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Gross! Dr. Sophia Yin tackles a disgusting habit of dogs: eating poop.
How many of you dog owners have been a victim of this scenario? Your dog enters the room and sees you on the other side. He tosses his ears back, puts on a smile, wiggles his way over and gives you a big smooch. For an instant you’re overjoyed but then you realize, “That’s not normal doggie breath. Yuk. It smells like poop!”
If this has happened to you, rest assured, you’re not alone. According to a study presented at the Dr. Benjamin Hart at the 2012 ACVB/AVSAB Animal Behavior Symposium, 16% of dogs are serious stool eaters (a.k.a. copraphagia), meaning they’ve been seen eating dog poop at least 5 times. For those of you who have lived with a cat and dog together, I’m sure the situation seems even worse—it seems like a majority of dogs will eat kitty poop eventually if they have access.
You might think that such a foul habit points something abnormal such as a nutritional deficiency or that it means Fido’s not getting enough to eat, but according to Hart, that’s not true. In their survey-based study of 1548 dogs where the researchers compared poop eaters with non-poop eaters, they found that diet was not an important factor. However the did find that the size of the household was.
“The more dogs you have the more likely your dog will eat poop,” says Hart. “19% of poop eaters were in single dog homes whereas 24% lived with two dogs and 30% lived in a three-dog household.”
A second study survey looking at super poop eaters only—dogs who had been seen eating poop over 10 times, shed more light on why this trend would be so. It’s because they’re not eating their own poop that much. “Eighty five percent of poop-eaters ate the feces of other dogs,” states Hart. Meaning that the more dogs, the more access to feces from other Fidos. Yes, it just gets grosser.
You might wonder how poop-eating could become such a common pastime among dogs. It all began over 10,000 years ago when dogs started hanging out near humans so that they could scavenge off our trash. This tendency to scavenge can be seen in the present day "wild" model of the domestic dog—the village dog. While dogs in the U.S. experience the luxury of a cozy home, free meals, and regular veterinary check-ups, three quarters of the world’s dogs are feral dogs, most of whom have chosen to live in villages near people. These mottly mutts make their living by preying on stolen tidbits, human leftovers, and feces of all kinds. Those tame enough to hang out close to humans and human dumpsites and indiscriminate enough to eat anything with nutritive value survive the best.
Many of our coddled domestic dogs retain a strong desire to scavenge. They raid trashcans and left out lunch bags. And interestingly enough, Hart found that the best predictors of poop eating was weather or not the dog was a greedy eater. 52% of the stool eaters in his study stole food off tables. Only 27% of non-poop eaters showed this lack of impulse control.
So if you have a greedy eater will he become a feces foodie? It depends on his access to the morsels, the level of other interesting activities, and personal preference. Luckily for most owners, like humans who never develop a taste for snails, many dogs never develop a taste for poop. And even though dogs in Hart’s study were greedy, they were still picky enough to go primarily for the fresh stuff. 75% of dogs at poop that had been around for only 24 hours and 92% only ate poop within 1-2 days.
Now for the big question: what should you do if your dog likes to feast on feces? Well, don’t bother with the commercial products. Hart’s survey found that of the 12 commercial anti-copraphagia food additives on the market—For-Bid, Nasty-habit, and Potty Mouth to name a few—none worked in more than 2% of dogs and many didn’t work at all. On the other hand, what could possibly taste worse than poop? Yet, lacing with chili pepper didn’t work either. Nor did using an electronic collar, yelling “leave it!” or trying punishment-based techniques that people tend to use. That’s most likely because the dog still has a desire and may just learn to avoid performing this nasty habit in front of you.
A more successful, but inconvenient, solution is to just deny access to the delicacy by cleaning it up ASAP. Also, instead of reactively punishing Fido, proactively call him to you before or as soon as you see him heading towards the stinky delicacy. Then reward him for coming when called and staying where you want while you go out and scoop the waste.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
When a new mother dog or her puppies eat poop, it is considered normal for reasons we will get to in the next section. But why do adult dogs eat their own poop? Here are the most common reasons for coprophagia in adult dogs.
This main reason for coprophagia, in a nutshell, is animal instincts. When your dog is lacking the necessary nutrients from its daily food regimen, it will find other ways to get those nutrients. Yes, even if it means eating its own feces.
In order to prevent this, make sure your dog is getting all the necessary nutrients daily. This means never missing any of their regular meals and giving them the recommended dog food portion. Not sure what the portion is? Consult with your vet.
Even some healthy snacks in between meals is a good idea. Keep in mind, if you purchase any of the top brands of dog food, they should contain all the necessary nutrients.
Note: Studies have shown that when dogs lack Vitamin B1, they are more likely to develop Coprophagia. Looking for fruits and vegetables with Vitamin B1? Try feeding your dog some pineapples, cucumbers, tomatoes or cantaloupe.
