch for. Dogs are scavengers and some dogs are notorious for eating all sorts of poop, including other dogs’ poop, cat poop, you-name-it-poop. Dog owners should always be on the lookout for this kind of behavior.
How to Stop Dog From Eating Poop
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to avoid your dog from eating poop (theirs or others). These ways include:
Cleanliness! Always pick up after your dog right after they do their business. Removing the potential will avoid the possibility. Additionally, if there is a cat in the house, pet owners should make sure that the litter box is regularly cleaned in order to avoid temptation.
Physical and mental stimulation! Like humans, dogs don’t do well with constant boredom. Pet owners should make sure that they are spending enough time engaging with their fur baby in playtime and activities. Trust us, it will pay off for the both of you.
Whenever possible, we recommend a species appropriate, raw food diet. The raw food has the digestive enzymes that your fur baby needs. Making sure that your dog is getting all the nutrients they need will prevent them from searching for the necessary nutrients elsewhere. As previously mentioned, if you are unsure of whether your dog is eating enough, be sure to consult with your veterinarian. If your dog is hungry chances are, they will eat… even if that means eating their poo.
Dog owners should also keep an eye out for parasites in their dog’s fecal matter. While some parasites and eggs won’t be apparent to the naked human eye, other parasites can be clearly seen. A parasitic infestation will need veterinarian intervention right away.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop: The Bottom Line
Look, we understand that realizing that your sweet, precious, face-licking dog is also eating their poop is… not ideal. However, at the end of the day, while a bit unsettling, poop eating should not be ignored. If your dog is eating their own feces (or any feces for that matter), the dog owner needs to get to the bottom of it (no pun intended). Thankfully, most of the time, the act of eating poop is out of boredom in which the pet owner has total control over.
Dog food has evolved drastically over the years (and rightfully so), but this doesn’t mean that the dog’s digestive system has also drastically changed (it hasn’t). Conscious diet choices can make a huge difference in your dog’s life.