Poop eating (aka Coprophagia) is a stomach churning but common behaviour in dogs. And although we humans despair at the thought of our dogs chowing down on something that’s come out of… ahem, the rear end, an incredible one in six dogs are serious poop eaters.
But there are many possible reasons why our dogs prize the stuff. And while the reason depends on your individual dog, it’s important to get to the bottom of it and try to prevent it. Because although the habit disgusts us pooch owners, it can actually be bad for your dog’s health, not to mention your own.
Your dog won’t get into too much trouble eating their own poop, but other animal’s faeces could be contaminated with harmful viruses, parasites or toxins. And if your dog eats poop and licks you, any contaminants could pass over, making you unwell too.
Your dog could be eating poop simply because they enjoy it, out of boredom, or it could be down to a more serious medical condition. Let’s explore some of the more common reasons why your dog might be eating poop.
Why do dogs eat poop?
Puppies may learn poop eating behaviour from their mother. From the moment the puppies are born until they’re eating solid food, the mother will eat her pup’s poop for two reasons:
It’s partly instinctual built in from their wild ancestry – eating the poop would eliminate any scents that may attract predators. That primitive need to keep the puppies safe still remains even in a home environment where there are no predators. The second reason is simply to keep the den clean.
But as puppies are learning how to be dogs from their mother at this stage, they may pick up a poop eating habit and continue the behaviour into maturity. Most puppies will grow out of this behaviour by around 9 months old if you keep on top of it.
They enjoy the taste
As gross as it may seem, dogs may eat poop simply because they like the taste. There is literally nothing more to say here! Some dogs just enjoy it – it’s like a doggie delicacy!
Dogs that are left alone for long periods of time without anything to do may resort to eating poop as a way to relieve boredom.
Our dogs love being the centre of our world. If your pooch is feeling a little neglected, they may eat poop to get a rise from you. Even if it’s a bad reaction, they’re still happy getting the attention they wanted from you.
Stress can have a big impact on how our dogs behave. A new poop eating habit could be brought on by a move to a new home, if a new family member has moved in, or if they’re suddenly being left home alone all day. Think about any recent changes in your dog’s environment or routine. If it’s stress related, this may give you some indication as to why your dog has started eating poop.
The food you feed your dog and how you feed it can also spur on poop eating behaviour. If you’re not feeding your dog enough, or are waiting too long in between meals, they may seek out poop because they’re hungry.
Nutrient deficiencies can also play a part in your dog’s poop eating antics. If your dog has a poor diet, they may seek out other sources to replace the nutrients they’re lacking.
Puppies are curious creatures and will put just about anything into their mouths while they’re learning about the world. Poop eating is very common in puppies, so don’t be alarmed if you find your puppy sneaking a nibble from their own or a sibling’s poop.
Although common, it’s best to discourage the behaviour before it becomes an engrained habit.
Parasites live in the intestines and absorb nutrients from your dog’s food. As above, if your dog lacks the essential nutrients that keep them fit and healthy, they may try and find these nutrients elsewhere.
Medical conditions increasing appetite
Medical conditions such as diabetes and thyroid disease can increase your dog’s appetite making them more likely to eat unsavoury items. If your dog is on steroid drugs to reduce inflammation, these can also increase your dog’s appetite and make them more likely to eat poop.
How to stop your dog from eating poop?
If your dog is a serial poop eater you should make every effort to clean up the ‘land mines’ from your garden as quickly as possible. Particularly if you have other dogs living in your home, any parasites or viruses could spread between dogs. If you make the poop unavailable to your dog, they’re more likely to break the habit if it can’t be practiced every day.
Banish the boredom
If your dog eats their own poop because they’re lonely and bored all day, give them a mental outlet when you’re not around. Kongs, Lickimats and destruction boxes are great ways to keep your dog entertained.
If you’re unable to come home from work in the day, hire a dog walker or take them to doggy day care to break up their day. No dog should be left home alone for 9 or more hours a day without so much as a toilet break.
Assess their food situation
If you suspect your dog’s poop eating behaviour is due to a poor diet, look for an alternative, high quality dog food instead. Foods high in protein are more favourable for our canine friends, but that quality does come at a cost. Always opt for the best quality food that your budget will allow.
If you’re not sure how much or how often you should be feeding your dog, always ask your vet for advice. There are also recommended feeding allowances on the back of most quality dog foods.
Feeding your dog’s allowance two to three times a day is a good rule of thumb for any dog. A simple change in quantity and frequency could be all you need to cut your pooch’s poop eating.
Go for a vet check up
If your dog suddenly starts eating poop or it’s paired with other new behaviours, your dog may have a medical condition. It’s always best to seek professional help if you’re unsure. So if in doubt, call your vet for advice or book in for an appointment.
Does your dog eat poop? What do you do to stop their poop eating antics? Let me know in the comments below…
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