Sometimes it isn’t the owner’s fault that the dog isn’t getting enough nutrients. Malabsorption Syndrome is a medical condition where the dog does not fully absorb the nutrients of the food in the small intestine. It’s not a very common syndrome, but it does happen.
As a result of the disease, the dog’s natural instincts kick in and he’ll try to consume more nutrients by salvaging the leftover nutrients in the feces. This is a serious condition and should be checked by a veterinarian.
It’s rather common for a dog to eat dirt or other things that shouldn’t be digested while playing outside. Unfortunately, these dogs are exposed to parasites, like stomach worms, every time they go out for a walk.
If parasites live in your dog’s system, it could explain why they are trying to get more nutrition from eating their poop. Consult with a veterinarian to see if this is a possibility for your dog with coprophagia.
There are certain dog diseases that may significantly increase the appetite of the dog. And if they’re not getting enough food from home, they’ll find anything that’s edible to consume, including their own poop.
These diseases include (but are not limited to) Diabetes, Thyroid Disease or Cushing’s Disease (usually with older dogs). Always consult with a veterinarian to rule out any of these possible diseases.
Have you ever heard about cases where the adolescent kid of neglectful parents act out and do terrible things, presumably to get the attention of their parents?
Your dog could also be trying to get attention from their actions of consuming poop. Sure enough, eating poop generally elicits a reaction from the owner. And when they realize that eating poop is “working,” you better bet they’ll continue to do so.
Like all humans, dogs can get anxiety from various things. But how does anxiety cause them to eat their own feces? In the early stages of house training, some owners are a little too harsh with their punishments.
The fear of getting punished will cause them to build anxiety every time they poop and may try to get rid of the “evidence” by eating it. Of course, owners are likely to give harsh punishments if they eat their poop, thus causing this vicious cycle that could possibly continue into adulthood.
The best way is to try positive reinforcement every time your dog doesn’t eat poop by rewarding them to “leave it.”
Research and studies have shown that when a dog is isolated from the rest of the humans and spends a significant amount of time in a kennel, they are more likely to eat their own poop.
There is no conclusive evidence on exactly why, but it could possibly be because they are seeking attention or from the intense stress of isolation.
If a dog is confined in a restrictive space, they are also more likely to eat poop too. These are all stressful situations that could trigger a psychological problem, thus leading to coprophagia.
Keep in mind that dogs are social creatures. They love to be around people and are generally happiest when their family is playing or interacting with them.
Regardless of the dog’s nature to eat poop, it is still a bad habit. We have to discourage this undesirable behaviour. What can I do to stop my dog from eating poop?
Dogs eating cats’ poop (when there are cats and dogs living in the same household)
In addition, canines are natural scavengers. At some point in our lives, we have seen our pet dog rummaging through our things and garbage. The cat poop that smells and tastes edible is an attractive dessert for a dog.
Did this article answer your questions? Do you still have more questions? Read more blogs concerning pets’ health.
Despite the fact that nearly all dogs who eat cat poop won’t build up problems, it still makes common sense to make an effort to stop these activities. The perfect way to prevent dogs from eating cat poop is to do away with their access to it. Place litter boxes in locations where the cat can straightforwardly access them, and your dog should never be able to do so.
If you’re still anxious why do dogs eat cat poop, you can use pet doors, or litter box fixtures with petite openings. A self-cleaning litter container can also lend a hand, even though a few dogs learn to raid the container earlier than the cleaning cycle embarks on.
Keep a few treats readily available, so you can reward your dog for defying the urge to consume anything that they might locate along your way.
If you’re a dog owner, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this unpleasant behavior in your adorable pooch—coprophagia, or feces consumption. Whether your dog eats their own stool, “tootsie rolls” from the litter box, or random poop piles on your walks, coprophagia is a puzzling and disgusting behavior, especially if you enjoy your dog’s kisses. Your four-legged friend may engage in this gross behavior for many reasons, including the following, which are most common:
Coprophagia can be a serious concern in pets, and can be a sign of underlying disease if they begin eating their stool or other pets’ feces.
Looking for help to break your dog’s bad habit? If your furry pal regularly eats their own feces, contact us to ensure they do not have a nutrient deficiency, or other issue.
Dogs eat poop for several reasons, and that can be due to wanting attention, boredom, dominance behavior, neglect, avoiding punishment or health issues.
The scientific name for your Pug eating poop is known as coprophagia, which generally refers to the ingestion of canine’s own poop or another animal.
It’s NEVER a good thing when you see your Pug eating their own feces or droppings they find on the ground. The great thing is that there are some things that you can do to stop this behavior, but first let’s take a look at why you shouldn’t just ignore it.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a Pug behavioral problem, but all dogs regardless of dog breed will eat poop.
Mindy went through this phase for a while and we used Coprovent Coprophagia. It is known to work for some dogs. I’ll share some more methods below that you can try below.