To us humans seeing a dog eating poop is about one of the most disgusting things our furry friends can do.
It’s also a bit frustrating to spend money on good dog food, just to see Fido go in the backyard and munch on yesterday’s dinner.
Why dogs do this is not exactly known.
There are several theories that may help us understand and stop this behavior.
Coprophagia (cop-row-fage-ee-uh) is a Greek word that is used to describe the behavior of eating feces.
It’s actually quite a common occurrence for canines and throughout the animal kingdom.
When a canine mother has newborn puppies she licks their genital and rectal areas to stimulate urination and defecation. The mother then consumes the waist to keep the den clean and safe for the newborns.
Hamsters, rabbits and other hindgut digesters often eat their own feces in order to extract nutrients that weren’t absorbed the first time around.
The intestines of newborn pandas, elephants, hippos, and koalas are completely sterile. They eat their mother’s feces to populate their intestines with bacteria that is needed to digest local vegetation.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Although it may seem like the most disgusting thing possible, it’s a pretty common occurrence. The reason why dogs do this is still unclear but here are the most common explanations.
1. Nutrient deficiency
This is the most common explanation for a dog eating poop. According to the theory, a dog can develop nutrient deficiencies and may seek those nutrients in feces. Although, there is no scientific evidence to back up this theory.
The most likely deficiency would be iron or other minerals and vitamins. However, most modern day dog foods are formulated to have all the necessary vitamins and minerals for dogs. This also doesn’t explain why some dogs on a high quality diet still eat feces.
Modern day dog foods may have all the nutrients your dog requires, however the quality of the ingredients may not be fulfilling your dog’s hunger.
Many low quality dog foods contain filler ingredients that are not easily digestible for dogs such as corn, wheat, and soy. Even beef is not as easily digestible as some other proteins. If your dog can not easily digest these ingredients then they may not be absorbing all of the potential nutrients thus resulting in hunger.
You may want to try slowly switching to a higher quality dog food If you feel that this may be the cause of your dog’s behavior.
Also be sure to have your dog checked yearly for worms and parasites as they could also be depriving your dog of nutrients.
3. Medicinal Purposes
Gut health is important not only for humans but also for our canine friends. A dog’s intestines are lined with good bacteria that help digest food.
Fresh poop contains live bacteria that has exited the body. If your dog is lacking bacteria in their digestive system them may resort to eating poop to get more bacteria in their digestive tract.
The evolutionary explanation attributes this behavior to the scavenging nature of dogs. All modern day dog breeds originated from wolves.
Wolves are scavengers who take advantage whatever nutrients and food sources are available. While wolves primarily eat meat, they will also eat plants, fruit, vegetables, and even feces to get necessary nutrients.
Another explanation for this behavior is that some dogs may do it out of sheer boredom or to get attention from their owners.
Dogs that are kept in a confined space and don’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation may be less obedient and more mischievous. This can potentially alter their behavior causing them to partake in things like eating poop.
Dogs may also partake in this activity if they know that it will get them attention from their owners.
My Dog is Eating Poop: How to Stop it?
Remove the Waste
- The first thing to do is to be sure to remove dog poop in your yard as frequently as possible. Also, be sure your dog doesn’t have access to your cat’s litter box as cat poop tends to be a favorite for many dogs.
- It is also helpful if you take your dogs for a walk where they can poop away from their home environment. The idea here is to remove all possible temptation.
Deter the Behavior
- Make sure your dog knows that eating poop is an off limits activity. If you catch your pooch in the act then give them an assertive command that they are familiar with such as “drop it!” or simply “no!”.
- Giving them a treat every time they are about to eat poop but refrain from doing so may help as well. This will likely take some time and patience depending on how frequent this behavior is for your dog.
Home Remedies – Make the Feces Undesirable
It’s hard to imagine how you could possibly make feces any more undesirable but here’s a trick:
1. Find a deterrent such as hot sauce or lemon juice that your dog will not enjoy, but is also safe for them to ingest.
2. Give them a tiny bit so they associate the smell with something unpleasant.
3. Next, put hot sauce or your chosen deterrent on the feces.
4. When your dog approaches the feces they will smell the unpleasant ingredient and lose interest in the feces.
5. This will have to be repeated multiple times until your dog completely loses interest in eating poop.
Another option is to feed your dog a bit of pineapple, pumpkin, or spinach with their food. This is supposed to make their poop unappealing by giving it an unpleasant taste.
Why it’s Unsafe for Dogs to Eat Poop
While it’s common for dogs to eat poop and isn’t necessarily unsafe for them, it can cause health concerns for you and your family.
When dogs partake in this activity they can spread harmful bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella that may be in their waste. This is particularly true for people that may let their dogs kiss and lick them in the face.
Conclusion: Why is My Dog Eating Poop?
Though we may find the behavior of a dog eating poop to be repulsive, it’s a common occurrence among animals in nature. However, the reason why dogs do this is not clearly known.
Some of the most common explanations are that it is a result of a nutrient deficiency, hunger, self medication, evolution, or boredom.
Whether you know the cause of this behavior or not there are still multiple ways to keep your pooch from doing it. These include making sure no feces is available in the home environment, stopping your dog with commands, or making the feces undesirable for your canine friend.