We love our dogs and can’t live without them, but nothing makes us cringe more than their gross practice of eating their poop. While we don’t have a soft corner for coprophagy – or stool eating – the habit is quite normal for dogs. It is widely believed that the fresher the poop, the tastier it is for the dog – whether you like it or not.
There is always an underlying reason for dogs eating poop. If these reasons are not properly addressed on time, it will become a recurring habit and your dog won’t resist the urge of eating its feces. Some people get so cringed out by poop eating that they try to rehome their dog and even opt for euthanasia. There is always a way out: you just have to get to the bottom of it and address the root cause.
10 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Eating Poop
- Hunger and Obsession with Food
- Enzyme Deficiency
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
- Copying their Mothers
- Puppy Mills
1. Hunger and Obsession with Food
Sometimes poop eating is the only way out for dogs suffering from severe malnutrition and starvation. They will eat anything they can find. However, some dogs are given a healthy diet but their appetites remain insatiable.
This leads to an obsession with food (could be a personality trait of the dog or a sign of illness). These dogs will ingest just about anything that even remotely tantalizes their taste buds, which don’t have high standards, to begin with.
As sad as it is, most dogs love the taste of feces (they’ll sweep up cat poop if they can get their paws on it). The prevailing opinion among most dog owners is that a dog that eats poop probably has something lacking in their diet. Most veterinarians disagree.
2. Enzyme Deficiency
Wild dogs tend to eat their whole prey, including the intestines and guts, and this means they naturally swallow all the digestive enzymes needed for their bodily function. This simply isn’t the case for domesticated pets since they have a modern diet. But just because they are subsisting on ‘modern’ food doesn’t mean they no longer need digestive enzymes.
Digestive enzymes are an essential component of your dog’s digestive system. Without these, they will not be able to absorb their food. So to compensate, the dogs will poop out the undigested nutrients.
Their anatomy allows them to create these essential enzymes internally, which they pass off when pooping. Since they crave these nutrients, the dogs will simply plunge after their poop, since they believe it’s full of nutrients. Try buying digestive enzymes for your dog and observe their behavior afterward.
3. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), better known as pancreatic insufficiency is a condition that prevents dogs from creating adequate digestive enzymes in the pancreas.
As we mentioned earlier, dogs have a natural tendency to start eating their poop if they don’t get enough digestive enzymes. The most common symptoms of EPI are weight loss, poop eating, and diarrhea.
Dogs suffering from EPI will have a reduced amount of a chemical known as trypsinogen (TLI). Your vet will most likely carry out a test for the amount of TLI, and urine and stool analysis to properly diagnose EPI.
Once it is determined that your dog has EPI, the treatment is to supplement their diet with a pancreatic enzyme replacement. These enzymes are consumed in a powdery form which can be easily mixed with normal food. In case your dog is undernourished, they may need vitamin supplements.
4. Puppies Pick Up After Their Mothers
Most puppies instinctively eat their feces, which is a habit that they learn from their mothers. Most wild, as well as domesticated, dogs, will eat their puppy’s stools for two reasons:
- Maintain Cleanliness: Even though you probably scoop up your pet’s poop now and then, a dog’s brain is hardwired to clean up after her puppies. Wild dogs will habitually eat their pups’ stools to maintain cleanliness in the den.
- Getting Rid of Predators: Most predators in the wild have a keen sense of smell to hunt their prey. They will easily pick after the scent of stool which will lead them directly to the den where they’ll probably find an easy meal. As a safeguard measure, mothers would immediately eat their puppy’s stools.
Even though this is no longer the case for most domesticated dogs, the mother’s maternal instinct still drives her to eat poop to keep her puppies safe. They’ll continue eating poop until the babies are weaned and capable of leaving the ‘den’.
As you can imagine: puppy see, puppy do. If the pup sees its mother doing something habitually, it will pick up after her. Unfortunately, this habit may persist for longer than you may have the patience for, so as a caregiver, make sure to clean up the poop before the pup or mother gets a chance to eat it. This should discourage the behavior and eventually, your dogs should grow out of it.
