A dog is lying in the grass and eating a poop.

Why Dogs Eat Poop and What to Do About It

6 min read

If you are a lucky dog owner, you have probably caught your pet doing some stuff you couldn’t really explain. Dogs have some weird habits and eating poop is probably the weirdest of them — and the one the owners would like to stop the most. The fact is, sometimes, it’s not just a habit but a signal of something going wrong with your pet and it’s important to tell one from another.

Why Dogs Eat Poop?

You’ll be surprised to know that coprophagia (a scientific name for the poop-eating habit) is quite a frequent thing. There was even research which showed that there are from 16% to 23% of coprophages among dogs. If your pet is one of them, you might be interested in the reasons for such an unpleasant behavior. Is your dog just a piggy in the heart or should you take it to the vet?

Medical Reasons

A dog is eating a poop in the grass.
If your dog is eating a poop, it may be a signal to take it to the vet.

Let’s start with the medical reasons for coprophagia. If eating poop was not just a one-time event and you can’t stop your dog from doing it, it’s better to consult a veterinarian to shut out the chance of a medical condition.

Parasites

It’s a vicious circle as eating poop might be a sign of your dog having parasites but on the other hand, eating poop might lead to catching parasites. So make sure to test your dog’s stool and ask your vet for the antihelminthic therapy if something’s odd.

EPI

EPI stands for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency — a genetic condition that makes your dog’s pancreas produce fewer enzymes than it’s needed to digest all the food. As a result, the dog is getting fewer nutrients than it’s supposed to and starts looking for them elsewhere, including poop. If this is the case, you’ll need to add some food supplements to your dog’s diet to make up for the enzyme shortage.

Malabsorption

Besides the EPI, there is a whole variety of medical conditions that lead to poor absorption of nutrients from food. Pay attention to whose poop your dog prefers as it might help to understand which ingredient it’s lacking and what the problem might be.

Increased Appetite

Poop eating might be a signal of your dog just being too hungry to stay away. Increased appetite is a symptom of thyroid issues, diabetes, and some other conditions. Besides, there is a chance you are underfeeding your pet. In this case, please check the food schedule recommendations for your dog’s breed and weight and make amendments to the diet if the current one seems to be not enough.

Stress

The stressed dog can start looking for weird ways to relieve the stress and eating poop is one of them. The only way here is to find out the cause of stress and eliminate or at least reduce it. Stress might be caused by rapid changes in a dog’s life (like moving home or a death in the family), loud sounds, loneliness, and separation issues.

Non-medical Reasons

A dog is standing and looking for a poop in the grass.
Dogs may be bored or they just want more attention from their owners.

Coprophagia is not always a symptom of some illness. Sometimes, it’s just an acquired habit that you can help to stop. 

Childhood

While dogs are generally very curious animals and love to explore new things, puppies have these qualities multiplied by 10. That’s why they might try to eat everything they see around, including their own poop. The best thing about it as it’s most likely go away when the puppies grow up. 

Fear of punishment

If you have a habit of punishing your dog for poop accidents in the house, your dog will more likely have a habit of eating poop to avoid that punishment. There are better ways to adjust your pet’s behavior than physical punishment so we recommend learning more about positive reinforcement to avoid this problem. 

Boredom 

When you are bored, you’ll start munching on crisps and sandwiches, don’t you? Well, eating poop is generally the same thing for dogs. When they are bored from staying home alone for too long, they’ll start looking for the ways to get entertained — and yes, eating poop sounds like a perfect entertainment for some pups. 

Attention Seeking

Eating poop to seek attention is the other side of eating poop to avoid punishment. If your dog once learned that it can get your attention by doing it, there is a high chance it will happen again. So, it’s better to give your dog more attention for no reason and less attention when something like this happens. 

Confinement

Dogs that spend too much time restricted in small spaces have more chances to develop a poop-eating habit than the ones that have enough space around them to walk and run. Pay special attention to your pet if you got it from a puppy mill or a dog shelter. 

Inheritance

Puppies see — puppies do, that’s the rule. Small dogs can inherit this habit from their mother or an older dog in the house but, as we already mentioned, they will most likely overgrow this habit. 

How Do I Stop My Dog from Eating Poop?

A dog is running with a toy in its mouth.
It may seem obvious, but a dog won't eat a poop if there are only toys around it.

It’s pretty understandable that you want your dog to start eating poop. First of all, it’s just a rather unpleasant habit that can discourage you from allowing dog kisses once and for all. Secondly, it can increase the chances of your dog getting parasites and bad bacteria from other dogs’ stool. Luckily, there is a way out of this situation, and even more than one. 

  • Don’t let your dog get bored. Make sure it has enough physical and mental activity in its everyday life — walk together, play together, teach your dog some commands and practice them regularly. 

  • Clean, clean, clean. Your dog won’t eat poop if there won’t be any poop to eat so make sure you clean out everything after your toilet-related walks. If there are other animals in the house, make sure to keep their litter boxes somewhere the poop-eating dog can’t reach them. 

  • Adjust the diet. Make sure your dog is getting enough food and that food is rich in nutrients and microelements. If it’s not and there is no way to improve the situation, add food supplements including enzymes and probiotics. 

If nothing of it seems to work, please contact your vet and get your pet tested for parasites and other conditions. Most of them can be treated fast and easy and the problem of poop eating will leave your house forever. 

by GetESA

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Pet Care