Our border collie puppy was a poop eater. I think he thought it was a game, he’d watch one of our other dogs go poop, run over to it, pick it up and start eating it. If we motioned in his direction, he would start running away with the poop in his mouth so he could finish eating.
Yes, it was gross, disgusting, stomach-turning. It had to stop!
I had no idea why he decided he wanted to eat poop. He was our first dog that ate poop. So, I went on a search to find out why does my dog eats poop. Come to find out, poop eating is so common in dogs, there is a clinical term for it, coprophagia.
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cop·roph·a·gy: the eating of feces that is normal behavior among many animals
Some people say it is a deficiency in a dog’s diet, and I’ve also read it was a behavioral issue, so which is it? I reached out to several veterinarian experts to get an answer as to why my dog eats poop.
Our six experts include:
- Steffi Trott and Dr. Corinne Wigfall, BVMBVS registered veterinarian, SpiritDog Training
- Dr. Megan Conrad, Hello Ralphie
- Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS, head veterinarian, Breed Advisor
- Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS, Consulting Veterinarian, FiveBarks
- Dr. Maureen K. Murithi, DVM, Happy Pet Animal Consulting Services, hepper.com.
Why does my dog eat his own poop, other dogs’ poop, rabbit poop, and/or deer poop?
The big question… WHY? Why would your adorable dog want to eat poop? I mean seriously, this is the most disgusting habit… in our eyes as humans anyway.
Each of our experts agree dogs eating poop is a common behavior in the canine world, traced back to their canine ancestors. Coprophagia can sometimes be caused by a medical issue or behavior issue.
Three of our experts explained the reason why dogs eat poop in detail.Read on what each expert has to say about why our dogs eat animal feces:
Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS tells me,
“While this behavior [dogs eating poop, a.k.a. Coprophagia] can embarrass some owners, it is a common ‘bad habit’ that up to one in five dogs develops during their lifetime.
Puppies are the most frequent offenders, as they love to explore with their mouths and their curiosity often gets the better of them. However, dogs of any age can eat their own poop or the poop of another animal.
The reasons that dogs do this varies from individual to individual. For a small number, it is indicative of a medical issue such as a nutritional deficiency, endocrine disorder, or parasite burden. If this is a new behavior in your dog or they are displaying other symptoms, a vet check is sensible.
Some dogs eat poop because they are bored, and it is something to do. This is especially true of dogs who are crated or kept in back yards for prolonged periods. These dogs benefit from more mental and physical stimulation and less confinement.
If your dog has ever been punished for pooping inside, they may have learned to eat their poop to ‘hide the evidence’. This sort of poop eating is associated with anxiety and can be linked to other disorders including behavioral anxiety.”
Megan Conrad adds,
“Some dogs raised in an environment where they used the restroom in the same place they slept sometimes form a habit of eating their stool to keep the area clean. We often see this in puppy mill dogs and dogs who come from hoarding/unclean situations.
Second, as crazy as it sounds, some dogs like the taste. This is especially true when you catch dogs eating other animals’ stools. For example, cat stool has a high amount of fat in it due to their diet, making it very tasty for dogs.”
Maureen K. Murithi, DVM states,
“Anecdotal studies show that this habit [dogs eating poop] traces back to the ancestral canids who used to eat poop to protect their pack from intestinal parasites in the rest area.
Dog mothers are also fond of this where they lick their puppies to help stimulate defecation as well as clean up after them during the first 3 weeks of life.
Other common causes of coprophagia include a deficiency in some nutrients, conditions such as diabetes and Cushing diseases which increase appetite, malabsorption syndromes, presence of parasites, drugs (e.g steroids).
Environmental stressors are also a common cause. This includes isolation in kennels for long periods. Anxiety resulting from punishment during house training.
Dogs may defecate and later eat to prevent punishment. It’s also a form of attention-seeking behavior. They do this to get a reaction from their owners. Pet owners should be careful not to overreact.
Feeding dogs in proximity with their poop can condition them to associate food odors and that of poop making them unable to tell the difference.
Confinement in small spaces for an extended period can enable this behavior probably due to high stress.”
Medical reasons why some dogs eat poop
Always rule out a medical cause if your dog suddenly takes up eating feces.
Dr. Corinne Wigfall, BVMBVS tells me that “Your vet will complete a full clinical exam on your dog, a feces samples assessment is advised to check for parasites, and blood tests may also be required.”
