Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Micaela

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? (And How To Stop It)

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop

You let your dog out to do their thing, but then you catch them doing something strange – eating their own poop. Gross, right? But don’t worry, let’s figure out why they’re doing it, how to stop it, and what to do if it keeps happening.

What Is Coprophagia?

Coprophagia is the scientific word for animals eating poop. It’s not just dogs; mice and other animals do it too. Even though it’s kinda common with our pets, seeing our dog do it still shocks us. Dogs might eat their own poop or other animals’, even human poop sometimes. This often happens when they come across poop outside, like from other animals in the neighborhood.

Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop?

Scientists have different ideas about why dogs eat poop. They say a few things might play a part:

Dogs sometimes lick poop to learn more about it, like its smell and taste. Some people think they eat it afterward to hide any signs that they or another dog were there.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

What The Vet Says About Dogs Eating Poop

We asked Dr. Hannah Godfrey, BVetMed, MRCVS, about dogs eating poop. Here’s what she said.

Eating poop, technically called coprophagia, is quite common in young dogs. Most of them grow out of it if we don’t encourage the behavior. Puppies might do it out of curiosity, and their poop isn’t much different from their mother’s milk at that age. But dogs can eat poop for other reasons too, like boredom, hunger, or missing something in their diet. The term ‘pica’ refers to eating non-food items and could be linked to liver issues, which is concerning if your dog eats poop along with other non-food items. Some say dogs might eat the poop of more dominant dogs, but remember, dogs aren’t humans; they might just find poop’s smelliness and messiness appealing, especially from other species like cowpats or fox poop. – Dr. Hannah Godfrey

Dr. Godfrey also offers advice on what to do if your dog is eating poop, whether it’s their own or from another species. She says, “If your dog eats their own poop, it’s a bit easier to handle – just keep the yard clean and scoop up quickly after they go. Some pet owners have found success in distracting their dog right after they poop, maybe with a noise-making toy or a favorite treat (but don’t overdo it!). There are also products available that make poop taste bad to dogs, which can help if they’re eating their own poop. If your dog eats other animal’s poop, I usually suggest distraction techniques and working on their recall. But if they show any other signs of being unwell, I’ll do a general health check and blood test to make sure there’s no underlying issue. If the problem persists, I might refer them to a pet behaviorist for specialized help.

Overall Health Of A Dog

One reason often mentioned for coprophagia is the dog’s overall health. Some believe dogs eat poop to replenish digestive enzymes because many commercial dog foods are different from their natural diet, which could create an imbalance in their gut. Another idea is that they lack certain vitamins, like vitamin B. Medical issues like diabetes, anxiety, or gastrointestinal diseases could also play a role. However, despite what dog owners may think, health problems are rarely the main reason for coprophagia.

Shame

Some argue that dogs can’t understand or express human emotions, but there’s evidence suggesting otherwise.

In the past, people believed that rubbing a dog’s nose in their poop and scolding them was the best way to stop accidents in the house. However, recent findings show that this method isn’t effective and could even contribute to coprophagia in some dogs. Dogs usually want to please their family, and like kids, they might try to hide evidence if they fear getting in trouble.

So, why do puppies eat their poop? Well, young puppies that have been subjected to the nose-rubbing technique after pooping indoors might eat their waste to avoid being shamed or punished again. They might also interpret the nose-rubbing as a signal to eat their waste since their face is being rubbed in it.

Instincts

Certain instincts from the time when dogs were wild animals still linger even after domestication. Some dogs exhibit these instincts more prominently than others. For instance, some dogs roll in feces to mask their scent, while others exhibit behaviors like circling before lying down, which is also known as denning. While selective breeding may have diminished these instincts in some dogs, they still persist strongly in others. This could be another explanation for why some dogs engage in coprophagia.

In the wild, survival for dog families depends on various behaviors to protect themselves and their offspring from predators. When wild dog pups are too young to venture outside the den, they often relieve themselves inside. However, the scent of their waste can attract predators. To safeguard her pups, the mother dog instinctively consumes their waste to eliminate the scent. Some pups observe and learn from their mother’s actions, leading them to imitate this behavior as a way to stay safe.

Dominance

Dogs often live in a hierarchical social structure, where one dog assumes the role of the pack leader, and others are submissive to them. Researchers have noted instances of coprophagia among submissive pack members, particularly eating the feces of dominant pack members.

Although domesticated dogs typically don’t live in packs, households with multiple dogs can mimic pack dynamics. In such cases, the less dominant dogs may be more likely to engage in coprophagia behavior.

Neglect

One of the saddest reasons for coprophagia in dogs is neglect. When dogs are neglected and left without enough food, they may resort to eating anything to survive.

This behavior is often observed in dogs that have been abandoned by their owners. Many times, these dogs are left tied up outside or are left behind when their owners move away. Even after being rescued and provided with proper care and nutrition, some dogs may continue to eat feces due to the habits formed during their neglect.

How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop

First, it’s essential to schedule a vet appointment to make sure your dog is healthy. Checking for any underlying health issues is crucial.

