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Why Do Dogs Eat Poop and How to Stop It

Verlota Author
Published: April 7, 2020
Categories: Pet

Yes, you read that headline correctly. We are here to talk about excrement, poop, stool, feces, do-do, whatever you want to call it, it’s all the same thing. We know that this behaviour is common in dogs, but we don’t like to talk about it for obvious reasons. It’s gross. Being a pet parent is gross sometimes and, at the end of the day, we’re raising animals. They are going to have quirks and instinctual behaviours that we may not understand, so it’s our goal with this article to help you understand them. In fact, there are actually more reasons than you may have thought on why a dog would eat their own, or another dog’s, poop. In this article, we are going to explore the reason(s) why dogs commonly ingest their own feces. We will address the possible causes and take a look at the science behind this strange behaviour of eating one’s own poop or as veterinarians call it, “Coprophagia”.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop and How to Stop It

What is Coprophagia?

What is Coprophagia?

You can tell a lot about a dog by their diet. What kind of food they are ingesting will have big impacts on their behaviour, temperament and energy levels. What you can learn from noticing your dog eating their or another dog’s stool is that they likely have a disorder called Coprophagia. Coprophagia is, you guessed it, the desire or need to ingest feces. This term ranges far beyond the behaviours of your household dog. Coprophagia is common with invertebrates, that’s why you will always notice a swarm of flies around a mess, but it does extend into the mammal kingdom often as well. In the animal kingdom, both wild and domesticated mammals will tend to ingest their own feces for some reason. In some animals, they do it to assist in breaking down tough plant material that their body couldn’t digest the first time through. But when it comes to fido, there are multiple factors that can play into what’s causing it.

What Causes Dogs To Eat Their Poop?

What Causes Dogs To Eat Their Poop?

Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of reasons that your dog might be ingesting their own feces. The root cause can, and often does, stem much deeper than “they just like to do it”, but can happen for metabolism reasons, their upbringing and a host of other causes

One of the first and more common reasons that your dog is coprophagic could just simply boil down to instinct. Before your sweet, lovable pooch was a domesticated dog, they were wolves in the wild. Scavengers doing whatever it took to survive. Throughout time, wolves would actually eat their own feces to ensure that the scent wouldn’t draw in any predators. This was especially common in a den that housed a mother and her newborn pups. Because the young dogs were incapable of leaving the den to defecate, they would do so in their den. Once that happened, the mother would quickly ingest the excrement to make sure no nearby predators would follow the scent back to their den.  While this was simply a survival instinct, oftentimes the pups would continue to eat their poop as they matured, to ward off predators. A classic tale of puppy see, puppy do.

Speaking of instinct, that type of behaviour often reflects a dog’s diet and possible vitamin deficiencies due to their diet. You may have heard through the grapevine that if you notice your dog is eating their own poop, all you need to do is feed them some banana or a pineapple to get them to stop. While the pineapple cure has more to do with the bromelain enzyme making their poop taste bad (yes you need to make it taste bad to them), a banana putting a stop to it usually means that their current diet lacks potassium. This is one of the more common reasons that you will see dogs develop coprophagia. Your dog isn’t eating their own poop because they enjoy it, in fact, they likely aren’t even aware of why they’re doing it. For them, they know they’re missing something and that pile of poop seems to be a decent source of it.

Unfortunately, another harsh truth is that you might actually be the root cause of why your dog is eating poop. Have you ever had a new puppy poop in the house and to let them know that they did something wrong, you rub their nose in it? You didn’t mean it maliciously, but to them they could develop a tendency to feel shame for defecating.  That’s why you may notice your puppy eating poop after they have learned to take it outside. Discipline isn’t a bad word when it comes to raising our dogs as long as it’s not done in a violent or abusive way. The jury is out with pet owners on rubbing their noses in it, but the shame they feel afterwards might create this behaviour further down the line. They poop, don’t want to upset you or get in trouble, even though it was outside, and then quickly eat it so that they aren’t punished.

Another common reason that your dog or puppy is eating their own poop could simply boil down to stress. We have talked about stress and anxiety in countless articles and that’s because dogs often suffer from anxiety. They love us, they want to be around us and please us, but if we aren’t around that often it can stress them out. If your dog is often left alone, they may “act out” by developing a taste for their poop simply just to see how you might react. If it gets them more attention, because obviously you didn’t approve, they will begin to do it more often to obtain the attention that they are sorely lacking. While this is one of the less common reasons your dog or puppy is eating poop, it has been documented in studies and can be at the heart of the issue at times.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?

How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?

That’s the important question. Sure, it’s nice to know why your dog is eating their own poop, but at the end of the day we just want to stop it. Just as there are many causes of coprophagia, there are just as many solutions. The first and most obvious solution to this problem is to pick it up. You don’t have to stop your dog from eating their own poop if there’s no poop to eat. This wont stop your dog from eating another dog’s excrement, but it is a solution that you can handle at your own home.

Another step you can take in the battle of the bowels is adding something to make it taste bad. Yes, the idea of having to make poop taste bad sounds like an absurd statement, but dogs aren’t as focused on flavor as humans are. If you are struggling with getting your dog or puppy to stop eating poop you can simply feed them pineapple to add the bromelain enzyme to the excrement. The enzyme is so distasteful to dogs that they will avoid eating it. If you have a persistent pup you can also try adding hot sauce to the feces after they have relieved themselves. If you are planning on sprinkling hot sauce on the mess, we advise you just take that time to clean it up instead of garnishing it.

Finally, to get your dog or puppy to stop eating their own poop, you can adjust their diet accordingly. Adding in a more fibre rich dog food or an easier to digest option might be the best course of action in the end. A lot of the time a dog will eat their own poop because they are not getting the amount of calories they require from their food. Excrement, while gross, will contain some of those calories, minerals and vitamins that we’re not absorbed the first time and will be consumed again.


Smart Bulldog

Eating poop is gross. We’re not here to argue that, but the reasoning behind why our dog is doing it makes sense when you break it down. There are many reasons behind why your dog is eating poop. There are also many solutions. Forming your own conclusion as to why it is happening can be deduced through research, but we advise that you always refer to your veterinarians opinion and diagnosis on the matter. The reasoning could be on a molecular level or could just be because you didn’t pick up after them. Education is always the first step you should take to answer any questions you have about the health and well-being of your pet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do you stop a dog from eating poop?

There are multiple different ways you can accomplish this. Changing your dog’s diet to a more fibre rich option, adding bananas and other fruits or vegetables can help, giving them a treat shortly after going to the bathroom will encourage them to forget about the mess and come to you instead.

Why would a dog eat its own poop?

The most common reasons are instinct, diet and training. Mother wolves often eat their puppies poop to avoid predators following the smell. Food can lack certain nutrients that your dog tries to ingest through stool and shaming a dog after making a mess indoors can also lead to behaviour where they immediately eat it to avoid disappointing their owners.

Is it bad for your dog to eat poop?

Technically, no, it’s just gross. Dogs have been eating their own poop for thousands of years to avoid predators or stay healthy. Domesticated dogs don’t have to worry about such problems, but the action can, sometimes, just be attributed to nature.

Why does pineapple stop a dog from eating poop?

Pineapple itself doesn’t stop a dog from eating their poop but rather the enzymes within it. Bromelain is the key enzyme in pineapple that is a deterrent for a dog eating their mess. These can also be found in supplements that you can add to your dog’s diet to avoid this behaviour as well.

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DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Verlota Inc. products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information contained in or made available through Verlota.com website is not intended to constitute or substitute legal advice or consultation from medical or veterinary professionals. See verlota.com/terms-and-conditions

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