Medical causes of coprophagia can be from:
- Underfeeding or eating a poor diet
- Digestive enzyme deficiencies (EPI)
- intestinal Parasites
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies and malnutrition
- Illnesses such as diabetes, thyroid disease, Cushing’s disease, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
- Medication side effects, such as steroids
How to stop a dog from eating poop
All six vets agreed that prevention is key.
Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS says,
“The best way to prevent poop eating is to remove the temptation. Try to walk your dog regularly, scooping their poop with a plastic bag when they go. If they poop in the yard, clean it up right away.
For those dogs who eat other animals’ poop, keep them away from areas where those animals tend to defecate.
In some cases, a basket muzzle can be used when the dog is outside the home as needed.
Teach your dog a ‘leave it’ command to use when they start to investigate poop. If they do not eat it, you should reward their good behavior with a high-value treat, so they feel it is worth it to ignore the poop.”
Poop eating deterrent for dogs
You are desperate, you will do anything to stop your dog from eating poop, am I right? So, do commercial food additives work to stop dogs from eating poop? Is there a miracle product that will stop your dog from wanting to eat his feces?
According to Dr. Megan Conrad, “Food additives appear to be minimally effective, and the same goes for home remedies like meat tenderizer and pineapple. These are all still worth trying, however, as they could work for some dogs.”
Here are the five top-selling supplements used to stop dogs from eating their own poop. These supplements only deter your dog from eating his own poop:
Home remedies to stop your dog from eating poop
Several home remedies claim to stop your dog from eating poop. The theory is that these additives make the dogs poop taste terrible to them… like poop isn’t disgusting enough by itself, LOL.
I am all for going natural, but beware the studies show the success rates with these natural remedies are very low.
Dr. Linda Simon warns, “More ‘natural’ alternatives like adding pineapple to your dog’s dinner are unlikely to help and could cause stomach upset.”
Pumpkin to stop dog eating poop
Pumpkin is a superfood, so while it may not be the one-and-done solution to stop your dog from eating his poop, it does have fantastic health benefits. Many of the commercially produced poop deterrents have pumpkin in them for a reason.
I give our dog Native Pet Pumpkin Powder. It’s easy to add a little to his food plus I can make treats with it, or add it to his frozen Kongs. And I never have to worry about opening a can of pumpkin puree only to waste half of it.
How much pumpkin to give a dog to stop eating poop is going to depend on the size of your dog. Native Pet suggests 1 tablespoon of pumpkin powder for every 25 pounds.
Mix pumpkin supplement powder with cold water per the serving directions (and stir thoroughly).
|1-25 LBS||1 tbsp||1 tbsp|
|26-50 LBS||2 tbsp||2 tbsp|
|51-75 LBS||3 tbsp||3 tbsp|
|76+ LBS||4 tbsp||4 tbsp|
Pineapple to stop dog eating poop
Pineapple contains bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme that is rumored to make stools taste nasty to dogs.
But as pumpkin is good for our dogs, so is pineapple, so it can’t hurt to add some to your dog’s food. It’s packed with vitamin c and other minerals. Fresh or frozen pineapple is best, avoid any added syrup or sugar.
Meat tenderizer for dogs
Meat tenderizer is a popular home remedy for stopping dogs from eating his own poop. BUT I am not thrilled at the idea of putting in my dog’s diet, these are high in MSG and sugar, two ingredients I try to avoid
The two top brands of meat tenderizers for dogs I see recommended are:
If you are looking for more natural home remedies, make sure to download the Rescue Dogs 101 Natural Remedies Reference Guide.
My dog ate poop how do I clean his mouth?
- Make sure your dog has access to clean fresh water.
- Wipe the outside of your dog’s mouth with mild soap and a clean, wet towel.
- Brush your dog’s teeth daily, whether they eat poop or not.
- Wipe the inside of your dog’s mouth with water and a damp towel.
Dr. Megan Conrad says,
“Despite how gross you think your dog’s mouth is after this behavior, you don’t need to clean it out, though it certainly won’t hurt.”
Why is my old dog eating poop all of a sudden?
If your dog is suddenly eating poop, your dog could have an enzyme deficiency, pancreatic issues, parasites, malabsorption issues, diabetes, Cushing’s, thyroid disease. Prescribed drugs like steroids may cause a dog to suddenly start eating poop.
No matter your dog’s age, you should contact your vet and discuss the possible causes of the sudden onset of poop eating.
Can eating poop kill your dog?
Eating poop will NOT kill your dog but can make them sick or contract a disease.