If your vet finds a health problem, they might recommend a specific diet, vitamins, or medication to help. But if your dog is healthy, you’ll need to focus on stopping the behavior.

Some products claim to stop dogs from eating poop, but they might not work well and can be pricey. The best approach is to remove the temptation. Always go outside with your dog when they need to go and clean up right after. Keeping your dog on a leash while they go potty can also help prevent them from eating poop. If they try, firmly say “no” or “leave it” and guide them away from it.

Illnesses Transmitted Through Coprophagia

There are several serious diseases and intestinal parasites that can be spread through coprophagia, including:

  • Worms
  • Parvovirus
  • Heartworms
  • Infectious canine hepatitis
  • Campylobacteriosis

Having pet insurance can be a lifesaver in such situations. It helps cover the costs of treatment for illnesses and accidents, potentially saving you from high vet bills. Check out our pet insurance reviews to find a provider that can support you during these unexpected circumstances.

Worms

When a dog eats the feces of a dog with parasites, they can ingest live worms or eggs still present in the host. Dogs with coprophagia may start showing signs of infection after consuming feces. Some of the most common worms found in dogs with coprophagia are:

  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Roundworms

Hookworms are parasites that reside in the small intestine of infected animals, posing a risk not only to dogs but also to humans. Despite their tiny size, hookworms are stubborn and challenging to eliminate once they’ve infested a host.

These parasites can cause various issues for the infected animal, including anemia, as they feed on the animal’s blood by damaging the intestinal lining. While canine hookworms usually don’t make humans sick, there’s still a risk, so it’s crucial to treat a dog with hookworms promptly using a dewormer. To find out more about hookworms, click here.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are parasites found in various animals and can grow significantly, leading to malnutrition in the host. There are over a thousand species of tapeworms, and their eggs are often passed in feces.

When a dog ingests the feces of an infected dog, symptoms may appear once the tapeworm takes hold in the intestines. It’s essential for a veterinarian to treat tapeworm infestations promptly. To find out more about tapeworms, click here.

Roundworms

Roundworms pose a unique challenge as parasites because they lay vast numbers of eggs, which can survive in soil for up to ten years. This makes it possible for a dog to pick up roundworms by consuming infected feces or soil contaminated with these eggs. Treatment for roundworms typically involves a dewormer prescribed by a veterinarian. To delve deeper into roundworms, click here.

Parvovirus

Parvovirus is an extremely serious illness that can spread through the feces of an infected dog, whether they’re currently suffering from the virus or have been treated for it. Sadly, many puppies diagnosed with parvovirus don’t survive the initial stages of the infection.

Parvovirus is highly contagious and can attack either the circulatory or intestinal system, depending on the strain. It targets rapidly dividing cells in the body, causing severe damage to vital tissues like bone marrow and white blood cells.

Treatment for parvovirus involves giving fluids and antibiotics to combat the infection. However, survival rates are low, and even those who pull through may suffer long-term organ damage from the virus.

Heartworms are parasites that infect a dog’s heart, leading to tissue damage and, ultimately, death. They’re common in dogs and challenging to eliminate once they’ve taken hold.

Preventing heartworms is relatively straightforward with regular medication. However, once they’ve infested a dog’s heart, treatment involves using arsenic-based compounds to kill the worms. Unfortunately, many dogs, already weakened by the infection, may not survive the treatment process.

Read also: 10 Best Dog Allergy Supplements-Your Furry Friend’s Relief Companion

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis can spread through various bodily fluids like feces, saliva, urine, blood, and nasal discharge. It leads to liver infection and can cause bleeding disorders. Dogs with this illness may show symptoms such as spontaneous bleeding and fever.

Treatment for infectious canine hepatitis focuses on managing the symptoms presented by each affected dog.

Campylobacteriosis

Campylobacteriosis is caused by campylobacteria in the gut and commonly affects small puppies, leading to severe diarrhea. Without prompt treatment, the diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration and potentially death. While campylobacteriosis typically lasts about a week, it can be fatal for young puppies.

Any young dog showing signs of campylobacteriosis or experiencing significant diarrhea should receive immediate veterinary attention to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Treatment usually involves a course of antibiotics and fluid therapy.

Does Pineapple Help & How Much Pineapple Can I Give My Dog?

Some individuals feed their dogs pineapple with the hope that they’ll dislike the taste of it in their poop, thus stopping coprophagia. However, this method can be unreliable.

Pineapple contains natural sugars, and excessive consumption can upset a dog’s stomach. While pineapple is generally safe for dogs in moderate amounts, it’s wise to consult your veterinarian before introducing it to your dog’s diet.

Final Words:

If you’ve attempted all the strategies mentioned above without success, consider consulting your veterinarian or enlisting the assistance of a professional dog trainer. In addition to consuming it, dogs may also have a tendency to roll in feces. It’s important to understand why and how to prevent these behaviors. Allowing either of these habits to persist can lead to significant issues, so it’s crucial to address them promptly. We also address potential reasons for finding blood in your dog’s stool and offer guidance on what steps to take next.

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