Watching your dog eat his own poop or another dog’s poop can be a nauseating and disgusting sight. Although the behavior exists for a reason, it should be corrected. We will tell you why.
Dogs evolved from being scavengers when they used to hunt in packs. They survived and thrived from what sources they could access. And poop was one of the sources of nutrition!
Well, there’s more to it. Some dogs like eating poop to curb their stress. We will also discuss that condition in this article.
So, read on to know everything about your dog’s poop-eating habits and what you can do about that.
Why do dogs eat poop?
When it comes to dogs, it can be a behavioural problem, lack of exercise, or some health issue.
Let’s explore each aspect below.
Your puppy may have learned this behaviour in their infancy. They must have seen their mother do it. Mothers lick their puppies to urge them to poop and then keep eating it until their babies are three weeks old.
If you have a puppy, then they will be more curious to try things. So, when they cannot contain their curiosity, then they may try to eat poop.
Dogs that do not get enough meals in a day, or if there is too much gap between food timings, they will get rid of that hunger by eating their own poop or another dog’s poop.
Sometimes the poop that comes out may resemble food in your dog’s eyes because it contains undigested food items or particles.
Moreover, parasites can also cause malnutrition in your dog because they rob your dog of the essential nutrients. So dogs may eat poop to fill up the deficit. Yes, as I said, poop is a source of nutrition for dogs.
Diabetes could be another culprit. It increases the appetite of dogs.
If the food you are giving them is processed then it will lack the enzymes that help in the digestion and absorption of food. Similarly, filler foods may have a lot of wheat and corn which may be less digestible for dogs. Cheaper foods will have this which only makes your dog feel full but does not contribute any nutritional value to their body. Hence, they will be drawn to poop eating behaviour.
If you punish your dog while potty training or general training for the mistakes they make, they might become afraid of you. Therefore, they eat the poop so you don’t catch them pooping in an inappropriate place. They fear you will become angry.
Dogs are also prone to separation anxiety. If you leave them alone for too long, they might eat poop out of stress. Just as a way to soothe themselves.
If they are uncomfortable in their environment or have a hard time adjusting to a new place or a new playmate, they might turn to poop eating. They can also become stressed if they lose someone close to them.
When your dog is bored, he might eat poop to occupy himself. If they don’t have anything to do at home, then they will have no choice but to try new things or have a go at whatever they have access to.
Similarly, if they want attention from you, they will eat poop. Your negative reaction to their habit still counts as attention, so they will feel like they have won.
Neglecting exercise also gets your dog bored. It can make them behave in a frantic manner including chewing on things, furniture, eating their poop, and damaging their toys.
Dogs may eat their own poop if they are not digesting the food properly.
If they are unable to digest the food properly, it means that the food itself is of low quality. The nutrients in the food are not easy to digest so whatever your dog eats, while it comes out, it will taste the same.
They may eat poop because they can smell any undigested nutrients, so they might simply like the way their poop tastes.
Urge to keep things clean
Your dog might want to keep their home clean so they might eat poop. For some, this behavior is an instinct while for others, pooping at home is no problem.
This urge may intensify if they have been previously punished for pooping in an unfavorable place. They might feel anxious or afraid and try to clean it up to avoid punishments from their owners.
Parasites in your dog’s body can cause malnourishment as they suck a significant amount of nutrients from your dog’s system. It makes them hungrier and therefore, they will eat anything and everything they know that could supplement their diet, including poop.
Moreover, if infected by parasites, they won’t be able to digest food properly and are let out undigested material.
Remedies from Home
Change has to start from home so here are a few things you can do to stop your dog from eating poop:
Change in Diet
Provide them with high-quality food. Dogs will search for supplements in other areas like poop if they are not getting the right amount of nutrients from their daily diet. So provide them with food that has all-round nutritional value
The high-quality food that you provide should have meat as one of the major components. Organic food will also help with nutrition.
As they eat this food, they will not only become used to it but also won’t feel the need to seek out what they lacked in poops.
The idea is to give your dog a highly digestible diet with minerals, vitamins, and probiotics.
Digestive enzyme supplements
Older dogs may have a digestive enzyme deficiency. After consulting your vet about digestive enzyme supplements, give them to your dog.
Enzymes have a very essential role because they are the ones breaking down the various nutrients like fats and carbs that the body can absorb and use. They will help your dog digest food properly.
You can give them supplements that contain Papain and Bromelain.
