Why do dogs eat poop?

By Hungry Bark | July 15, 2020

There’s nothing that makes a dog owner cringe more than catching their dog munching on poop. Just what is the appeal, and why do dogs engage in this disgusting behavior?

Why do dogs eat poop?

Eating poop is actually quite common in the animal world. Other animals, like rabbits and guinea pigs show this behavior as well. For these animals, eating feces, or Coprophagia, is believed to be instinctual. They require nutrients that are not absorbed from their food the first time they digest it.

As gross as it sounds, 16 percent of dogs are considered serious poop eaters, and at least 24 percent of dogs have been observed practicing coprophagia at least once. Households with more than one dog are likely to have at least one poop eater, and if any of them are female, they will be the most likely culprits.

A lot of studies have been done to try and get to the bottom of why dogs seem to think poop is so tasty. There are a number of different answers that vary from missing nutrients to boredom.

Let's look into more of the reasons your dog may be eating poop, and if there are any ways you can prevent it.

What To Consider If Your Dog Is Eating Poop

One of the most obvious reasons dogs may eat poop is that they like the flavor. This is particularly true of dogs that like to get into litter boxes if there is a cat in the same household. Cat food is sweet, which means cat poop also has a sweet flavor. Dogs enjoy sweet tastes which can lead to them searching for treats in the cat litter box.

If you have a dog who has recently had puppies, the drive to eat poop is instinctual. The mother will eat the feces of her puppies to keep the den area clean. In the wild, this would serve to keep other animals away and also prevent intestinal parasites from possibly infecting their pack.

There is some evidence that dogs may eat their own feces due to a lack of a digestive enzyme, similarly to why rabbits need to eat their own feces. Over time, this deficiency could lead your dog to start eating their feces in order to absorb nutrients that were not originally absorbed due to a lack of this enzyme.

There are other health related reasons that might explain why your dog could be eating feces:

  • Metabolic disorders like Cushing’s disease, Thyroid disorder, and Diabetes Mellitus can cause an increase in appetite, which can lead to poop eating.
  • Poor diets that are lacking in vital nutrients and that do not provide enough calories
  • If your dog has been on a steroid such as Prednisone

Environmental factors can also come into play in a number of dog behaviors. Issues that can cause dogs to eat feces include:

  • Dogs that are isolated from others or kenneled away from people for too long - Dogs are pack animals and isolation can lead to stress and anxiety.
  • Anxiety, from abuse or isolation or a dog from a healthy household that simply suffers from an anxiety disorder such as separation anxiety
  • They are fed in an environment that is too close to their feces and have learned to associate feces with food.
  • If your dog is seeking attention, they will often engage in ‘naughty’ behaviors like eating feces in order to get you to respond.

How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop

In general, poop eating is a nasty habit, but if your dog is eating their own poop, or poop from animals in your household, it isn’t inherently dangerous. If, however, they are eating poop from wild animals, they are risking intestinal parasites, viruses, and harmful bacteria. It is best to address this behavior before it gets out of hand and damages their health.

To figure out the best course of action to break your dogs poop eating habit, first figure out why they are doing it.

  1. Have you been working more hours and your dog is alone more than they’re used to? You can have a pet sitting service, or even just a good friend, stop by and spend time with your dog.
  2. Do they seem like they are drinking excessively and urinating frequently as well as eating their poop? You should have them screened for diabetes.
  3. Is your dog gaining weight and losing hair? You may be looking at thyroid disease.
  4. Is there a possibility your dog isn’t getting adequate nutrition?

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from a metabolic disorder, get them to their vet as quickly as possible.

There are products you can put in their food that supposedly make the taste of their poop unappealing, which is only helpful if your dog is eating their own poop. These products are also not effective for all dogs.

If you think their diet may have something to do with their poop snacking problem, you may want to consider a change in food or an added supplement. Hungry Bark kibble recipes have vitamins and nutrients that will provide adequate nutrition to dogs in every stage of life. In addition to superfood ingredients, their recipes also contain probiotics to help maintain your dog’s gut biome. If you don’t think food is an issue, try Hungry Bark’s probiotic supplement chews. These will aid in digestion and can help your dog's gut regain balance.

Be proactive in helping your dog avoid temptation. Keep your yard and kennel area picked up and poop free. Try to keep your cat’s litter box someplace your dog can’t access it. If this is not a possibility, keep it scooped.

If you are concerned about your dog’s health or have any questions about why they won’t stop eating poop, don’t be afraid to consult your veterinarian. They may have a solution.

Behavior changes take time, so be patient and work with your dog to help break their poop eating habit. You will be enjoying poop free doggie kisses in no time!

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