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Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?

If you're asking yourself 'WHY does my dog eat poop?' you're not alone.

That's because as nasty as this behavior (called Coprophagia) seems to us, for most puppies and dogs, eating their own feces isn't unusual.

For many it's a behavior that they grow out of once they leave their momma and littermates, but for others it can become a habit.

However it's a habit you need to discourage because at worst it can have serious health consequences... and at best it's just yukky!

All sorts of myths and guess-work abound as to why dogs behave this way, the most common being 'Does he have worms?' and 'Is he missing some nutrients in his diet?'

Occasionally these can be the problem, but usually not. So, let's take a closer look at why dogs eat their poop....

Two Dachshund dogs sniffing and eating in the grass

About Coprophagia

'Coprophagia' is the proper name for stool eating, and you might (or might not!) be surprised to learn that it's a normal canine behavior.

A momma dog keeps her nest/den clean by eating the feces of her young puppies. As they pups grow, they copy this behavior and try to 'help mom with the cleaning up'. Poop eating seems perfectly normal to them.

Momma Anatolian Shepherd dog with her puppy.

Although, once weaned and out of the nest, many puppies tend to stop this practice, others continue the habit even when they've moved to their 'forever homes'.

Generally puppies will forget about their desire to eat their feces within a few weeks, but for some it can become a long-lasting pattern that leaves their owners scratching their head and sighing... "WHY on earth is my puppy eating poop?"

Although not growing out of this habit is the most common cause for coprophagia, poop eating in dogs can also be caused by boredom or stress, or as a result of some health conditions (including diabetes, pancreatic problems, thyroid problems and conditions which cause poor nutrient absorption.

If you notice weight loss, digestive problems (eg. diarrhea or vomiting), or any other sign of illness along with the poop-eating, have your dog checked out by your veterinarian to make sure all's well health-wise.

Is Poop Eating Dangerous For Dogs?

Generally speaking, if a dog eats his own poop it isn't dangerous, just unpleasant and 'icky'. 

BUT, if little Fido seems intent on snacking on every random poop he finds, or thinks 'kitty crunchies' from the cat litterbox are the best treats ever, then this habit can become hazardous to his health.

Many of the most dangerous and contagious dog illnesses are transmitted through feces. If your pooch eats the poop of a sick dog, he could get very ill himself.

The same applies to cat poop, plus cat litter isn't a great thing to be swallowing at the best of times! It can 'clump' together and cause an intestinal blockage, or at the very least make your puppy vomit.

Parasites such as worms can also be transmitted through the ingestion of feces, that is not something you want for your puppy.

Is my dog eating poop because he has worms?

Sometimes coprophagia in a dog can be a side effect of a worm problem. A parasitic infestation makes a pup extra hungry because the worms are getting all the nutrition from his food.

Great Pyrenees puppy outdoors lying in grass

However, usually the puppy is already a 'poop-eater' anyway. Most puppies have some worms at some time, and these are generally taken care of by the routine puppy deworming which takes place at the same time as he receives his vaccinations.

Don't rely on coprophagia to diagnose a case of worms, if your pup has worms, you're much more likely to see symptoms such as ....

  • Loss of weight. A puppy with a worm problem often looks skinny, but has a round, 'fat' or distended little tummy
  • Dull, coarse coat
  • Worms in his stool. You might be able to see worms in his poop, or in severe cases he may even vomit up worms (yuk!)

Is There Something Missing In His Diet?

The answer to this is usually "No". The majority of puppies and dogs with coprophagia are fed good, nutritious food which provides a balanced diet.

Three dog food bowls in a row

For a stray dog who has to fend for himself, and is often on the border of malnutrition, stool eating may be the result of extreme hunger and a need for nutrients. But for a well taken care of pet, it's highly unlikely.

However, if your puppy is eating a food which contains a lot of additives, fillers and so on, a high proportion of that food is indigestible to him and a good percentage of it is passing through his digestive system pretty much untouched!

When this happens, the stools may seem more attractive to your puppy, after all - they're made up of a lot of the ingredients he finds in his food bowl.

Changing over to a high quality/premium dog food that your puppy can actually digest fully can be helpful in these instances.

What To Do About Poop-Eating 

There are a few things you can do to discourage/prevent your pooch from taking part in his very own 'poop fest'.....

look at his diet

Be sure that you're feeding your dog a high quality, nutritious diet. A good dog food is highly digestible and results in fewer stools, and those stools are definitely less attractive as potential snacks because they're not full of the undigested fillers and junk that cheaper, lower quality foods contain. Take a look at my 10 Best Dog Food Choices for more on this.

don't overfeed him

Watch that you don't give your pup too much food. Overfeeding can result in undigested dog food in his feces, which makes them smell and taste really good to Fido!

pooper-scoop regularly

Scoop the poop from your yard promptly. Don't just leave it there and wait for the weekend (or whenever), to clean up. Do it on at least a daily basis. If you're walking your dog, pick up his poop as soon as it exits his body.. before he has a chance to snack on it!

Dog owner putting dog poop in bag into trash can

Use a leash for potty breaks

Keep your pup on a leash when you take him out. If he's a dedicated stool eater use the leash even if he's just going 'potty' in the back yard. If he tries to nibble on his stool, tell him "NO" firmly and 'pop' or tug his leash as a correction. Redirect his interest right away with a treat or a game.

try a little of the hot stuff!

Sauce that is! You can try pouring hot sauce (or something similar) onto the stool piles. It will make them a lot less appetizing to your puppy. 

Of course, if you're going to take the time and trouble to do this, it's just as easy to pick them up.

add a little meat tenderizer to his food

Some people find that a bit of meat tenderizer sprinkled on their dogs' food can make the stools less palatable.

increase exercise & mental stimulation

Border Collie running happily through long grass

To make sure your dog isn't eating poop because he's bored or short of stimulation it's important to ensure he's getting regular exercise and either daily games or training sessions to keep his brain active. He also needs extra company, human attention and love, to keep him calm and happy.

use coprophagia deterrents/remedies

To eliminate the stool eating, there are a few simple but effective products available that can be added to your dogs food.

Once the food containing these products has passed through Fidos' digestive system, the resulting feces are very unappealing!

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