Your dog has just done his business and it’s time to move on to playtime! But, before leaving the area, he leans down to the ground and gleefully begins to dine on his poop! Poop eating or coprophagy, is a common behavior in dogs. So, why do dogs eat poop?
It’s an instinct
Long ago before humans domesticated them, dogs were scavengers and they lived off whatever they could. As a matter of fact, dogs commonly ate the waste of other animals and dogs. Thus, poop eating may be a left over behavior that has persisted through the ages. Also, a mother dog is hard-wired to keep her area clean so if her pups have pooped (doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?) she will tidy up by eating it (Now that’s the kind of house cleaner I’d like to have!) Furthermore, she will do this to protect her young from any predators who smell it. Mom will usually stop eating her pup’s poop around the time they start to eat solid food and can leave the den to defecate somewhere else.
Did you know that the outside temperature can have a significant impact on poop eating in dogs? It’s true! According to dogpoopdiet.com, (that website name is a hoot!) they get four times the poop-eating inquiries in winter months than in summer months and much of it comes from northerly climates. On that note, again from dogpoopdiet.com, some dogs only like to dine on frozen poop. Did anyone say “poopsicle?”
It’s learned behavior
Sometimes, a dog will learn that he gets attention from his human parent when he eats his poop, even if it’s negative attention. When this happens, don’t scold him or it could reinforce the behavior. He can learn other behaviors from you as well. For example, if you clean up his poop while he looks on, he may copy that action by “picking up after himself.”
Dogs may also learn to eat their feces because they see others doing the same. Also, puppies learn by putting almost everything in their mouths they can find. However, most of them will develop a distaste over time.
He just likes to eat poop – but it’s gotta be fresh!
A recent study from the University of California, Davis found that among 3,000 owners whose dogs had poop eating problems, 80% preferred poop that was less than two days old. I mean, who wouldn’t!
Why do dogs eat other dog’s poop?
Talk about social status (or lack thereof). Sometimes in a home with several dogs, submissive dogs will eat the feces of their dominant housemates.
Here’s another phenomenon that can occur in multiple dog households. A healthy dog will sometimes eat the feces of an unhealthy dog. If you think about this in terms of survival, you could assume that he does this to hide the weaker dog from predators.
Why do puppies eat their poop?
Puppies eating their own poop might be a sign of boredom and they are just looking for something to do. This could happen if you leave them alone for a long time. By the way, dogs who were bred in “Puppy Mills” are more likely to experience boredom and therefore eat their feces. Don’t ever buy from a puppy mill!
Let’s get into some of the more serious causes of coprophagy. All joking aside, it’s important to be aware of these.
In the wild when a canine eats his prey, he eats all of it, including the guts which contain the right amount of digestive enzymes he needs. Unfortunately, many dogs in our modern world subsist on highly processed foods that are lacking these. Enzymes are key to a dog’s digestive health and without them, they can’t properly absorb their food. Some experts suggest that dogs eat poop to replenish these.
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
This is a condition where the dog is creating little or no digestive enzymes in the pancreas. A dog with this condition can experience weight loss, diarrhea and stool eating. This is a serious condition because if your veterinarian doesn’t treat this, your dog will die of malnutrition. Also, keep in mind that you may not see the signs of this condition until it has advanced.
SIBO & Malabsorption
This condition is similar to symptoms of EPI and is sometimes caused by it. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition where the bacteria in your dog’s bowel increase way beyond normal numbers and start to damage the absorptive surface of it. As a result of this damage, absorption of food into the bloodstream is restricted and this causes malnutrition. Again, your dog will die if your veterinarian does not treat this.
Intestinal parasites can absorb essential nutrients. Here again, your dog may not show symptoms so it’s important to consult your veterinarian.
In recent years, there has been a great deal of study on the human microbiome. This is a collection of trillions of microorganisms that live in your body and profoundly effect your health. A dog’s health is also closely related to the health of his microbiome and scientists are just beginning investigate this.
Unfortunately, the microbiome can be thrown out of balance very easily. Frequently, antibiotics and other drugs cause this imbalance (dysbiosis). However, there are also common chemicals that are culprits. The main one is glyphosate. You find this terribly nasty stuff in the weed killer Roundup, manufactured by the Monsanto company. In my opinion, they should immediately take Roundup off the market (but that’s a whole other story in itself). The US agriculture industry uses 185 million pounds every year and you will see people every year ignorantly spraying it in their yards without any protection.
Glyphosate not only kills weeds; it’s also killing you and your dog. It’s very harmful to beneficial gut bacteria. The fact is that the number of people who have measurable glysophate in their bloodstream has increased by 500% in the last 20 years. Furthermore, the levels in people who have been exposed have increased by 1,208% in that period.
Researchers have not studied dogs but you can safely assume that they are also exposed. This is connected with poop eating because they are instinctively trying to restore their gut health by eating it.
How to solve the problem – get your dog to stop eating poop
How to stop your dog from eating poop? You may have to change his diet to more biologically appropriate foods. This means no highly processed foods. Caution: there are many food additive products that claim to stop coprophagia but watch out for most of these. Getting back to U.C. Davis, their study found that these are less than 2% effective
Find foods that are high protein, high fat, low carb and no grain. Read here for some of these. There are also services like PetPlate or Ollie that prepare and ship fresh meals.
When switching your dog’s food make sure to do it gradually. This is because you don’t want to make him uncomfortable or create digestive issues.
You can also give your dog gut supplements that have a probiotic with prebiotic support and enzymes. Again, citing dogpoopdiet.com, try VETiONX. Restore for Gut Health is a product that strengthens your dog’s gut lining. Dogpoopdiet.com says that it’s a miracle for digestive issues!
Why do dogs eat poop? There are a number of reasons. Remember, this behavior is instinctual. However, it can also become a problem and may be a health issue. Always be on the lookout!
We love comments so be sure to leave yours below. Does your dog eat poop? Let us know your experiences with poop eating (your dog’s poop eating that is).