Why is My Dog Eating Poop? Treatment and Prevention

Why is My Dog Eating Poop? Treatment and Prevention

Alpha Paw Sale

Jul 23, 2021

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

There are two main reasons why dogs eat poop – a medical issue or a behavioral issue. Sometimes, you might be able to prevent your dog from eating poop. It does require lots of dedication on your part. Luckily, the methods are not complicated and even children can help. We will discuss the methods in the sections below.

Unfortunately, there are instances when stool eating might not stop no matter how much you try. In that situation, you cannot prevent or stop your dog from eating feces unless you go to the vet so they can be diagnosed properly.  The only thing you can do is to clean their paws and mouth properly so they are not licking their paws and causing more issues.

Why is my dog eating poop? Treatment and prevention

Medical causes

Deficiencies

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can make dogs eat apparently unnatural things. But there is a disease is called Pica and will make a dog eat other things, not just poop – such as the paint on your walls or rocks. Chewing on household furniture, rotten wood or rocks can also expose them to other kinds of health dangers such as parasite infections. 

A lack of digestive enzymes can also cause stool eating. Digestive enzymes are extremely important when it comes to how your dog’s body absorbs nutrients from food. If they do not have enough, adult dogs will try to get sustenance from other sources.

A lack of hydrochloric acid can also lead to your dog eating its own poop. In this case, while your dog is eating enough food, there might not be enough hydrochloric acid in their digestive system to break down the proteins from dog food — which will make your pooch eat poop in an attempt to get the nutrients that they need.

Understanding the ingredients in dog foods, and what your dog can and can’t eat is important.  This information will be very important to the vet so keeping a log of their diet is recommended when you start to notice your dog is eating poop.

Parasites

Dogs that have parasites eat their own poop in an attempt to recover some of the nutrients they lost due to the parasite infestation. Sadly, internal parasites are usually located in the intestines. If the parasites reproduce in the small intestine, the dog’s digestion can be completely ineffective.

Malabsorption

Intestinal malabsorption in dogs can be caused by a very large number of conditions from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency to inflammatory bowel disease.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can lead to malabsorption, too, but stool eating is also common in dogs that have dietary sensitivities and neoplastic infiltration.

Pancreatic Health Problems

We’ve already mentioned exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, but it is far more common than you might think. Some dogs that eat their own poop can have a too low amount of pancreatic enzymes in their system, which makes them incapable of absorbing the nutrients from the food they eat.

Besides poop eating, pet parents can notice other symptoms if their dogs have this health issue, such as weight loss or diarrhea.

Why is my dog eating poop? Treatment and prevention

A Lack of Nutritional Food

Any dog that doesn’t benefit from proper nutrition will resort to eating poop. Even worse, they might even eat the poop of other dogs, which could create serious health complications — but we’ll give you more details on that in a section below.

When a dog’s food does not contain the right ingredients, pets can use coprophagia (the scientific term that describes poop eating) as a means of getting the nutrition they need. Setting a consistent feeding routine is important for your dog. Then, if your dog is still hungry after feeding time, it may indicate an underlying issue.

No matter the type of chews or kibble you pick for your dog, it needs to provide them with the right sustenance so that they aren’t tempted to steal food or engage in coprophagia. Alpha Paw Vitality dog food and Multi-Vitamin Chew is highly recommended for maintaining a healthy diet for dogs.

Behavioral Causes

Anxiety

When a dog eats poop, something is clearly wrong, but it could be something in their environment, not their body. Sometimes, stress and anxiety will cause a dog to react in atypical ways such as eating poop.

If you’ve taken your canine friend to the vet for a checkup and they weren’t able to find any physical change that could lead to this behavior, your dog might be anxious or stressed because of a reason. Unfortunately, we don’t speak dog language and they don’t speak the human language. Learning the reasons and then helping your dog reduce her stress can be difficult.

For example, dogs may eat poop when they have general anxiety, but they could also constantly worry about being locked up in the house without you being there.

Other dogs can suffer from separation anxiety and there is, of course, a large category of dogs that can become sad or stressed when they don’t get enough exercise or their owners don’t play with them enough.

Anxious dogs should be given calming chews on a regular basis.

Boredom

Let’s face it. Your dog’s poop isn’t the most appetizing thing in the world. But a bored dog may resort to a variety of activities if they lack any other entertainment opportunities.

If you leave your pup alone at home (make sure it’s puppy-proofed) for all of the hours you’re away to work, you can’t expect your pet to be completely content with the amount of boredom, inactivity, and loneliness they have to cope with.

Bored dogs will chew on your shoes (especially if they don’t get enough chews or treats and they’re still puppies and teething), will ruin pillows, and last, but not least, eat poop.

Being A Puppy

Eating poop is more common for puppies as they are more likely to have as many experiences as possible. They also want to find out how things taste, so poop eating can be quite common in their case.

