Why do Dogs Eat Poop?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Why do Dogs Eat Poop?

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If you have witnessed your dog eat feces, you should know they are exposing themselves to various health problems that can encourage the appearance of bacteria or parasites in the gut, among many other problems. It is not only a problem that we find disgusting, it can also have serious consequences to our dog's health.

The coprofagia or ingestion of feces is common in both dogs and other animal species and although it is common, it usually creates rejection between owner and dog when observing this behavior. If you want to solve this problem definitely continue reading this AnimalWised article to discover why dogs eat poop, the most common causes and the solution to correct this behavior.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Eats Cat Poop - Why and What to Do

Animal behavior and consumption of feces

Probably when you decided to adopt a dog no one explained that this could happen and you certainly did not think about it. The coprophagia or ingestion of feces is something more common than we think and although it should be avoided it is important to know some things:

It is a behavior that in nature has its importance since many animals resort to it if they have nutritional deficiencies. Through the feces we expel the leftovers from the food that no longer interests our body, yet there are remains of undigested food that can still serve, as well as enzymes and trace elements.

Therefore feces contain remains of food that still preserve sustenance and in the wild when they go hungry, it is quite essential. It's not only dogs doing this but rabbits, rodents, horses, cattle, among others. The dog is not the only one who eats feces!

Why do Dogs Eat Poop? - Animal behavior and consumption of feces

The 10 most common causes of feces ingestion

Once we know the reasons for coprophagy in nature, we must determine the motive that incites our pet.

Do you suspect that your dog eats feces but you don't know exactly when they do? If you are truly concerned about this matter we recommend you add one or two cameras that cover the perimeter of your garden or home. See what your dog does and how they behave when you are not there. Here's a list of possible causes that can make your dog eat feces:

  1. Nutritional deficiencies are often the most common that cause a dog to eat poop and are directly related to the type of food we offer. If you review how much food you feed your dog and observe a high percentage of grains, you perhaps have found the cause of this behavior.
    In order to be able to correctly digest grains, the body needs an enzyme called amylase, which is responsible for assimilating the starch of this food. However, the dog does not produce a large amount, so they are not able to digest a high percentage of cereals. For this reason, if they eat feces, they will receive the enzymes and trace elements necessary to be able to synthesize the amylase in their food.
    Do not forget that a high percentage of cereals or grains leads to obesity and causes our dog to suffer behavioral problems related to hyperactivity as well as an excess of sugar and cortisol in the blood.
  2. The dog wants to get your attention. Strangely enough, if we completely ignore our dog at the dog park or on a walk, they are likely to try to get our attention in some way. If nothing works, they may resort to eating feces. Ask yourself if you pay enough attention during your walks.
    In addition, once your dog has eaten feces, the first thing you will do is to scold them to prevent them from eating it, which will reinforce this behavior that we both dislike. To do this, it is best to practice games for smelling like searching or ball games. Remember that the walk is their time of day, dedicate it completely to him.
  3. Your dog has digestive problems. Do you notice that your dog has diarrhea? Do they have problems digesting food? Are they a puppy? Sometimes the difficulties they suffer trying to eat properly make them prefer to eat "soft" food, in this case feces. It is advisable that if we notice any anomaly in their bowel movements we go immediately to the veterinarian, especially if we observe this behavior.
  4. They spend many hours alone. If your dog spends many hours alone it is likely that out of boredom and loneliness they will decide to eat their own feces. Ask yourself if you are spending enough time with them and if not take action on it. Remember that a dog should not spend more than 6 or 8 hours alone at home and should go for a walk at least twice a day.
  5. You have a very clean dog. If your dog is especially clean (cleans themselves constantly, does not drink when the bowl is dirty etc.) they may decide to eat feces in order to prevent their habitat from becoming dirty. Ask yourself if you take enough walks with your dog and if not, start to modify your walking habits so they cannot poop at home. Spend time cleaning the house and garden on a regular basis. You cannot allow your dog to live surrounded by dirt.
  6. They are hungry. Truly hungry dogs will not hesitate to eat feces from other dogs, cats and even humans. This is a very unlikely situation though.
  7. Your dog just had puppies. If you find yourself in this situation it is likely that your dog will eat the puppies' poop to keep her womb clean. If we have a lot of confidence in the mother, we can help her by removing the feces, but otherwise it will be convenient to avoid getting too close to the nest, to avoid a bite or the rejection of some of the puppies.
  8. A very curious puppy. Puppies, out of curiosity, can explore and eat the feces of another pet or their own. They can find them an appetizing flavor and for that reason they are eaten. Do not forget that if they do it very often you will need to review their daily food intake even go to your veterinarian of confidence. It is not normal behavior in puppies and should be avoided.
  9. Negative behaviors we use: If we use punishment regularly with our dog when defecating at home or we push their snout to the feces, the dog can eat to avoid our anger. Avoid negative behaviors and move forward with positive reinforcement.
  10. Other problems: If you notice that the causes are serious, they may be derived from an illness or if you simply cannot identify the causes go to your veterinarian of confidence to help you solve the problem.
Why do Dogs Eat Poop? - The 10 most common causes of feces ingestion

How to prevent a dog from eating poop?

If you've identified your dog's behavior in one of the previous 10 leading causes we mentioned, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian and even also with a dog trainer who can confirm that this is the problem that affects our dog. In addition, having a blood or urine test will help us ensure their health is good and we can start practicing guidelines requiring our case.

Solutions to prevent a dog from eating poop

Here's a short list of helpful information that can help you remedy this behavior. Take note and apply the following tricks:

  • Check your dog's feed to make sure the percentage of grains is low. If you think that this is a low quality product do not hesitate to look for an alternative in the market and even start preparing homemade recipes for your dog, they will love it!
  • More walks, exercise and well-being. Especially if you think that your dog suffers a behavior problem or has a lot of stress accumulated it will be interesting to take more walks, between two and three a day, as well as spend a few hours in different games: searching, games of intelligence, of smell... All this will help you to distract them and improve their well-being, which is fundamental to dealing with the problem.
  • Keep their area clean. Obviously hygiene will not only help solve this problem but will make them less likely to suffer some kind of disease or infection. The hygiene of their space, in the trough and drinking fountain or in their bed is essential for the life of any pet.
  • Offer them pineapple! Pineapple is an excellent food that many dogs like. Instead of applying positive reinforcement with normal goodies, try to offer this fruit. If they accept it, the pineapple will change the taste of their own feces and it is common for them to stop eating the excrement.
  • Go to a canine educator or ethologist to help you identify the cause of the problem and find a way to solve it if you are not able by yourself.

Remember that eating feces, both theirt own and other pets (dogs and cats) is a dangerous, unhealthy practice that carries a risk to the health of your dog. This behavior may be the cause of a disease or disorder in the animal them-self. Avoid this behavior at all costs by spending time with your dog and going to the vet or dog specialist if you cannot find a solution.

Why do Dogs Eat Poop? - How to prevent a dog from eating poop?

If you want to read similar articles to Why do Dogs Eat Poop?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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