For those of you with a dog at home or those of you who love dogs, you know that some of their habits aren’t very polite. In fact, some doggy behaviors are downright confounding and a little nasty. Yes, I’m talking about consuming poop. Not all dogs do it, but if you have one who does like feces, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Why do dogs eat poop?
It can be quiet worrisome if you have a pup who exhibits this behavior. Are they at risk? Is there something “wrong” with them? You’ll be surprised to find out this is common behavior and there are ways to train your dog not to consume fecal matter. Before we get to training, let’s talk about the matter at hand.
What’s Appealing about Poop?
If your dog likes to eat poo, don’t be hard on yourself. A study released by researchers at the University of California at Davis found that 16% of people with dogs say their pup eats other dog’s feces. There’s comfort in numbers, right?
The American Kennel Club has more reassurance. For some species, like rabbits, eating feces is a normal way to consume nutrients. And it is even typical behavior for puppies and their moms. Dog moms will lick at their baby to encourage elimination and puppies may consume feces as they learn about the world around them.
For non-puppy dogs, the reasons behind consuming feces may date back to the dog’s ancestry. Benjamin Hart, a veterinarian who conducted the research study at UC Davis, surveyed 3,000 people with dogs. The study didn’t find evidence linking coprophagy (poop consumption) to age, dietary differences or compulsive behaviors. They also didn’t find that dogs who consumed feces frequently had trouble with house training.
Then what was the common ground? The study showed more than 80% of the stool-consuming dogs preferred feces no more than two days old. Hart told The Washington Post that he attributes the dog’s preference for fresh poo to a dog’s wolf ancestry.
Hart told the post, “Wolves typically defecate away from their dens, in part because feces contain intestinal parasite eggs. But if, say, a sick or lame wolf did its business at home, the waste wouldn’t necessarily be dangerous immediately. Parasite eggs usually don’t hatch into infectious larvae for a few days.” So the dogs would eat the feces more quickly as to not get infected.
PetMD has some other ideas about why your pup may eat their feces. Your dog may be bored, want your attention, or be stressed. These can be treated, and we’ll talk more about that later.
Okay, there are some reasons behind the appeal. But there’s the outstanding question of potential danger.
Is Poo Harmful to Eat?
It depends. The American Kennel Club and Wag say that ingesting fecal matter from another animal (think: cows, horses, sheep) is potentially harmful to your pup. Even other dogs’ feces should be avoided. When your dog consumes feces from another animal, they are ingesting whatever that other animal ate.
If your dog consumes his own feces, there is less to worry about since he has already ingested that food.
Your dog may also consume cat feces. It’s enticing to dogs because the stool smells like cat food. Dr. Jennifer Coats, a vet, told PedMD that, like other forms of poop, it could possibly harm your pup. Feces contains a lot of bacteria and it could make your dog ill, but not definitely.
If you are concerned and notice some differences in your dog’s behavior or mannerisms, call the vet. Some symptoms to look out for are vomiting, nausea, lethargy, no interest in food, or diarrhea.
What Can You Do About It?
If your dog is part of the 16% that consume feces, you’re probably wondering how you can change the behavior. There are a few different tactics you can take.
Some vets think dogs consume feces because of a Vitamin-B or enzyme deficiency. They may prescribe these supplements to your dog’s diet. Other vets suggest modifying your dog’s diet with more fiber or adding yogurt or papaya to your dog’s food because it may make their stool less edible. Before you change your dog’s food, call your vet and make sure they approve.
There are other ways to teach your dog to break the habit of eating poop. Most of these are simple and you can start making some changes right away.
- Clean up your dog’s living space. If there is no poop in their vicinity (think: your backyard), they won’t be able to eat it.
- Teach your dog to leave it and use the command when your pup prepares to eat the poop.
- Offer your dog toys to keep him engaged when you aren’t around. Get your dog the BetterBall. It’s a toy and a game and it offers a reward when your dog manages to retrieve the treat.
- Supervise your dog during their walks. If you typically let your pup roam free in the backyard to do her business, keep a watchful eye to monitor her behavior.
You Aren’t Alone…
…if your dog consumes feces. Try not to be embarrassed by the behavior. There are ways you can help your dog learn not to eat their poop or other animals’ poop. Talk to your vet and make some simple changes to their living area and walk schedule.