Dogs may be the most endearing creatures ever but let’s admit it, they can be absolutely embarrassing sometimes. Dogs can easily pick up many repulsive habits such as rear-sniffing, licking people’s feet, or rolling over in waste and dirt. However, nothing beats the most disgusting one- EATING POOP!
It can be unpleasant to talk about why dogs eat poop, but it’s important to understand the reasons behind this behavior. Turns out, there is a scientific term for this habit: Coprophagia.
Coprophagia in dogs is usually a result of boredom. While this may be considered gross by some, it is just a normal part of a dog’s daily life. However, sometimes, it can be related to serious medical issues.
Read on to find out everything about Coprophagia and what you can do to discourage this habit.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
The causes of coprophagia in dogs can be split into two categories:
- Behavioral issues
- Medical issues
In many cases, dogs start eating feces due to environmental stress that causes behavioral triggers.
- Anxiety: Using punishment or harsh methods to train dogs can cause anxiety in dogs. They might start eating their own poop to get rid of the evidence because they fear that they will get punished if you notice. So, if you see your pooch eating poop, do not shout or give any kind of punishment. Otherwise, this will become a vicious cycle.
- Isolation: Dogs who are kept alone in their kennel are most likely to suffer from Coprophagia. They get bored and with nothing to do and no one to play with, they develop this nasty habit of eating their own stool.
- Seeking attention: It is no surprise that dogs want to be around you all the time and get all your attention. When they feel that they aren’t getting enough attention, they will do anything to get your reaction, even eat their own excrement.
- Association with the food they eat: Sometimes, dogs will be unable to figure out the difference between the food they eat and their stool. It can smell the same to them.
- A protective instinct for an elderly dog: Dogs have a highly protective instinct for their loved ones. This can drive them to eat the feces of an elderly dog, as a sign of protecting them from predators.
- Enzyme deficiency: Most dogs today are fed highly processed food. This diet doesn’t provide their body with the required digestive enzymes that are needed to digest food properly. Hence, they eat their own stool as this undigested poop can smell the same to your dog as the food they eat.
- Parasites: If dogs get intestinal worms, there is a chance that they are not getting enough nutrition because these parasites need food too. As a result, the dogs will go around looking for nutrition in their stool.
- Increased appetite due to health concerns: Diseases like diabetes and thyroid in dogs can make them really hungry, even though they are getting the required proportion of food at regular intervals. This increase in appetite can push your dog to look for food from other sources, like the poop of other animals or their own.
- Malabsorption: Malabsorption is a condition that makes dogs unable to absorb nutrients like protein, carbohydrate, minerals, and fiber from their food. This can, in turn, lead them to look for nutrition in their stool.
- Pica: Pica is a psychological disorder that drives canines (and humans) to consume non-food items such as stones, dirt, hair, paper, paint, chalk, and feces. If you think your dog has coprophagia and none of the above causes seem plausible, you must contact your vet for advice.
Why Do Puppies Eat Poop?
In the case of puppies, coprophagia is an entirely different case. Mothers tend to lick their puppies and the puppies’ stool to maintain cleanliness around them. As a result, puppies learn this behavior, eating their own poop or poop from other dogs as well as other animals.
It can also be that your puppy is just exploring the world. Human babies put anything in their mouths, don’t they? The same can be the case with puppies. No big deal!
According to American Kennel Club, puppies are likely to give up on this childish habit by the age of 9 months.
Is Poop Eating Common in Dogs?
No dog owner wants to admit their dog eats poop which is quite understandable. However, this nasty habit is extremely common in dogs.
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior presented a research study in their annual conference in 2012 regarding Coprophagia. The research was led by Dr. Benjamin Hart. According to him, among 1441 respondents answering the question about Coprophagia,
- One in six dogs (16 percent) were found to be “serious” poop eaters.
- 1 percent of the dogs were seen eating poop one to five times.
- One in four dogs (24 percent) were observed eating poop at least one time.
Is It Normal for Dogs to Eat Poop?
Yes. It is totally normal for dogs to eat poop, whether it’s their own, or of other animals.
