Why Dogs Eat Poop and How to Stop Them

No owner wants to see their beloved pet gobble down feces, whether it’s their own or the feces of other animals. Poop-eating is never a cute look, even if the subject in question is an impossibly fluffy poodle or a gorgeous Siberian husky with stunning blue eyes. Sorry, furbabies, it’s not you, it’s poo

The good news? Your sweet companions can redeem themselves. Read on for the scoop on poop-eating, the risks it poses, and tips to help your pet break the habit. 

The scoop

Poop-eating, also called coprophagia, is a natural behavior at certain stages of a dog’s life. For the first three weeks after birth, canine mothers lick their newborn puppies to help them go to the toilet and to keep them clean. They also eat their puppies’ poop to keep them and the area hygienic and free from diseases and parasites. Puppies mimic this behavior, but soon outgrow poop-eating. 

Beyond ingrained behavior, there are other reasons why dogs might ingest poop:

  • Nutritional deficiencies: Poor diet or the inability to properly digest nutrients can be one reason. Watch for signs of a nutritional deficiency such as dull or brittle coat; dry, scaling or flaking skin; being under- or overweight; skin issues such as itching, inflammation, and sores; frequent infections.

  • Certain medical conditions or medications: Thyroid disease, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease are some conditions that can increase hunger in dogs and lead them to eat their feces. Drugs, such as steroids, benzodiazepines, and some antihistamines can also cause increased hunger as a side effect. 

  • Scared of being punished: Some dogs may learn to eat their poop if they have been repeatedly punished by their owners for having accidents in the house. 

    • Anxiety: Dogs may eat poop as a displacement behavior when they are anxious. Possible sources of anxiety include worrying about being confined, separation anxiety, or lack of enrichment activities when confined. 

      Risks of poop-eating

      It is generally harmless for a dog to eat his own stool. However, bacteria and parasites from that stool can possibly be transmitted to humans and other animals through contact with the dog’s mouth and saliva. Until your pet drops their poop-eating habit for good, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly when you do come in contact with your dog’s mouth or saliva. 

      If your dog has the habit of eating the feces of another animal, especially another dog or a cat, there is the risk of ingesting the eggs of intestinal parasites and potentially harmful bacteria that can lead to illness. Fret not. Below, see our tips on mitigating the behavior. 


      How to break the habit

      You have determined the reason behind your dog’s undesirable tendency in Point #1, now let’s move on to stopping it. Before anything else, make sure you’re minimizing poop-eating opportunities by picking it up as soon as it happens. If you live with a cat, you might want to keep your cat’s litter box clean, too. 

      Ensure your dog is eating a balanced diet. This means whole food, organ meats, all those stuff that are particularly rich in vitamins and minerals. Throw in pre- and probiotics and digestive enzymes to ensure that your dog gets all the benefits of the meal. 

      Another way to stop a dog from digging into their poop is by making the poop less appealing. That’s right. Add meat tenderizer, canned pumpkin, or another deterrent to your dog’s meal. These food items taste fine in food, but they make poop taste terrible to dogs. 

      Your dog is a scavenger at heart, exploring the world with its nose and mouth. So the next time you catch your dog in the act, remain calm. The last thing you want to do is punish your dog, which can cause behavioral issues and even make their bad habits worse. Put yourself in their paws—coprophagia is a natural behavior to them. That makes it an extra tricky habit to break. By giving your pet plenty of guidance and encouragement, you are making the unlearning experience as stress-free as possible. 


      • 5 reasons why your dog might eat poop, plus expert-recommended strategies to help them break the habit


      • Why Dogs Eat Poop and How to Stop It


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