5. Parasites in Your Dog
Most canines have a host of parasites that reside in their intestines. These parasites include roundworms, including Toxascara leonine and Toxocara Canis. They steal nutrients from the dog’s food sources, which results in less being available for it. Dogs with intestinal parasites may show obvious symptoms of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, a potbelly, and stool eating.
Your dog’s vet can detect intestinal parasites in their stool.
6. Your Dog Is Just Bored
Dogs are social animals and get bored very easily. They need activities that can keep them engaged, and if they can’t find any activities, they will ‘create’ the activities. They will like their butt, sniff your cat’s butt, and engage in stool eating. Sometimes they eat poop to get their owner’s attention or even to avoid punishment.
To prevent your dog from getting bored, you should buy indestructible chew toys to keep them occupied.
7. Your Dog Is Stressed-Out
Dogs can suffer from a range of mental disorders and feelings of strain, including stress. A stressed-out dog will resort to eating its feces to stay calm and find solace. The causes of stress vary from dog to dog. Perhaps they are stressed because of your job routine, or become nervous when new people arrive in their ‘territory.’
There are many signs that your dog is stressed, the most obvious of these is panting. Dogs pant when they get stressed or hot. So if they are panting even if they haven’t been out in the summer heat, they may be frazzled.
8. Your Dog is Suffering From Anxiety
Dog anxiety is a very common condition in canines. Although it is unpleasant, anxiety is normal and perfectly healthy. It will affect most dogs at some point in their life. However, anxiety affects each dog differently. Some will experience anxiety from time to time, while others will experience a lot more of it. If unhealthy levels of anxiety are left unchecked, it could lead to the development of an anxiety disorder.
anxious dogs often resort to eating their poop since they’re so worked up. They often engage in destructive behavior and may be at risk of harming themselves. The best way to treat your dog is to take it to the nearest vet. The vet should be able to identify the type of anxiety and possible triggers and causes. Your vet will determine if the anxiety is just a situational issue of it has become too overwhelming for your dog.
If anxiety becomes too severe for your dog, your veterinarian may recommend natural therapies or medications. These antidepressants include clomipramine and fluoxetine. Make sure to watch out your dog’s language to determine if it is exhibiting signs of anxiety attacks.
9. Did You Buy Your Dog From a Puppy Mill?
Puppy mills are unethical because of the way they care for dogs; their only goal is to maximize profits even if it comes at the cost of ignoring proper husbandry practices. Basic grooming practices are ignored in puppy mills as a cost-cutting strategy. This creates a constant source of stress for dogs since they suffer from a range of health problems.
These are the perfect conditions for dogs to develop unhealthy practices, the most common of which are tool eating. And the reason for this is obvious: they don’t get to eat very often since their cruel masters won’t give them proper nutrition. Try not to buy dogs from puppy mills because the money will only encourage mindless corporations in their unethical practices, adopt your dogs instead.
10. Did You Punish Your Dog Recently?
Every dog owner wants to teach their puppy to do their business outside the house or in a certain spot. This requires a lot of patience and practice, and unfortunately, some owners are in too much of a hurry to train their dogs and often resort to punishment.
According to experts, dogs that were previously punished for pooping in the house will start to eat their feces to escape their owner’s wrath. This could become a daily practice and completely defeat the purpose of training your dog in the first place.
Understanding the Risks Associated with Eating Feces
Dogs have resilient internal anatomies and are resistant against the bacteria and parasites that thrive in the stool. This is not the case for humans who will likely get in contact with the stool through the dog’s mouth and saliva. Human defenses aren’t very good against intestinal parasites which often create potentially harmful illnesses.
One annoying effect of dog eating poop is their gross breath, for obvious reasons. You will need to implement home dental care for your dog to help with the breath, but it’s best to prevent stool eating altogether.
