Why Do Dogs Eat Poop & Ways To Stop Them

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop & Ways To Stop Them

It is relatively normal for dogs to eat poop; in fact, one in four dogs will do it at some point in their lives. Eating poop is known as coprophagia and there are a variety of reasons why dogs do it. Read on to discover the reasons, risks and ways to stop dogs from eating faeces.

Reasons Why Your Dog Eats Poop 

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There are a number of reasons why dogs eat poop, some are normal and others may be cause for concern. It’s common for dogs to eat the poop of other species such as horses but when adult dogs eat their own poop (or the poop of another dog) it could be a sign of an underlying issue. 

Below are the most common medical and behavioural reasons dogs eat poop:

Medical Reasons

Possible medical causes for poop eating include intestinal parasites, a nutrient or calorie deficiency, malabsorption diseases, thyroid problems, diabetes, and certain medications. 

If your dog suddenly starts eating poop, eats poop regularly, or is showing other signs of illness, speak to your vet to help rule out health issues.

Eating poop may be a symptom of a bigger issue. Fortunately, most medical causes can be treated and this will also stop the behaviour. Common treatments include supplements, dietary management, medication or parasite prevention. 

Behavioural Reasons 

It is more common for dogs to eat poop due to behavioural reasons, particularly when it comes to younger dogs. 

1. Mother & Puppies 

It is normal for mother dogs to clean up their puppies’ poop by eating it. This happens for the first 3 weeks after the puppies are born. 

It is also natural for puppies to eat poop (their own and the poop of other dogs and other animals). Puppies tend to stop this behaviour at around 9 months old. 

2. Boredom & Isolation 

A dog that is bored, isolated, or spends a lot of time in a small space is more likely to eat poop. 

3. Scavenging 

A dog may be eating poop because they think it tastes good or smells like food. It is quite common for dogs to eat horse or cat poo for this reason. Hungry dogs often eat poop. 

4. Attention Seeking 

Some dogs do it because they know they will get a reaction from their owners. 

Young dogs in particular may feel like it is a game. If their owner shouts and runs towards the dog when they eat poop it can feel like a fun game of chase. This encourages the dog to do it again in the future.  

Whether the dog thinks it’s a game or not, it may be simply trying to get your attention. 

5. Punishment 

Some dogs are punished for pooping in the house when they are young. This can lead to dogs eating poop because they are worried about being punished. 

6. Stress/Anxiety 

Stress and anxiety can be possible causes of coprophagia. Whether this stems from general anxiety, separation anxiety, anxiety from being confined or a lack of enrichment when confined. 

7. Learnt Behaviour 

Dogs learn behaviours from watching other dogs. If your dog has seen other dogs eat poop, they may have picked up the habit by mimicking this. 

The Risks Of Your Dog Eating Poop 

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Most of the time it is harmless for your dog to eat poop. However, there is a risk of picking up parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Keep your dog up to date on their worming treatments and try to prevent them from eating poop where possible. 

If your dog has eaten poop, offer them fresh water and food to help wash their mouth out. You can also wipe their mouth with a wet cloth and brush their teeth with dog toothpaste to try to get rid of any lingering smells. 

When To Contact Your Vet 

Consult your vet if your dog is regularly eating poop, has suddenly started eating poop or you’re concerned about their behaviour or health. Your vet will be able to help rule out health issues and help advise you on how to manage the issue. 

How To Stop Your Dog Eating Poo 

There are several approaches you can take to discourage your dog from eating poop. 

1. Pick up poop immediately 

Keep the garden clean and pick up any poop straight away so there is none for your dog to eat. Dogs are more likely to eat faeces when they are fresh so limiting their access to poop by clearing up after your pets will help prevent the behaviour. 

2. Play games 

Keep your dog’s attention on you when outside by playing interactive games. A toy is a great distraction for dogs that use their time outside to look for poop to eat.  If your dog is active and has plenty of mental stimulation they are not going to be bored.

3. Teach the “leave it” command

Training your dog with a strong “leave it” command will help you break their habit of poop eating. Positive reinforcement and patience will resolve the behaviour over time.

4. Feed A Good Diet 

Ensure your dog is getting everything they need from its food. Consider switching their diet or introducing dietary supplements if necessary (chat with your vet before making any changes). 

5. Don’t react when your dog eats poop

Try not to make a big deal out when your dog eats poop. Your dog may realise it is a way to get your attention or they may develop a fear or behavioural issue if you react negatively towards them. 

Why It’s Important Not To Punish Your Dog 

It’s best not to react when your dog eats poop as if you show you are upset it could lead to behavioural issues. Eating poop is natural for dogs and there could be a medical reason behind their behaviour. 

What Should You Do If Your Dog Eats Cat Poo 

A lot of dogs seem to enjoy eating cat poop. To prevent the behaviour, ensure the cat litter tray is cleaned regularly and is located out of reach of your dog. 

If your dog is always going to the litter box, consider using a litter box with a door or lid or placing the litter box in a room your dog cannot access (but your cat can).

Cleaning Your Dog’s Mouth After They’ve Eaten Poop 

If your dog has eaten poop, offer them food and fresh water. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe around their mouth and if your dog has a toothbrush give their teeth a clean using dog-friendly toothpaste. 

You can also give them a dental stick to help clean their teeth. When cleaning your dog’s mouth, always give them lots of praise so the experience is stress-free.  

Want To Know More? 

If you’d like to learn more about your dog’s health and behaviour take a look at our guides on puppy health, why dogs eat grass, and which dog breeds are the healthiest.

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