Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Dogs can have some bizarre eating habits. From grass to bugs, it’s hard to foresee what snacks your pooch might end up enjoying. One of the more unappetizing choices of a few dogs is, yep, you guessed it: feces. So why is it that your dog likes to munch on this unpalatable “treat”?

Eating poop (also called coprophagia), is most common among female dogs, but can occur in any dog. And while there are many possible reasons for indulging in excrement, it’s most often caused by environmental stress of some sort. These can include but are not limited to:

Anxiety

Dogs can become anxious for a variety of reasons. Separation anxiety, isolation, or loud noises are a few common reasons behind it. This can lead to dogs acting out of the ordinary, thus resulting in eating feces.  Also, it’s common to see dogs eat poop during the potty-training stage. If the training is too harsh and creates fear in the animal, they may resort to eating their own poop as an effort to “hide the evidence”. 

Confinement

Dogs in prolonged confinement are more likely to eat their own poop. Because of this, coprophagia is common in rescue dogs who spend a lot of time in kennels

Diet deficiencies

Although we try our best, it’s not always easy to figure out what nutrients are most essential in your dog’s diet. If your dog is lacking in vitamins, they may resort to eating feces to catch up in their nutrition. 

Association

If your dog’s food bowl is within close proximity to feces, their ultra-strong noses may get the scents of each mixed up until they cannot tell the difference. It’s best to keep your dog’s food in a clean, feces-free area to prevent this. 

Behavioral 

Dogs can sometimes develop this behavior out of instinct. As puppies, they can sometimes smell feces on their mother’s breath after she cleans them, thus associating the smell of it with care. Also, in multi-dog households, dogs may eat an older, weaker dog’s poop out of a protective instinct to keep them away from predators. 

How do I get my dog to stop eating poop?

While dogs may enjoy chowing down on poop, it’s often to their owner’s dismay. Luckily, there are several ways to help your dog kick this nasty habit to the curb:

Supplementation

If you suspect your dog is eating poop due to a lack of nutrients, consider starting them on a vitamin or enzyme supplement. Not only can this help them avoid eating stool, but it can also aid in digestion and increase energy levels. 

Make it gross(er)

To humans, eating fecal matter is almost as gross as it gets. But this isn’t always the case for dogs. To keep them from indulging in their habit, try a taste-aversion vitamin or spray to make the stool taste bitter. 

Disassociation

The easiest way to keep your dog from eating poop is to keep them away from it. Regularly cleaning your yard and litter boxes keeps it out of sight and smell for your dog, hopefully keeping it out of their mind, too. 

Conclusion

Overall, while eating poop is one of the more disgusting parts of pet parenthood, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with your dog. Though, if your dog is a serial feces-eater, it’s a good idea to call your vet to make sure this behavior isn’t caused by an underlying condition such as diabetes or Cushing’s disease

Abigail Kurten
Author: Abigail Kurten

Hi! My name's Abigail, and I intern as a Content Writer for DogFriendly.com. I have one dog, a chocolate lab named Riley who's the best! My favorite breed of dog is a Bulldog or Saint Bernard, though.

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