Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Poop? Here's What the Experts Say
Dog owners know that canines can have some unique habits. Sure, your furry friend is probably super cute and very sweet, but that doesn't mean they're always perfect. It's not uncommon for dogs to eat poop, which is also known as coprophagia, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). Although this act, along with drinking water from the toilet, isn't pleasant, there is often a reason why your dog is doing this. Sometimes, it isn't a big deal. For example, some moms eat the feces off of their puppies as an evolutionary habit. In the wild, eating poop cleans the pups and protects them from predators. However, sometimes there is a more concerning reason for your dog ingesting its stool, like the pup having parasites. If you've noticed your dog eating their poop recently, don't panic. First, call your vet and make an appointment. In the meantime, you can go over the possibilities behind their behavior and how to get your pup to stop doing it.
Why Is My Dog Eating Poop?
Before trying to break your dog of this habit, you need to know why it's happening. Here are the most common culprits.
Consult with your vet, who can do a stool test for parasites. Costs for stool tests generally range from $25 to $50. If parasites are ruled out, your vet may want to test for other disorders that increase appetites, such as Cushing's disease, diabetes, and thyroid disease.
A vitamin deficiency can also cause this behavior. According to Mara Bovsun of the American Kennel Club, "There's been a long-standing theory that dogs eat feces because they are missing something in their diets. Vitamin-B deficiency, in particular, has been a prime suspect, and studies have backed this up. In 1981, scientists showed fecal microbial activity synthesized thiamine, a B-vitamin. Other research found other missing nutrients."
If your dog happens to be taking medications for other ailments, they can be the culprit. Sometimes steroids can lead to lead to an increase in appetite. Your vet should review medication side effects during your consultation.
The causes of poop eating aren't necessarily limited to physical health issues. Dogs may also exhibit coprophagia if they are stressed or experiencing other behavioral triggers. Dogs left alone for long periods or who are confined in small spaces tend to exhibit fecal eating more often than dogs who are well socialized and secure. Dogs may also eat their own waste when they are anxious or seeking attention.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?
The fix for your dog's coprophagia will depend on the reason they're exhibiting the behavior in the first place.
If your vet decides a vitamin deficiency might be the culprit, make sure you're feeding your pooch high-quality dog food and a supplement if recommended. Consult with your vet for the best dog food brands for your pet.
Make sure your dog gets all the exercise and playtime they need to help with emotional stressors, clean up after your dog as soon as he poops, and keep your dog on a leash when you take them on a walk to prevent them from eating the stool of other dogs that he finds along the way.
Whether it's an illness, deficient diet, or an emotional issue, once the underlying cause has been dealt with, you'll likely still need to break the habit. Tom Shelby, author of Dog Training Diaries: Proven Expert Tips & Tricks to Live in Harmony with Your Dog ($9, Amazon), and an expert dog trainer from Martha's Vineyard with more than 40 years of experience, has been called many times over the years by distressed and disgusted dog owners. Dogs who steal food off tables tend to be poop eaters, he says. To create owner omnipotence in the mind of the dog, Shelby has a technique that can be used to stop both behaviors.
"Say you have a snack on your coffee table, and the dog won't bother food even at the height of its nose, but when you walk out of the room, the snack is not safe," Shelby says. "Put a hot dog in a Tupperware container and perforate it. Then set up a mirror so you can see the container without the dog seeing you. Walk out of the room, and when your dog sniffs, create a loud noise. You can take two pots and slam them together. The dog will quickly associate that startling sound to taking something off the table."
Shelby says the same technique is extremely effective for coprophagic canines. "Leave a poop in your yard and observe the dog from the window," he said. "The second it bends over to smell or eat, blow a horn."
Taste aversion is another way to curb coprophagia. Find a fresh stool and cover it with hot sauce. When your dog does attempt to taste the stool, he'll get a spicy surprise. One bite could do the trick. This won't harm the dog, but make sure there's a full water bowl nearby.
With a little work and some patience, you can break your dog of its poop-eating habits.