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Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? Causes of Coprophagia

by ShaRhanda R. Bynum
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(Last Updated On: May 9, 2020)
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Dogs are wonderful creatures. They’ll face every situation with unflinching loyalty to you and will rarely leave your side when you’re in trouble. They are lovely bundles of fur that will play with you when you’re happy and comfort you when you’re sad.

Dogs are indeed a man’s best friend.

However, if you don’t train your dog correctly, there are several things it may do that will drive you absolutely insane. Today, we’ll look at one of those: why dogs eat feces. If you’ve been wondering why your pet who’s always there for you can’t help themselves from eating feces, we’ve got the answer for you.

Why Do Dogs Eat Feces?

1. Learning

Dogs are excellent learners, which is why they are such valuable companions to humans. They’ll quickly learn whatever you teach them, but you may not know exactly how deep this capacity for learning goes.

For example, if you decide to rub your dog’s nose in poop when it suffers from an ‘accident,’ your pet may choose to make the evidence disappear the next time the ‘accident’ occurs. By the way, rubbing your dog’s nose in poop is one of the worst ways to discipline a dog – please don’t do this!

If you’re always cleaning up after your dog and it frequently sees you doing so, your dog may try to imitate you by attempting to clean up after itself on its own. It’s an adorable thought, but the reality of it isn’t so adorable.

If you have a puppy that eats its own poop, don’t worry too much. Puppies learn by putting new things in their mouths, and most puppies start to find poop disgusting after the first few times they have it.

Female dogs also often eat their puppies’ stool to keep the area clean and the puppies hidden from predators.

2. Health

If your dog isn’t getting enough nutrients or is suffering from some ailment, it may eat poop to try and improve its health. Some health-related reasons why your dog may be eating poop include:

  • Parasites
  • Pancreas issues
  • Other medical conditions

If your dog has somehow adopted this disgusting habit, you need to take it to the vet. You may even be saving your pet’s life!

If you’ve got multiple dogs and one gets sick, you may notice that the healthy dog will eat the unhealthy dog’s feces. Nobody’s sure exactly why dogs do this, but the prevailing theory is that this is a form of pack behavior – a way to ‘hide’ that a pack member isn’t operating at peak strength.

3. Diet

This ties in directly with nutrition – if you’re feeding your pet the wrong stuff, this may be directly causing its poop-eating behavior. A dog’s digestive system is evolved to eat a very particular diet, and the food we give our pets often isn’t what they need.

Modern diets contain a lot of plant protein and carbohydrates, which may play havoc on a digestive system designed to break down massive quantities of animal protein.

Another essential nutrient that causes coprophagia (the technical name for eating feces) when absent in a dog’s diet is Vitamin B. If there’s little or no Vitamin B in your dog’s food, this may be why it’s feasting on its own feces.

dog looking at food

Make sure you’re feeding your dog enough. If your dog isn’t getting enough food, it may try to fill its stomach in ways you may not like. It’s always good to feed your dog on a schedule, so it always knows when food is coming.

As a responsible owner, you also need to exercise moderation in how you feed your dog. It may seem tempting to provide your pet with a steady stream of nutrient-rich animal food – this should prevent any nutritional deficiencies, right?

While it may help with nutrition, an overfed dog is likely to eat its own poop. Too many nutrients means the dog’s system can’t absorb everything, and your pet doesn’t like wasting food, which makes it ‘recycle’ its poop.

4. Neglect

While many physiological reasons may cause a dog to eat poop, you also need to consider behavioral reasons that may be the culprits. Your dog’s behavior can often be linked to your routine, so take a look at whether you’ve been giving your pet the attention it needs.

Many dogs eat their own poop because they are trying to get your attention. If you scold your dog after noticing it has eaten its stool, you’ll merely be reinforcing the behavior. Negative attention is still attention, and a neglected dog won’t hesitate to act out to get your attention.

A dog that’s lonely and bored may resort to eating poop as a way of spending time. If you don’t keep your dog’s living area clean, it may also decide to clean the area itself – in its own way.

What Should I Do About It?

Now you know the main reasons why dogs eat poop, you can start taking steps to eliminate the problem. Unfortunately, you’ll seldom be able to pinpoint the cause immediately. Trial and error is the only way to find out why your dog is eating poop, and it’s often a long and tiring process.

1. The Vet

The vet should be your first port of call when you discover your dog eating poop. Vets will typically know a lot more about pets than you and may be able to tell you exactly why your dog is doing what it’s doing.

If your dog has a medical problem, visiting the vet is the best way to nip it in the bud. After all, prevention is always better than cure, isn’t it?

2. Pineapple

Pineapple for dogs that eat poop may seem like a kooky idea, but there’s solid science behind it. Raw pineapple contains a proteolytic enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down proteins and improves digestion.

Dogs can eat pineapple

If your dog is eating his own poop because of a deficiency in its diet, pineapple may do the trick. Make sure you use fresh pineapple, however, because the canning process for pineapples destroys a lot of the enzyme that your dog needs.

3. Behavior

Dogs are surprisingly similar to toddlers. They crave attention, love you with a passion, and learn a lot from the way you behave. If you’re acting grumpy when picking up poo, your dog may decide to lend a helping hand.

Unfortunately, there are dozens of ways to deal with different behavioral issues that may cause poop eating, and this article isn’t about that. We’ve given you a few ways you could try to get your dog to stop eating its poop, but we’ll leave it at that!

Conclusion

Dogs are amazing creatures that make excellent pets. However, they also come with a great deal of responsibility. Owning a dog necessitates knowing how you’re going to feed it, clean it, play with it, exercise it, and hundreds of other crucial things.

And it’s natural to wonder why dogs eat poop!

Eating poop may be disgusting to you, especially when you know your dog is going to lick you with its feces-tainted tongue, but keep in mind that your dog isn’t doing it to annoy you. Don’t get angry at your dog, or you just might end up worsening the situation.

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