Why Does My Dog Eat Poop? Ugh! And Why??
Congratulations! You’ve managed to read beyond the disgusting title subject of “My Dogs Eat Poop”. You have a strong stomach and care for your dogs. This is a personal essay on the crappy (pun intended) topic of why does my dog eat poop. Whether it is their own, the cat’s or another’s scavenged during an otherwise lovely walk. The medical term for this behavior is Coprophagy. These are confessions from a pet food nutritionist of 15 years who has dealt with all the above. Believe me, I feel and know your pain. And we are not alone. In a 2012 survey done by the AKC, 16% of dog owners (one in 6) reported that that their dog was a “serious” stool eater.
Let me start by saying that there is significant scientific evidence that dogs eat poop to make up for a deficiency in their diet. If you are feeding your dog the same old crappy food (pun intended) from the grocery store, big box chain and even your very expensive “vet food” then yes, your dog may be snarfing poop because he/she is lacking vital nutrients. Mass produced, laden with cheap fillers, artificial colors and artificial preservatives added in, these types of food, both dry and canned are suspect. Take a long look at the ingredient list on the back of the bag or can. If a protein source (meat or fish) isn’t that first ingredient or if the word by-product appears anywhere, or if wheat, corn, soy is listed, seriously re-think what you are feeding your dog. The same principles apply to cats. Many dogs eat poop because of poor dietary nutrition.
If you are dealing with a puppy eating poop, you need to take a step back and give him/her some latitude. Mama dogs, after giving birth, will eat the feces of their newborns to keep the whelping area clean so the pups are not covered in their own stool. This hygienic practice typically continues until the pups are on solid food and can take care of business outside the home den. However, the pups may tend to follow Mama’s lead in the clean-up process for a time. In this situation, it is best not to react to your puppy’s indulgence but rather be super diligent with the poop bag on the ready. Over time, your pup will forget what Mama had to do, especially if you reward an uneaten poop with a treat.
Also consider that if you are negatively reacting to an accident in the house, the poop eating may be an attempt to destroy the evidence. Using positive reinforcement and avoiding negative responses, you can easily turn the table on this problem. Treats are tools!
Not dealing with a puppy? I had a rescue Shih-Tzu named Maggie that I adopted (correction: foster failure) at 10 years old. Until her 17th year of life, she would reach around after she took care of business to try and eat what she just deposited. Her first decade was on crappy food (pun intended) but I gave her the best nutrition possible from the time she entered my home. Alas, it was learned behavior that she never forgot. I accepted it and would just hover over her with a poop bag before she could reach it. A dog can’t eat what isn’t there.
I Feed My Dog the Best and Still Eats Poop
Assuming you are like me and feed the highest quality food available and still struggle with why your dog is still eating stool, let me share some of my insight.
Dogs Eating Cat Poop
A classic issue. Those tootsie rolls waiting in the litter box are just too tempting to pass up, especially if you are feeding your cat a high-quality food. In this case, the best course of action is deterrence. Simply do not allow your dog access to that treasure chest. Create a barricade or series of obstacles to prevent your dog from getting anywhere close to it. I have used a baby gate, a large cardboard box and furniture as a barrier. Whatever works for you. If the barricade solution isn’t viable, consider giving your cat a supplement that makes their poop undesirable to your dog. It is an all-natural remedy that cats don’t mind and will not harm them.
My Dogs Eat Poop Left by Other Dogs
I have two young rescue dogs now. A 50-pound Doberman mix and a 10-pound Chihuahua mix. They have never, ever considered eating their own poop. We take long walks every morning and walk past piles that our poorly behaved neighbors leave behind (always pick up after your dog, doing otherwise is just gross, disrespectful and can spread disease). However, once in a while, they seize upon, literally dive-bomb a pile before I see it and eat it ravenously before I can reign them in. Why that pile when they are fed the very best? One customer of mine, a seasoned dog walker, offered her insight “Because that dog just pooped a cheeseburger from McDonalds”. Junk food. We all have our weaknesses.
I know many of you deal with other “droppings” such a goose, duck and horse piles. The best medicine is prevention. Keep your dogs on a leash. Scan the area for potential temptations and be prepared to distract with a command such as “Leave It” followed by a treat.
Other Things to Consider
If you react when your dogs eat poop, they may continue the practice to get attention. Make sure you are spending quality time with them, exercising them regularly and positively rewarding them for good behavior.
Don’t leave piles in the yard to become temptations. And please don’t leave piles in someone else’s yard either. If you also enjoy the company of a cat, ensure that the litter box is cleaned out at least once a day.
On your next vet visit, test for worms, which can make your dog eat everything in sight due parasites consuming all the nutrients during the digestive process. Also make sure that you are feeding your dog appropriate amounts of food at regular intervals. Optimally, twice a day. Feeding a dog only once a day will make him feel very hungry after about 12 hours, resulting in the desire to fuel up on whatever he/she can find.
The Stress Factor:
Dogs who never exhibited Coprophagy tendencies or who did at one time but stopped and suddenly start again, may be responding to stress. A new dog or cat, a new member of the family, moving, divorce, a change in the schedule. All of these are stress triggers that could prompt a dog to start eating poop.
Abolish the Taboo!
I know, we hate to admit that our dogs commit such disgusting acts. But it is important to fess up about when our dogs eat poop because it is imperative to our dog’s well-being. Dogs that eat poop from any other animal (dog, cat, duck, goose, horse) may become infected with Giardia, worms or other parasites. So, embrace the reality and talk to your local pet store professional, your groomer, your trainer and your vet. We have all dealt with it and will not think less of you or your dog because of it. We are here to help! We can help you kick the crap!
Goodness For Pets is a Naples, Florida natural pet food store. Stop in and we are happy to talk to you about your pet care.