Why Dogs Eat Their Poop?
Dogs eat poop for a variety of reasons. Some are normal and some are signs of an underlying issue.
If our furry friend eat their poop, they may have a Malabsorption Syndrome. This Malabsorption Syndrome is common to senior dogs but some dogs—even the young ones may also have this syndrome. Malabsorption Syndrome happens when a dog is unable to fully absorb the nutrients in their small intestines. To combat this disease, the dog eat their feces to consume more nutrients.
On the other hand, the scientific term for the habit of poop-eating is coprophagia.
Meanwhile, here are the normal and abnormal reasons why dogs eat their poop and how to stop it according to Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB in an article published in petmd.com last November 2020.
Normal Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
A dog eating poop is normal in the following scenarios:
1. They Are Nursing
Nursing female dogs eat the poop of their young to keep their den clean.
2. The Poop of Other Animals Tastes Good to Them
Dogs sometimes eat the poop of another species. The stool of other animals, such as horses or cats, contains nutrients that can be beneficial (but it can also contain harmful bacteria, so it’s best to discourage this).
Abnormal Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop
Eating their own poop or another dog’s poop is not a common behavior, and you’ll need to find out what’s causing it. Here are four reasons why an adult dog will do this.
1. They Want to Get Your Attention
Some dogs may have started eating poop when they are young because they feel like it’s a game. For example, when puppies are young, they may explore by grabbing their poop with their mouths. If your dog does this, you will probably run towards them and yell some form of “drop it.”
When this happens, some puppies may be startled and will drop the poop and never touch it again. Other puppies may interpret the yelling as an excited invitation to play.
As a result, they dart away, and then suddenly, an impromptu game of chase occurs. These puppies have learned another way to get their owners to “play” with them.
Your dog may not even necessarily want to play but might simply want you to engage with them. This is then carried over as your dog becomes an adult as a learned behavior that gets them attention.
It’s really difficult to not pay attention to a dog that’s eating poop.
2. They’re Not Feeling Well
If your dog is eating poop, they may not be feeling well.
When you have a puppy or dog that eats other dogs’ poop or his own poop, you should have your pet examined by your veterinarian. Coprophagia can be associated with diseases of the intestinal tract and sometimes other parts of the body (liver, brain, etc.).
If your adult dog has never been a poop eater and suddenly develops the habit in association with symptoms of disease, like weight loss, lethargy, discomfort, other behavioral changes, vomiting, or diarrhea, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will need to perform diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has an underlying medical problem, such intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies, or gastrointestinal disease.
3. They Have Anxiety
Other dogs eat poop as a displacement behavior when they are anxious. If an anxious dog is confined, they may defecate and eat their own poop.
Possible sources of anxiety that can cause coprophagia include:
- General anxiety
- Worrying about being confined
- You being away from them (separation anxiety)
- Lack of enrichment activities when confined
4. They’re Scared of Being Punished for an Accident
Some dogs may learn as puppies to eat their poop if they have been repeatedly punished by their owners for defecating in the house.
The dog may eat the evidence because they’re worried about being punished.
How to Stop a Dog From Eating Poop
If your puppy or dog is eating poop, the best way to help them is to put systems in place that prevent them from practicing the habit.
After you’ve determined why your dog eats poop, you can try these solutions based on the reasons behind the behavior:
Redirect Your Dog’s Attention
When you have an adult dog that has been eating poop for a long time, then it’s very important that you go out with your dog whenever they need to defecate.
As soon as they are finished, call them over to you for treats and then either put them back in the house or toss a toy for them to chase while you pick up the stool.
If your dog immediately turns around to eat their poop and does not listen to you, then you will need to keep your dog on their leash and lead them away as soon as they have defecated.
To truly discourage your dog from eating poop, you will need to continue to manage your dog and restrict access to the poop to prevent a relapse.
Some people are successful in teaching their dogs a “leave it” cue and then a “come” or automatic “sit” by their owner’s using positive reinforcement.
The real key is to always offer plenty of praise and high-value treats to your dog when they choose not to immediately go for their poop. To help, you should find a super high-value treat that they only get in these scenarios.
Utilize Dog Training Tools
Using a head collar may be helpful to guide your dog’s head away from the fresh poop. Turn them away and then pick up the stool immediately.
Some people have tried placing basket muzzles on their dogs to deter them, but some very determined dogs may simply learn to smush the muzzle on top of the poop to eat it.
Another tool that can stop a dog from eating poop is the use of a foxtail field mask. The fabric mesh has tiny holes and makes it difficult for poop to be pushed through the openings.
Make the Poop Less Appealing
If your dog is eating their own poop because it tastes good to them and they’ve developed the habit, you can also try using dog chews that are made to discourage this behavior.
These chews can be given in conjunction with your efforts to keep your dog away from their poop by distracting them with toys or using training tools.