Coprophagia is a medical problem where a dog eats its own or another animal’s feces. Yuck is the first word that comes to mind! Eating dog poop is not only stomach-turning, but it’s unhealthy for pets and their pet families. Why dogs eat poop?
A dog’s stomach and mouth have the ability to fight off a lot more bacteria than you can, but too much can stool will make them sick. Bacteria can spread quickly to you when your pooch goes from snacking on some backyard landmines to chewing on toys and licking hands and faces. Double yuck.
Knowing why your pet is eating stool will help you put a stop to Coprophagia quickly and effectively, preventing both unwanted weight loss and intestinal parasites.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Is your dog a poop eater? As it turns out, eating stool is in your dog’s nature. In the wild, animals often eat the feces of other animals, particularly herbivores like rabbits, as their feces has a high concentration of excess vitamins and minerals that dogs may feel are missing or deficient in their diet.
This is a natural instinct for dogs; it is often taught to them by their mothers at a very young age. Moms often eat the feces of their young to ensure their pups are healthy.
If your dog is a poop eater, there are behavioural reasons for eating feces that are often related to stress and anxiety. Major changes in your pet’s environment and routines create tension or even conditions such as separation anxiety. Just like children, animals are sensitive to change. Many destructive behaviours can be linked to anxiety. Why do dogs eat their poop?
Also like children, pets get into trouble when bored. If you’ve ruled out stress and anxiety, sheer dog boredom may be to blame for your pet’s unsavoury taste-testing.
Although coprophagia in dogs is almost always behaviorally based, there can be medical reasons that contribute to or spark the behaviour. If your pet is experiencing weight loss, they may have a nutrient malabsorption issue which may encourage them to eat feces.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?
Your first concern when dealing with a dog that eats poop is to find the quickest and safest way to make them stop this nasty habit. Beyond being a gross habit, eating poop can lead to sickness in your pet or even you when bacteria is spread around.
Stopping this bad habit can be challenging, but there are some common methods that we have found to be successful in most dogs.
Make It Taste Bad
Coprophagia deterrents include a number of ingredients to prevent your dog from eating feces, one of which works by making your pet’s own feces taste bad. This may sound silly because it must already taste bad, but some dogs eat feces because they like the taste.
Here are a few options for making your dog's poop taste... worse:
Naturvet Coprophagia Detterents
Naturvet Coprophagia Deterrent tablets also contain a number of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to boost the immune system and metabolism and aid the digestive enzymes in breaking down food and acquiring nutrients. Filling these nutritional gaps ensures your dog won’t attempt to find these necessary nutrients himself, preventing the urge to eat stool.
Capsaicin, a natural chemical found in Capsicum fruit and vegetables such as bell and chilli peppers, creates a burning sensation when ingested. Dogs are not used to this spicy reaction and find it really unpleasant. Spray this on the stool to keep your dog from snacking.
Another flavour that generally turns dogs off is citrus. Even the smell of lemon or lime can be enough to make your dog think twice before feasting on poop. These topical applications are ideal for preventing your dog from eating the poop of other animals, like cats, rabbits, or geese, that might use your yard as a bathroom.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
If you believe your pet’s coprophagia to be a result of stress, attempt to remove the source of anxiety or lessen it. Coprophagia treatments can still be effective for pets with anxiety, but treating the condition without treating the cause is usually not effective long-term.
Consider a stress-reducing treatment alongside your dog’s coprophagia treatment to prevent your dog from falling back onto the same coping mechanism.
The Adaptil Calming Diffuser is a pheromone-based anxiety relief system. This diffuser uses stress-reducing pheromones to naturally calm an anxious dog. This hands-off calming solution can provide long-term stress relief for general dog anxiety and is helpful for dog thunder anxiety, dog separation anxiety, and for stressful events, like moving or vet visits.
Your dog may be eating poop because he is bored. Treating him with coprophagia tablets alone may not alter his behaviour if this is the case. Or, your dog may find another way to act out. Bored dogs need more mental and physical stimulation.
Interactive toys, a change of environment, some extra attention, or a daily walk or two can often be enough to relieve boredom. Some working-type dogs may need more stimulation.
Coprophagia can be a natural response to nutritional deficiency. Take a good look at the ingredients in your dog’s food. Poor-quality ingredients can leave dogs undernourished.
In the case of multi-pet homes, some dogs will only eat the feces of their other furry housemates. Coprophagia treatments can be given to whichever pet’s feces is being consumed. If you’re unsure which pet’s feces is the culprit, coprophagia treatments are safe to give to all dogs and cats.
Digging through litter boxes or taking a nibble of their sibling’s droppings is quite common. This is often a sign of sibling rivalry in puppies, and they usually outgrow the behaviour with time. If you catch your dog in the act, the "Leave It" command can be very helpful. Remember to always positively reinforce good behaviour.
Remember: yes, coprophagia is disgusting to us, but dogs are just doing what comes naturally to them. As with training for any behavioural problem, be gentle and consistent, use what tools you have, and be patient. Your dog will come around.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dogs Eating Poop
Why do some dogs eat poop?
The exact reason for coprophagia (poop-eating) in dogs is not fully understood, but it can be attributed to various factors such as nutritional deficiencies, behavioural issues, curiosity, or learned behaviour.
Is it normal for dogs to eat poop?
While it's not uncommon for dogs to occasionally eat feces, persistent or excessive coprophagia should be addressed, as it may indicate underlying problems.
Could a dietary deficiency be causing my dog to eat poop?
Yes, dogs may consume feces if they lack certain nutrients in their diet. Ensuring your dog receives a balanced and nutritious diet can help reduce coprophagia.
How can I prevent my dog from eating poop?
To discourage this behaviour, keep the yard clean of feces, supervise your dog while they are outside, provide mental and physical stimulation, and consider using deterrent products or consulting a veterinarian or trainer for guidance.
Can coprophagia be a sign of an underlying health issue?
In some cases, yes. Certain medical conditions, such as malabsorption disorders or parasites, can lead to coprophagia.
What should I do if my dog continues to eat poop despite my efforts to stop it?
If your dog's coprophagia persists, consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer to determine the underlying cause and customize a treatment plan to address the behaviour.