Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop?

Does your dog eat his poop? Why do dogs eat their poop? Dogs may sniff other dogs’ butts, lick their own genitals, and roll around the smelliest things we can imagine but no matter what they do, we cannot help but adore them.

Dogs May Eat Their Poop

Perhaps for humans, the nastiest activity of a dog is to eat his own poop. The thought may be disgusting but this behavior is pretty common not just in dogs, but in other animals as well. In fact, there’s a scientific term for this behavior: coprophagia.

How Common is Coprophagia in Dogs

During the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior annual conference in 2012, Dr. Benjamin Hart discussed coprophagia.

Dr. Hart, together with his team, conducted two Internet-based surveys with about 1,500 participants each and came up with the following data:

  • 16% of the dogs are classified as frequent stool eaters or those who have been caught eating stool more than five times,
  • 24% of the dogs involved in the study were caught eating poop at least once.

According to the study, the dogs who are frequent stool eaters were more likely to come from houses with more than one dog. Neutered males or spayed females are also more likely to be stool eaters.

The findings also revealed that poop-eating dogs were 33% more likely to eat their own stools than that of other dogs. Doggie poop eaters also prefer fresh stools than old ones, according to the study.

But why do dogs eat their poop? There are certainly different reasons why dogs dig in this nasty habit.

Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop:  Nutrient Deficiencies and Certain Health Conditions

Nutrition deficiencies, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, intestinal parasites, and malabsorption of nutrients can make dogs crave their own poop as they may try to recover the nutrients they were not able to get.

  • Poor Food Quality – If you’re feeding your dog a cheap dog kibble, chances are it is low in quality as well. This makes your dog’s body crave for more food — and even poop – to get the nutrition and vitamins he needs.
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) – This is a condition where a dog’s body creates little to no digestive enzymes in his or her pancreas. Without adequate enzymes, a dog will slowly starve. Symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea, and poop eating because your dog is trying to get nutrients.
  • Intestinal Parasites – Hookworms, Roundworms, Tapeworms, and other intestinal parasites suck the vitamins and nutrients from the food your dog consumes. This can cause Fido to indulge on his stool as he is trying to get back the nutrients he supposedly got.
  • Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency -Hydrochloric acid deficiency can lead to poor digestion of food in dogs, according to Dr. Roger DeHaan. This condition can cause your dog to search for nutrients in his own stool. Hydrochloric acid is the acid responsible for breaking down proteins in the dog’s digestive system.
  • Diabetes – Diabetes can make your dog eat his own feces. Since a diabetic dog’s body is unable to produce insulin, your pooch may feel the urge to fill in that deficiency in his body by eating his stool.
  • Cushing’s Disease – This condition is also known as Cushing’s Syndrome. This happens when your dog’s body produces too much cortisol. Dogs with this condition are not able to digest or absorb food they eat – no matter how much they consume. Dogs with Cushing’s Disease always feel hungry and would try to eat their own stool to satisfy their nutritional needs.
  • Thyroid Problems – Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism, can cause your dog to feel tired and exhausted all the time. This might make his poop look and smell more enticing.
  • Long-term Steroid Therapy – Aside from turning off your dog’s immune system, steroid therapy is reported to cause dogs to eat their feces. Steroids can cause increased hunger and thirst in dogs and this makes poop tempting for them.
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Why Do Dogs Eat Their poop: Are Any Behavioral Causes

  • Stress, anxiety, and boredom – A bored and anxious dog who is left alone all day may try to entertain himself by eating his own poop. Dogs who don’t get enough attention or exercise will often find other ways to spend their time chewing things or eating poop.
  • Embarrassment – Dogs know when they do things they know you wouldn’t like: like pooping in the hallway. Accidents can happen and your dog can get embarrassed about it. This might cause him to cover up his crime and get rid of the evidence by eating it.
  • Seeking Attention– Dogs love having their owner’s attention even if that means putting themselves into trouble. Sometimes dogs love indulging in poop because they’ll get two of the things they love: your attention and a tasty snack.
  • Instinct– For thousands of years, dogs – and their wolf ancestors – lived as hunters and scavengers. Before they were domesticated and welcomed as members of the family, dogs scavenged for food and ate whatever they could find, including animal feces. Mother dogs may also eat their newborn puppies’ feces. They do this to keep predators away and protect their young.
  • Cleanliness – Dogs may eat their poop because they’re trying to keep their area clean. Dogs may love getting muddy and dirty but they certainly do not like it when their living area is a mess.
  • Copy-cat Attitude – Young puppies may pick up this habit after seeing their mom or other dogs doing it.

How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop

The easiest way to stop your dog from eating his poop is to remove it right away.

You must give your dog a highly nutritious diet. Make sure your dog eats a high quality, complete dog food at least twice daily as recommended by your vet.

Also, make sure your dog gets enough exercise and attention. If you’re going to be away for a while, it is a good idea to leave toys out to keep your pup busy.

Teaching your dog the “leave it” command may also be helpful, you could use it to stop your dog whenever you catch him or her in the act of eating poop.

There is a special formula you can add to your dog’s food to make his or her feces taste bitter. Natural alternatives to treat coprophagiaare pineapple, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

But for dogs who suffer from medical conditions, providing the right treatment and medications is the way to go.

Remember, there are different reasons why dogs eat poop and determining the reason why your dog does so is the first step to treating it.

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