Dogs evolved from wild canines to the domesticated pets that we know and love today. Initially, as scavengers, they would eat whatever they could find on the ground. Animal behaviorist Steven R. Lindsay, in her Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, says, that coprophagia “may be one of several appetitive survival behaviors that have evolved to cope with the periodic adversity of starvation.: This means eating whatever they get their hands on, including stool, is in the dog’s DNA.
When you look at canines through an evolutionary lens, you’ll find that for dogs, it’s just natural to eat their waste – even for those that have been domesticated and raised in environments where they are comfortable and safe.
Is It Safe for Dogs to Eat Poop?
Yes. Eating their own poop is safe for dogs. You won’t believe it, but this seemingly nasty behavior comes with health benefits too. By eating their own feces, dogs can help to clean out their intestines, which reduces the chance of diarrhea and constipation. Poop is also very nutritious on its own. If you’ve noticed your pet doesn’t eat what they should after everyday meals, then there’s a good chance they eat their own excretion for some extra nutrients.
Dogs have a bacterial balance in their gastrointestinal tract that many humans don’t have. This is because we didn’t eat our own bacteria when we were growing up, so it’s possible to develop a sensitivity to bacteria in the stomach and intestines. Dogs don’t have this sort of problem, which is why they can consume their poop without any issue.
However, eating the poop of another dog or other animals can be harmful as their excretion may be soiled with worms or viruses. If you find your dog eating the poop of any other animals, like cats or dogs, contact your vet immediately.
Humans, on the other hand, can also be at risk from the poop-eating habits of their furry friend. If you let your dog lick you all over your face, the bacteria will get transmitted to you through their mouth and saliva. Not to mention, you will also have to smell their filthy breath!
You might also be interested in Why Do Dogs Fart?
How Can You Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop?
Although safe and normal, coprophagia is not a habit that you should encourage. It is still a very disgusting habit. While there is no specific solution, if you want to stop your dog from eating poop, the following approaches seem to work:
- You should always keep your dog’s living area fresh and clean. Don’t forget to pick up their poop as fast as you can.
- If you also own a cat, you must keep the kitty’s litter box clean and out of your dog’s reach.
- You can add vitamins and enzymes supplements to your dog’s diet to be sure that there are no missing nutrients in their food.
- Do not leave your dog to wander or walk out alone in public spaces. You can use a leash to walk your dog. Also, be cautious about what they put in their mouth.
- Training is an effective way to discipline your dog. Teach them “leave it” and “No” commands from a very early age. This way, whenever they try to eat anything that is not edible, you can simply say the command.
Frequently Asked Questions about Poop-eating in Dogs
Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?
Dogs eat cat poop because there is a chance that cat poop might smell like food to dogs. Especially if it’s undigested poop. Therefore, if you have both a cat and a dog, look out for your kitty’s digestive health. You might find your dog stealing a lick off of your cat’s undigested stool.
Why Do Dogs Eat Human Poop?
Human poop smells like food to dogs. This is why dogs eat human poop.
Eating human stools can turn out to be very dangerous for dogs. In addition to the harmful bacteria, there can be residuals of drugs and medications. If you notice your pup licking human poop, contact your vet immediately.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop in Winter?
We have often heard dog owners saying that their habit of eating poop either starts or increases during the winter season. Although there is no scientific reason behind this, there are explanations that snow could be a major factor. Poop can easily get attached to snow in the ground making it easier for dogs to gulp down. Snow also hides the foul odor of poop.
Can Eating Pineapple Help Your Dog Stop Eating Their Poop?
There is a popular belief that pineapples can make dogs’ poop smell unpleasant and can stop them from eating their own poop. Sadly, this is not true. According to Jessica Potosky, Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine, “Nothing will stop a dog from eating their poop! Not even pineapple.”
Overall, Dogs eating their own poop is a sickening habit. There can be behavioral and sometimes medical reasons behind Coprophegia in your dog, but there is nothing serious to worry about. Dogs eating the poop of another dog or cat could be a health concern, so it’s best to make sure your dog doesn’t develop a taste for other pets’ poop, or just poop in general.
Thank you for reading the article.
To explore more, check out our other articles covering everything about dog poop.
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