Pick up and clean the poop regularly, supervise your dog whenever you take them for walks or runs, or to parks. This method is the most effective method to get them to stop: just eliminate the problem.
Do not provide the slightest chance for them to eat poop. If you don’t allow space for the behavior, there is no chance for them to repeat it and develop it into a bad habit.
To avoid direct contact, you can use a pooper scooper or pet waste bags and pick up the poop.
You can also get creative with this method by adding ingredients that will make the poop smell too bad to consume:
- Add hot sauce and lemon to the stools to keep dogs away from their own feces.
- Add some canned pumpkin to their food. They are good to taste as food but taste bad after digestion. Meaning, your dog wouldn’t want to eat poop.
- Add meat tenderizer or raw zucchini because it makes poop taste bad.
- Feed Apple Cider Vinegar in appropriate amounts. This will fulfill the need for HCL which your dog tries to supplement from his poop.
- Give them pineapple snacks. It’s surprising, but it changes the acidity flavor in the dog’s digestive tract. And as a result, dogs don’t want to eat that poop. It works 90% of the time!
Make sure you consult the vet before giving them anything new. Sometimes these additions in high amounts can overwhelm your dog’s health and cause harm to them. Keep in mind your pup’s allergies.
Train your dog with basic commands like “leave it” or “drop it” with a positive affirmation. This can make a huge change in their behavior.
You can also keep the dogs on a leash whenever you think they might encounter feces. Pair it with your basic command like the ones we mentioned above.
Distract them with treats, toys, and praise. Make it seem like what you have to offer is more enticing and tastier.
Training is not just physical training. You also have to provide obedience training. Teach your dog “come” right after they poop, so that it becomes a habit.
Keep your puppy clean at all times. Don’t leave their poop remaining after they have done the deed. Clean it immediately.
To further maintain cleanliness, you can train them to poop outside more times rather than poop inside.
This cleaning routine includes your yard, your garden, basically, leave poop nowhere!
It may be a little annoying to do every single time, but this way you can also keep things sanitary.
This is an effective method for dogs who eat poop to gain your attention. Whenever you find them engaging in a bad habit, stop them and take them to another room.
Only let them back outside after you have cleaned the poop. This will establish that eating poop will not get your attention.
Over time, they start listening to you, so make sure you reward them correctly.
Provide Regular Exercise
Take them for walking every day. If possible, do it twice a day. This helps your dog with physical stimulation. Moreover, it will also let them see and communicate with the world.
You can also add running to this routine. This will make them tired, yet develop their body strength. Play fetch with your dog. This will not only make them run but also help in improving their teeth strength.
If you have a treadmill, don’t keep it yourself. Share with your dog and get them exercising.
You can also use rope toys, flirt poles, automatic ball machines, or play tug of war. The purpose is to exhaust them, both mentally and physically.
If your dog eats poop out of fear or anxiety then this is the method you need to adopt. Instead of disciplining them or punishing them for making a mistake, you need to show patience and perseverance.
Do not give any attention to your dog when they make a mistake. Every time they avoid it, you need to reward them with praises, affirmations, their favorite toy, or treats.
Soon, they will be able to understand the rights and wrongs of pooping.
Keep them mentally stimulated
Your dog needs mental exercise just as much as they need physical exercise. You can offer them puzzles, obstacle training courses, and kong toys to keep them mentally stimulated. You need to enhance their cognitive functions so that they don’t become stressed or bored.
Take them to new places and give their noses a workout. Make them play and interact with other dogs in dog parks.
You can try to activate all their senses with the help of sensory balls.
You must know that for every bad habit, there is a reason. Your dog might eat poop due to stress, parasite, or simply their instincts. However, to prevent them from doing this, you can try many methods and see which one works.
The best method so far is just picking up the poop and not giving them a chance to develop the habit in the first place. But, you can also try changing their diet or deliberately making their poop taste bad.
Just act with patience and provide positive reinforcement.
Let us know if your dog was eating poop because of the reasons listed in our article by leaving a comment below.
Dr. Aram Baker has been with Santa Clarita Animal Hospital since 1995 and his special interests include behaviour medicine and dermatology. He graduated from the Cleveland Humanities Magnet Program in Reseda, CA and attended California State University at Northridge where he received a Bachelor’s degree in biology. He went on to pursue his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of California at Davis. He also spent time in the zoological medicine department at U.C. Davis during his Junior and Senior years. He is dedicated to caring for all pets big or small, young or old with compassion, patience, kindness, and love.