Okay … so this is probably one of the most disgusting things some fur babies do. Eat poop. I recently got an email from a fellow dog mom telling me that her 13-month-old Shih Tzu/ Lhasa Apso puppy likes to dine on doggy dung. And she’s not alone. While my dogs don’t personally feast on their own feces, I know other dogs who do. It’s actually quite common.
In one study, researchers from the University of California, Davis collected internet surveys to learn more about dog coprophagia (that’s the technical term for eating poop). They found some interesting facts:
As many as 16% of dogs ate stools frequently
Most dogs (85%) ate the stools of other dogs
Intact males are less likely to snack on stool than neutered males or females
Stool eaters were more likely to live in multi-dog households and were greedy eaters
40% of Border collies and shelties were stool eaters – no poodles were reported
90% of stools were eaten within 2 days
So Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Well, there are many reasons ranging from boredom and cleanliness to intestinal parasites and diabetes. Below are 14 reasons dogs eat poop:
1) Poor Diet
If your pooch isn’t getting enough calories, digestive enzymes, and nutrients, he will begin searching for them elsewhere (like in his poop)! Even if you think you are feeding your dog enough food, he may not be getting the digestive enzymes and nutrients that he needs. That’s why it’s important to feed your dog quality food (which most highly processed kibble is not).
2) Malabsorption Syndromes
If your dog has a digestive issue and his body is unable to absorb the nutrients in his food, he will begin looking for nutrients elsewhere. Partially digested food particles in your dog’s poop will begin to look pretty appetizing to your fur baby.
If your dog has intestinal parasites, they could be absorbing the nutrients that your dog should be getting from his food. If this is the case, your dog may be turning to his stool as a way of getting extra nutrients.
4) Conditions That Cause Increased Appetite
Certain conditions – such as diabetes, Cushing’s, and thyroid disease – might increase your dog’s appetite.
5) Certain Drugs
Is your dog on steroids? This may be the reason your dog has been snacking on his poop lately.
*If you suspect your dog is eating his feces because of a medical reason, schedule a visit with your vet.
6) A Mom Cleaning Her Puppies
When female dogs first give birth to their puppies, they lick their young’s bottoms to help stimulate elimination and keep the area clean.
Do you have lots of poop collecting in your backyard? Just like how a mother dog has the instinct to clean feces from her young’s bottoms, dogs may want to keep their living areas clean. So help them out by picking it up right away!
8) Puppy Exploration
Puppies love to explore. They search the world with their noses and mouths. While most are satisfied with sniffing their poop, others take it a step further and eat it. Think of the puppy who eats poop as the toddler who puts everything in his mouth.
Studies show that dogs who are kept alone in kennels and other isolated areas are more likely to eat poop than those dogs who have a close relationship with people. The act of eating poop can be somewhat of a stress reliever for your pooch.
10) Restricted Confinement
If a dog is constantly locked in a small crate or tiny confined area then he may start to snack on his feces. Especially if he is usually fed in this confined area. Dogs who are fed in close proximity to their stool may start to link the odors of food and poop. This can confuse a dog and he may be unable to tell the difference.
11) Anxiety/ Stress from Punishment
If your dog has an accident in the house, do you give him harsh punishment? If so, research shows your dog can actually start to fear the act of going to the bathroom. As a result of this fear, they may try to hide the evidence by eating their poop before you have a chance to find it.
It’s extremely important to keep your pooch both mentally and physically stimulated. When your dog gets board he is more likely to act out and do things you don’t approve of – like eating his own feces.
13) Seeking Attention
Dogs crave attention. If they feel ignored they can go to extreme lengths to get your attention. That means they may even do something like eat their own poop in hopes of you noticing (which you obviously will).
14) Doggy See, Doggy Do
If a younger dog watches an older dog snack on his feces then the younger dog may pick up the nasty habit as well.
How To Stop It
Keep your house and backyard clean by picking up after your dog immediately after he goes to the bathroom. Your pooch won’t be able to feast on feces if there isn’t any lying around.
Keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated.
Don’t punish your dog if he has an accident. Rather, if you catch your dog in the act, clap your hands to get his attention and then bring him outside. If you find poop on the floor, but didn’t catch your dog in the act, then just clean the area and move on.
Feed your dog a well-balanced, healthy diet.
Ask your vet about digestive enzyme supplements and other vitamins.
Test for parasites regularly.