As Dr. Corinne Wigfall explains:
“There are diseases that your dog can get if they eat another dog’s poop. Parasites such as worms, tapeworms, giardia are passed through stools. They can also contract bacterial diseases such as campylobacter from eating another dog’s stool.
Whilst not transmissible, eating too much dog poop can cause gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea, and make your pet feel unwell.”
Dr. Megan Conrad tells us that “Eating stool isn’t necessarily dangerous for your dog but does carry the risk of picking up bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella, as well as intestinal parasites, coccidia, and giardia.”
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt points out that “One important consideration if you have a dog that eats poop, is a zoonotic disease. These are diseases your dog can pass on to you.
Dogs that eat poop will be likely to have salmonella, campylobacter, and other diseases in their mouths, which can cause illness in people.
You should take extra precautions such as washing your hands regularly [and not allowing your dog to kiss you in the face] if your dog eats poop.”
Why Dogs Eat Their Stools Survey
The School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California‐Davis, performed a study “The paradox of canine conspecific coprophagy”. I found the results very informative and interesting, so here are all the charts and data found in this study.
Survey Results (partial list)
There were 2,561 total responses to the Why Dogs Eat Their Stools Survey. 1,475 for returns for dogs being seen eating stools greater than 10 times and at least weekly. See source for details.
There are a total of 37 charts in the original document, if you are a fact geek, you can see all of the results on the NCBI web page.
Success of management or behavior-modification procedures attempted
|Procedure||Number of dogs||Seemed to cure the problem||Seemed to help, but not cure the problem||Seemed to help only at first but no lasting cure||Did Not Help|
|Pick up all, or most, stools||1,323||24||355||276||594|
|Laced stools with pepper (embedded) to make them aversive||295||3||48||83||155|
|Yell or chase away from stool||1,048||11||235||236||536|
|Reward the dog for “leaving it alone”||424||15||127||106||173|
|Use a citronella spray collar when the dog starts to eat stools||27||3||1||12||11|
|Use a sound emitting or electronic collar when the dog starts to eat stools||56||1||11||21||23|
Success of commercial dog food additive treatments tried
|Treatment||Number of Dogs||Seemed to cure the problem||Seemed to help, but not cure the problem||Seemed to help only at first but no lasting cure||Did not help|
|21st Century Deterrence||6||0||0||3||3|
|Stop (Solve) Stool Eating||27||0||2||7||18|
|The Dog Poop Diet||6||0||0||1||5|
|I have not tried any of these||875||1||3||5||73|
Success of non-commercial food additives tried
|Additive||Number of Dogs||Seemed to cure the problem||Seemed to help, but not cure the problem||Seemed to help only at first but no lasting cure||Did not help|
Dog’s affection level
|Level of Affection||Number of Dogs||% of Total|
|Affection – Very affectionate||999||70.5%|
|Affection – Moderately affectionate||313||22.1%|
|Other (please specify)||66||4.7%|
|Affection – Relatively non-affectionate||40||2.8%|
Type of dog stools dog eats
|Type||Number of Dogs||% of Total|
|Eats either its own or other dog’s stools, whichever is available||717||48.3%|
|Only eats stools of other dogs||475||32.0%|
|Only eats its own stool||151||10.2%|
Eating of other animals’ stools
Out of 7,991 surveyed dogs, 1,591 (19.91%) have eaten feces of another animal. The species of those animals are broken down in the chart below:
|Animal Species Feces||Number of Dogs|
|Wild birds (geese, ducks, crows)||269|
|Domestic or pet birds (chickens, parrots)||102|
Our dog Thunder grew out of his poop-eating phase. I remained very vigilant at picking up dog poop immediately the entire summer. As I write this, he’s 20 months old, and I am happy to say he has not eaten poop for almost a year. Just don’t ask me if he likes to roll in wild animal poop, LOL.
The results of the survey above indicate those food additives, whether natural or pharmaceutical is ineffective… they just don’t work. Companies know we as pet parents are desperate, so we will try anything.
My recommendation is avoiding the availability is your best bet. It’s also important to fix the root cause of why your dog wants to eat poop. If your dog is bored, increase his physical and mental exercise routine. If your dog has a medical reason for eating poop, talk with your vet to find the right solution for your dog.
I also highly recommend adding a probiotic to your dogs diet. It will ensure your dog is getting all of the nutrients he needs.
Please share your experience below, it could help someone else in our Rescue Dogs 101 community that is struggling with their dog eating poop.