Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
by Dr Vivian Loren on Jul 08, 2023.
So you're out enjoying a lovely walk with your pooch, and just as you're about to praise them for doing their business like a good boy or girl, you see it. They turn around and… oh no, they start chowing down on their own poop! It's a perplexing, somewhat gross behavior, known scientifically as coprophagia.
But why do dogs eat poop? Is it dangerous, and what can be done to stop it?
Coprophagia is the scientific term for consuming feces. Many animals do it, and unfortunately, our furry friends are no exception. As a side note, some beverages are actually made of the faeces of animals.
One example is the pricey Kopi Luwak coffee which is basically fermented as the coffee beans pass through a civet’s intestine. This coffee is recognised as one of the world’s finest and tastiest luxury coffee for exactly this reason and the small quantity it comes in!
But anyway, back to our topic on dogs.
While it might be a distasteful topic (pun intended), understanding why our pets engage in this behavior is vital to ensure their health and happiness.
If you prefer to watch a video explaining why dogs eat poop, here's Dr Alex Avery, veterinarian talking about it.
The Underlying Causes of Coprophagia
Let's dive nose-first into the reasons why our dogs eat their own poop, as well as other animals’ poops.
Dogs, like us, need a balanced diet to thrive. If their diet lacks essential nutrients or they have trouble absorbing them, they might seek those nutrients elsewhere. If they feel that a particular poop they come across has the nutrients they are lacking, then they are going to be inclined to eat it.
Lack of nutrients in dogs is particularly common if they are being fed low-quality food that's high in fillers but low in the actually nutritious stuff. It may also just be the case that they are not being fed enough.
For some dogs, eating feces can be a learned behavior, especially if they've seen other dogs do it. Alternatively, they may eat poop out of boredom, due to anxiety or even to get your attention. Strange as it may seem, if it them eating poop gets a reaction from you, it serves a purpose for your dog.
Certain health conditions, including parasitic infections, diabetes, and thyroid disease, might cause increased appetite or malabsorption, driving your dog to eat poop.
Ultimately, if you are uncertain as to the cause, or if it’s something your dog has never done before, it’s best to contact your vet who can give your dog a top to bottom health check. This will rule out serious causes for this change in behaviour.
How to Identify If Your Dog is Eating Poop
Although it's not pleasant, keeping an eye on your dog's behavior can help you catch coprophagia early.
You might also notice bad breath that's worse than usual, or just an increasing interest in their own poo or that of other animals.
Risks Associated With Coprophagia
Eating feces can pose certain health risks, but luckily it’s usually harmless.
There is always the risk that your dog can contract parasites like giardia lamblia or harmful bacteria such as E. Coli. This tends to be the case if your dog eats the poop of other animals and if they are infected with these bacteria.
Furthermore, if other animals take certain medications, then they are likely to have excreted part of these in their faeces which now your dog is also ingesting.
Additionally, there are potential hygiene issues for you to consider, especially if your dog likes to give you those lovely doggy kisses! Make sure you avoid any saliva or close contact from your dog if he has come into contact with poop when you were out on a walk.
Can my dog get worms from eating poop?
Yes, absolutely. Especially if your dog eats poop from wild animals, this may frequently be infected with parasites such as hookworm, whipworms or roundworms. Ensuring your dog is regularly treated for worms will prevent such infestation.
How do I stop my dog eating poop?
It is sometimes common for any dog to sniff around and eat poo occasionally. But the biggest problem is if they do it regularly and even several times a day. So what can you do about it.
One of the simplest steps is to ensure your dog's diet is well-balanced and high-quality. Speak with a dog nutritionist or your vet about what nutrients your dog could be missing. Also consider adding probiotics for dogs or other nutritious supplements to their daily meals.
Training their behaviour
The moment your dog starts to show interest in feces, try to redirect their attention. Use commands like "leave it" and offer high-value treats to incentivize them. Keep using positive re-inforcement and make sure you give them plenty of praise to encourage them especially at the beginning.
A bit of effort at the beginning will pay off after a while. Patience and consistency are key when modifying behaviors.
Keep your yard clean and free of feces. This is especially important if you have multiple dogs or a mixture of cats and dogs in your household. Chicken poop is another favourite of dogs, so try to spot these early and clean it up.
There are luckily a number of dog cleaning services out there that will come to your house and clean the yard for you. Just google around if you’re interested!
Improve their mental health
Some dogs eat poop when they suffer from anxiety. This can come in many forms, including separation anxiety, fear of thunderstorms or other loud noises. If this is the case, you may want to try some dog calming techniques, play relaxing music for your dog or trying dog calming tablets.
How many times should a dog poop a day?
This varies from once a day in the more senior dogs with a slower gastrointestinal transit, to 4-5 times a day for a new puppy. Here is a general guideline but anything outside these parameters may be normal too. It's usually only a cause for concern if you notice a change from your dog's baseline, or any changes in poop colour such as yellow dog poop for example.
|Age & Size||Frequency|
|Puppies||5-6 times a day|
|Small breed adults||2-3 times a day|
|Large breed adults||1-3 times a day|
|Senior dogs (all sizes)||1-2 times a day|
How do I stop my dog eating cat poop?
For some reason, dogs interested in coprophagia will prefer the poop of either other dogs, cats, chicken or even horses. I get the occasional question on why do dogs eat horse poop.
Again, this could be for a number of reasons as outlined above.
To discourage them from eating cat poop make sure you clean the cat tray regularly or put it out of the reach of your dog. With the other types, you can follow some of our training
When to Seek Professional Help
If your attempts to curb your dog's feces-eating behavior are unsuccessful, or if they seem unwell, it's time to seek professional help.
Chronic coprophagia can sometimes indicate underlying health issues, so a check-up with your vet is probably the best thing to do at this stage.
They can then refer you to animal behaviourist for further behaviour training or suggest other lifestyle modifications.
Hopefully this article has answered some of your concerns as to why do dogs eat poop and what you can do about it. Whether they eat other dogs poop While coprophagia is undoubtedly an unpleasant habit, it's a fairly common one in our canine companions. Understanding the possible reasons and knowing how to respond are crucial steps in managing this behavior. With patience, diligence, and perhaps a bit of professional help, it's a habit that can be broken.