Why Do Dogs Eat Poop: Is It Safe For Their Health

A habit of our dogs that disgusts us the most is their eating poop. Dogs have many repulsive habits like drinking from the toilet or rolling in swamp muck, but their eating poop is the worst. This condition of poop-eating in dogs is known as Coprophagic. There are both psychological and behavioral reasons for eating poop by dogs and it has been observed that this is a common phenomenon. To eat poop is in the DNA of the dogs. Eating one’s own or some other species poop may be common for dogs but is uncommon for adult dogs. 

Those dogs who eat their poop are known as Autocoprophagia while dogs eating other dog’s poop are known as Allocoprophagia. This is normal behavior for dogs who are at their canine stage.  Three weeks after the puppies are born, their mother licks them to eliminate and eats away their faces to clean them up. But this habit fades away before the puppy is nine months old. They may eat stool but do not prefer soft or poorly formed stool. The basic reason for dogs eating poop is because of some environmental stress or behavioral triggers.

Why do dogs eat poop?

A very common question that comes to the mind of every dog owner is that –”Why do dogs eat poop?”. Well, there are both normal and abnormal reasons for it. They may feel isolated due to staying in basements or kennels. They may also face anxiety issues because of rough training at home. They may also prefer eating poop because it tastes good. The stool of other animals may taste good to your dogs. But there are also some abnormal reasons for your dog’s such behavior. These reasons are part of his behavioral issues. 

Abnormal/behavioral reasons:-

  • They want your attention: The dog will start searching for ways on how to get your attention. They might start eating poop as a game, for you will run to him once he has poop in his mouth. They tend to involve you to play with him. With time, they realize that this is the best way to grab your attention.
  • Keeping them clean: It is a natural way for female dogs to eat the poop of their puppies to keep them clean. This gradually drives other dogs to “clean up” stool. 
  • Puppies: Puppies are more prone to eating poop because of their curiosity. During their time of exploration, surroundings play an important part. Also, the mothers, after clearing the poop, regurgitate it to their puppies along with milk. This in turn creates an “Appetitive Inoculation” where the puppy continues to develop this bad habit.
  • They are Scavengers: They prefer the stool of other animals, like horses or cats because their stool is rich in nutrients. These nutrients are not only beneficial for them but also taste good to them
  • They get bored: It so happens that dogs are left at home alone for a long time. This can be a bit boring for them. To release their boredom, they start searching for things to entertain them. Getting some poop in the process will surely excite them.
  • They are punished: Training your dog is a good thing, but punishing him roughly is not a solution to your problem. They may cause an accident unknowingly and later try to hide the evidence. If punished rigidly, they may get stressed and start doing something they are not supposed to, like eating poop

Medical Reasons for eating poop:-

Coprophagia is usually harmless. Dogs eat poop so that they can fulfil the deficiency of nutrients and calories in their food. However, sometimes the poop may be infected with some disease or parasite. This may lead to gastroenteritis, where your dog may suffer from diarrheas’ or throwing up (vomiting)

    • Enzyme deficiency: For a wild dog, who is yet to be domesticated depends on whole prey and local vegetation for its survival. This after being eaten goes through the digestive tract which provides for the right amount of digestive enzyme. But the problem arises when they are fed highly processed diets. Dogs create their digestive enzymes, but they are not always enough for absorbing their nutrients. Thus, the food passes undigested. Dogs are most likely to eat this undigested food which causes the dog to throw up. As an owner, you should provide your dog with such foods that complete his daily diet. In this way, you can ensure that your dog is free of diseases.
    • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI): Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is a genetic condition where the dog is unable to create any pancreatic enzymes. As a result, they need to be supplemented with enzymes. However, this condition is rare. But, it can have later symptoms like- weight loss, diarrheas’ and stool eating. This condition is also known as Pancreatic Insufficiency.
    • Parasites: Poop eating may lead the dog to throw up because of the undigested bacteria and eggs of intestinal parasites. Besides eating the food treated with infection or parasites, there are other problems too. The intestinal parasites also require food. In case your dog suffers from a worm burden, he will have to fight the parasites for his nutrients. Gradually, it results in getting him fewer nutrients with the growing parasite. 
    • Increasing appetite: Diseases like diabetes and thyroid might make your dog feel hungry even though he is not. Even dogs who are given steroids become ravenous to eat stool.  
    • Malabsorption: Poor absorption of the nutrients usually lead to poop eating. They may try to eat their undigested food to gain back the lost nutrients. Therefore, it is important to keep a check on the poop they seek. 
    • Underfeeding: A scheduled food chart for your dog, if provided at regular times, will keep him fit and healthy. If you find him losing his health, try feeding him more.

Other deficiencies:

Your dog may suffer from hydrochloric deficiency which may lead to ageing. The hydrochloric acid breaks the proteins in the body so that your dog can easily digest the food.  If he lacks any nutrients, he might look out for poop. Dogs also suffer from dementia which makes them disoriented and they start acting differently. In such cases also, the dog may tend to eat poop and throw up.

Is it dangerous for dogs to eat poop?

The act of ingesting poop may have some good effects but it also has some side effects. By eating the poop of other animals, they come in direct contact with the diseases. They can digest every medication that the other animal has gone through. There are certain signs which show that your dog is sick. These are:

  • Gastroenteritis
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Tiredness

How to prevent the dog from eating poop?

The basic way of preventing your dog from eating poop is by stopping them from practicing it. This is the best solution to your problem. You can also try adding something to your dog’s diet so that the poop states bad to him. You can also take advice from your veterinarian if necessary. Besides these, there are other methods that you can follow.

  • Cleanliness: This is the easiest job. All you have to do is keep your yard clean from other animals or your own pet’s poop. If you have cats at home, try keeping the litter box clean. Pick up your own dog’s stool soon after he has eliminated. 
  • Keep him playful: Always try to keep your dog fit and healthy. Set up a routine for his exercise and mental stimulation. Choose good play toys for him so that he can pass his time in your absence. Redirect his attention towards you so that he is not diverted to the poop right after elimination. You may also reward him for listening to you.
  • Provide him with the best diet: Ensure that he is eating a raw, whole varied diet that is full of proteins. The raw food will provide him with those digestive enzymes that will help him in processing the meals. Raw, green tripe is very high in digestive enzymes and probiotics. In case you are providing your dog with cooked food, you may have to add some digestive enzymes to it.
  • Added supplementary: Try adding some kelp for a trace mineral deficiency to the food. In the case of hydrochloric deficiency, add some apple cider vinegar. These will act as a substitute for the missing acids and help the body compensate for the acids.

You should also know how to train your dog so that he will listen to your every command and follow it likewise. In the case of adult dogs who eat poop because they are scared of punishment, should be stopped from giving any punishments. As an owner, you should be patient and well-behaved with your dog. You must also have access to every behavioral issue of your dog. If you are unable to solve it, try recommending a veterinarian. You can also try using a head collar to distract him from poop.  Such attempts will make your ‘handling a dog’ easier.

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