Zoey has always had an infatuation with her own poop… and I can’t for the life of me imagine why. What we humans would consider a form of torture, our dogs seem to think is a tasty treat! Why do they do this? Should we be worried? And how can we get them to stop?
Coprophagia is the technical term for eating and ingesting feces. I was relieved to find out that Zoey’s poop fetish is completely normal. Many animal species enjoy the occasional poo-poo platter.
A Visit To The Vet Is Necessary
In most cases, coprophagia is NOT a sign that your dog has a disease that you should be worried about, but in other cases it can be a sign of an underlying issue. Step 1 if your dog is eating poop is to take her to the vet for tests to make sure she is healthy. Medical conditions that could be causing your dog to eat poop include:
- Vitamin deficiency
- Increased appetite
- Thyroid disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Neurological disease
Jeez… is that all? That’s a lot of medical issues to worry about all because of one disgusting habit that many of us probably assumed was just “a dog being a dog.” But don’t freak out just yet! Most of the time dogs eat poop for non life-threatening reasons.
Your veterinarian will run medical tests to determine if your dog is suffering from any of the diseases or medical conditions that cause some dogs to eat poop. You will also want to discuss your dog’s diet, appetite, nutrition, and environment with your vet.
Lack Of Nutrients Causing It?
Some dogs have an interest in eating their poop because they aren’t getting enough nutrients in their diet. Sometimes there are food particles in the poop that didn’t get digested. Dogs smell this and think of it as fresh, uneaten food. They may be unable to digest the nutrients the first go-around and eat the partially-digested particles in the poop to meet their nutritional needs. This is the most common reason that dogs eat poop. It tastes good! Even though we can’t possibly begin to understand how… If you believe your dog is eating her poop because she needs better nutrition, consult with your vet or a pet nutritionalist about what diet is best for your dog.
The ASPCA suggests making sure you’re feeding your dog quality food. They state that you really can’t find high-quality dog food in supermarkets and sometimes can be mislead by the brands at the big box pet stores. The ASPCA suggests finding a quality pet supply store and looks for premium brands with human-grade ingredients. Always read the labels on the dog food you consider purchasing. Choose a brand that has one or more whole meat sources and no meat-by-products.
Dogs That Eat Other Animals’ Poop
Some dogs don’t just love to eat their own poop, but they will eat other dogs’ poop as well. Our dog Jem will follow Zoey or other dogs around the yard waiting for them to go potty so she can get her stinky snack at it’s freshest. This is also very common in many dogs, but sometimes more risky than a dog eating his own poop.
It’s important to make sure your dog never ingests the feces of dogs that are strangers. You don’t know if these other dogs are receiving the vaccinations and preventative care that is required to prevent the spread of diseases. If your dog is exposed to other dogs’ poop that is carrying diseases that puts your dog at risk.
A Mom’s Natural Instinct
Moms will also eat the feces of their puppies, so puppies may copy this behavior and keep doing it out of habit and curiosity. Once it has become a habit for your dog, it can be difficult to break. But it is definitely possible with the correct training.
A Technique To Get Attention
Some dogs will eat poop to get attention if they feel punished or neglected. For dogs, any attention is better than no attention at all. A lot of them prefer to be scolded rather than being ignored altogether. Try spending more time with your dog, go for more walks together, and take car rides to show your dog that she is loved and important.
Your Dog Is A Neat Freak
Other dogs who like a neat and tidy environment will eat their poop to clean their area. Some dogs think they’re doing a great job of cleaning the back yard when they eat their poop. Pups that have an accident inside may also eat their poop in an effort to clean the space.
How Do I Stop This Behavior?
The surest way to avoid your dog eating poop is the watch your dog when she is outside and clean up after her every time she goes #2. This isn’t always realistic for everyone to find the time and means to clean up after your dog every time. Many people don’t pick up their dog’s poop because they don’t want to dispose of it in the trash can and deal with the nasty smell and contamination. You can get a Doggy Dooley for your yard to make clean up sterile and convenient. The Doggy Dooley gets buried in your yard and chemically breaks down poo so you never have to deal with the smell in your trash can when you scoop the poop from the yard.
Natural Food Additives To Stop Poo-Eating
Many experts believe that the products on the market that claim to discourage your dog from eating poop don’t actually work. There are liquids and powders to add to your dog’s food that claim to make the poop taste bad to the dog and keep him from eating it. Popular opinion is that these are not healthy to use long-term and don’t actually work. Some people have successfully discouraged their dog from eating poop by adding certain human foods to the dog’s food. Pineapple or foods with sulfur such as brussels sprouts or cabbage will discourage the dog from eating his poop. I’m going to try this in Zoey’s food and see if it works!
Correct The Behavior With A Training Collar
You can also use the aid of a training collar to associate the bad behavior with a correction. Consistency is key with this type of training. You’ll have to give your dog a correction every time he tries to eat the poop consistently for a few weeks until he avoids the poop completely. Your dog may regress and go back to his old ways, so you’ll have to reinforce the training later on down the road if/when this happens.
What Not To Do:
Most importantly, you should always remember what not to do. We want to correct our dogs’ bad behavior, never punish them in a nonconstructive way. Punishment for an act like eating poop will only make your dog more likely to eat the poop next time as a way of “covering up the evidence” to avoid getting punished again.
There’s been a belief by many people for years that you should rub your dog’s face in urine and feces when you’re potty training. This should never be used as a form of training, according to the ASPCA. If your dog is eating poop, never resort to rubbing her face in it to get her to stop. It won’t work to put an end to the behavior and can only lead to more problems.
Most importantly, never physically hit or harm your dog as a form of punishment for eating poop or any other behavior that you don’t approve of. Dogs are very loyal being by nature, and they want to please their “masters” if they are given the chance. Communicate with your dog in a way that she will understand the cause and effect of her behavior. Physical punishment is not understood by your dog and will only lead to aggression, fear, and acting out.
Do you have any techniques that worked to get your dog to stop eating his/her poop?