A dog licking a tree trunk

Most of us cringe now and again at something our dog does. Drinking from the toilet, rolling in dead animals at the beach, and licking their own backside all come to mind (ew!). But nothing tops dogs who eat poop.

If you’ve never witnessed your dog doing this, consider yourself lucky. But if you’ve ever seen your dog raid the litter box, “clean up” after himself, or munch deer droppings in the yard, know that you’re not alone. 

Dogs who eat poop aren’t that uncommon, and the veterinarians at Advantage Veterinary Center want you to know that you probably shouldn’t worry too much.

The Scoop on Poop….Eating

The veterinary term for ingesting feces is coprophagia. Dogs who eat poop do so for a variety of reasons, most of which are behavioral. However, medical issues that result in this habit should be ruled out first.

Some medical causes that could increase the desire to ingest fecal matter include:

Dogs who eat poop may also do so for behavioral reasons. One thought is that it is one way our dogs explore the world. Dog’s learn about the world from a young age through their mouths, and once they get into a habit, it’s hard to unlearn. Dogs may also see other dogs engaging in this behavior and copy the habit.

Another theory is that dogs who eat poop do so out of boredom. And most of the time, if their pet parent catches them munching on fecal matter, they are showered with attention. Even negative attention can be attractive to a bored dog.

In puppies and mother dogs, there also appears to be an instinctive drive to keep the living area clean. Mother dogs commonly “clean up” after their pups, and pups sometimes clean up after one another too. Some dogs may hold on to the behavior into adulthood.  There also seems to be a strong drive for dogs to eat the feces of other pets, especially when there is a health issue

What to do About Dogs Who Eat Poop 

We can’t just sit back and let dogs who eat poop continue, but what’s a pet owner to do? 

If your pet is a poop eater, it’s important to have them examined to rule out any disease process that might be causing the behavior. This may not only end coprophagia but will allow your pet to be treated for whatever is making her sick. 

Barring a medical problem, it’s time to tackle behavioral issues in dogs who eat poop. You can:

Pay attention – When your dog goes out to poop, go with him and clean up immediately. Keep him on a leash while walking and at the park so you can pull him away if need be. And teach him the “leave it” command to interrupt the behavior when needed. Offer him a treat while you quickly clean up.

Change up – Sometimes a change of diet can be helpful. Talk to us about a high fiber diet and if it might be appropriate for your dog. Feeling more full could make him more unlikely to sneak a poop snack.

Try a food additive Adding something to your dog’s diet could change the taste of the feces and make it less tempting. Meat tenderizers can increase protein digestion and alter the taste of the feces. Papaya, yogurt, and pineapple have also been touted as ways to make poop eating less palatable. 

While eating poop is definitely not desirable behavior, it is typically not harmful. Dogs will rarely eat enough stool to make nutritional deficiency a problem. Dogs who eat poop are exposed more often to intestinal parasites, however, so regular fecal examinations become even more important. 

If you have a dog who eats poop, give us a call so we can rule out medical reasons for this behavior, and help you form a plan for how to decrease coprophagia.