Your dog will likely get sick from eating its poop or that of other animals. For starters, you don’t know if the other animal is sick. Even the strongest immune systems will fall prey to something sensitive in the stool. Symptoms that your dog got sick from eating poop include lethargy, vomiting, intestinal parasites, and a general disdain for normal food
How to Stop Dogs from Eating Poop
Make sure to clean up after your dog as soon as you see him poop. Do not give your dog any chance of eating or playing with his feces. It is good practice to place a leash on the puppy when he goes outside to defecate.
Now would be a good time to discourage him from going inspecting or even going near his stool. Try distracting him from the feces by calling him over to you, and if responds well to your call, reward him with treats and verbal praises. Now proceed to immediately pick up the stool so your dog stops thinking about it.
Make sure to feed your dog high-quality food that includes all the essential stuff it needs such as protein, vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and digestive enzymes. If they are losing weight despite eating well, they probably have intestinal parasites.
Keep an eye on your dog
You should keep a watchful eye on your dog for signs of poor digestion such as vomiting, poor growth, liquid stool, stool with undigested food or large particles, and insufficient weight gain. Any of these signs warrants a trip to your dog’s veterinarian. Being complacent with the issue will only make things worse in the long run.
Dogs are extremely active animals who crave movement. Make sure your dog is getting all the playtime, attention, and exercise that it needs. This way, when you do leave your dog for a while, it will most likely try to get some sleep instead of eating its poop.
Practice makes perfect. It is important to discourage your dog every time he tries to eat or play with his or some other animal’s feces. Over time, your dog will get the point and learn not to go near poop. You will be able to give your dog more personal space and freedom and not have to worry about eating feces when you’re not watching.
Make sure to keep your dog on a leash when going out for a walk. Dogs are naturally drawn to the feces of other animals. This is bad news for both you and the dog since the stool of other dogs contains nasty bacteria and illnesses that are more likely to cause problems.
Just make sure your dog never makes contact with this stool pile. If he begins to gravitate towards the stool, gently pull him away from it in the opposite direction. Make sure to reward your dog for ignoring another animal’s feces with verbal praise and treats.
Is it food?
Some veterinarians have found that adding digestive enzymes, natural additives, and meat tenderizers to a dog’s food make a world of difference. Feces eating deterrents give feces a nasty smell that is unappealing to dogs. This will discourage them from eating it.
Try to add some pineapple to your dog’s food. Pineapple tastes fine for most dogs to eat. It is naturally acidic and will change the taste of the poop which is very unappetizing. This is thanks to an enzyme that comes from pineapple called bromelain. Dogs hate bromelain so bad they won’t come near stool, or so the theory goes.
You can get meat tenderizers from most grocery stores. Just make sure it has MSG because it gives stool a slight metallic taste that dogs find repulsive.
If you are unable to immediately pick up the feces or if there is a pile of old stools collecting in your backyard, you can sprinkle it with mouthwash or hot pepper sauce. Keep in mind that these are only mild solutions and won’t always work, so your best bet is to clean up after the dog after it defecates.
Try not to punish your dog because it can backfire. A study at the University of California found that punishing dogs barely works, if ever.
What About Adult Dogs Eating Poop?
Although puppies should overcome their tendency to eat poop on their own, there are a few dogs who foster a habit of eating feces that will likely continue into their adulthood. If your adult dog never ate poop previously but suddenly develops the habit and also shows symptoms of a disease, it’s time to make an appointment with your vet.
Your dog probably has a disease of the intestinal tract or other areas of the body including the brain, liver, etc. If your adult dog is otherwise healthy, you should diligently try out all the techniques mentioned above. Try switching to a highly digestible, high-quality diet, increase the attention your dog is getting, increase the amount of exercise, and be more consistent in cleaning up feces.
Some dogs are just too persistent with their habits; as their caretaker; you will have to be more persistent.
If you have more questions or want more information about dogs eating poop, please get in touch with us to learn more.