However, most puppies will stop coprophagia if they get the right nutrients from dog food and if they are engaged in a variety of physical activities. Puppies may also become bored and exhibit this behavior, and we all know how active young dogs can be.

Punishment

If you made the mistake of punishing your dog if they’ve had an ‘accident’ and peed or pooped indoors rather than waiting for you to take them out for a walk, your dog may become concerned.

All of this worry can lead to them eating poop so that you don’t have to see it. In other words, your dog can eat the poop just to hide it from you.

Properly potty training your dog will benefit both of you in the long run. Whether it’s training to use the bathroom outside or inside on a pee pad,  never hit a dog when she has an accident. Swiping, hitting, and pushing your dog will only cause more behavioral issues in the long run. Always train your dog with positive reinforcements.

Seeking Attention

Dogs may sometimes resort to eating poop as a means of telling you that something’s up and that they need more attention and care from you. It might not be the best way of showing you this, but the behavior often works.

If you seem receptive to this type of behavior, it’s very likely your dog will do it again to get your attention.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Eating Poop?

First of all,  since you can’t know for sure the exact reason your dog has this strange behavior, our first advice is to take your dog to the vet hospital. Secondly, keep your home clear of poop.

If your dog just used a pee pad, clean it up promptly. If you are walking your dog, scoop up the poop immediately with a strong, odor-absorbing poop bag. You don’t want your dog to tear the bag or be distracted by it during your walk.

Vets can use a variety of diagnostic techniques to find out what’s wrong (if there is anything wrong, that is) with your dog. Keep in mind that sometimes medical issues might not be at the root of the problem. Below are two nonmedical reasons why dogs could be eating poop.

Give Them Attention On A Consistent Basis

Chances are that if you give your dog enough attention, spend quality time with your pet every day, you aren’t going to see any stool eating. Knowing when your dog is happy or sad, and understanding how to care for them will go a long way in reducing their stress and thereby, poop eating.

Improve Their Diet

Low-quality dog food that lacks the necessary nutrients a dog needs could trigger poop eating.  We recommend feeding a high-quality diet such as Alpha Paw Vitality dog food. In addition, give them probioticssupplements, as well as plant-based digestive enzymes. More often than not, this behavior will disappear.

Kick Their Bad Habit

Sometimes poop eating is just a bad habit. Dogs, like humans, can develop different habits and not all of them are good. As we previously noted, dogs sometimes eat poop out of because they want your attention, or as a way to relieve stress. Over the years, it becomes a bad habit that needs to be broken.

Is Eating Poop Good For A Dog?

Feces aren’t rich in a particular nutrient. In fact, they are lower in nutrition and also contain a variety of potentially dangerous things (such as germs). It has little to no effect on a dog’s diet and it doesn’t significantly modify the nutrients that the animal receives.

They are less dangerous than some of the common household foods that are toxic to dogs.

How Do I Clean My Dog’s Mouth After Eating Poop?

Wiping your dog’s mouth out can be quite challenging and now too many dogs are going to like the technique. But something must be done since the smell of the feces combined with your dog’s regular bad breath can be a disaster and very hard to take.

You can use coconut oil, saltwater, and a wet cloth to get the visible remains removed at first. Then you should give your dog food and water.

A dental chew or dog mouthwash can prove their worth in this situation. Whatever you do, avoid using human mouthwash as it contains a series of dangerous ingredients and alcohol, which dogs should never drink.

Why is my dog eating poop? Treatment and prevention

Can Dogs Get Sick From Eating Poop?

While poisoning as a result of poop eating is quite rare, it is true that stools aren’t exactly clean. If a dog eats their own poop, they might not get sick at all other than experience mild digestive distress due to the bacterial growth in the feces.

The real problem is when a dog eats some other animal’s poop. When that happens, they can pick up a variety of things from potentially dangerous bacteria to internal parasites — which can make matters even worse as they might cause malabsorption and make the dog eat poop even more.

Final Thoughts

If you are worried about your dog eating poop but they are still a puppy (less than nine months of age), chances are that this behavior will disappear when they get older. It’s also more common in puppy mills as puppies there experience a very high level of stress.  Fortunately, it usually goes away on its own after the pup finds a loving home.

Did your dog go through a phase of eating poop? If so, what happened and how are they now? Share your story in the comments.

Alpha Paw Sale
author image

Dr. Christina Vulpe, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Cristina Vulpe is a board-certified small animal veterinarian. She earned her veterinary degree in 2011 from USAMV in Iasi, Romania, and her PhD in Canine Oncology in 2015 from USAMV in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She is passionate about anything from animal nutrition & welfare to veterinary parasitology & infectious diseases. As a responsible pet parent herself, she enjoys giving reliable medical advice that pet owners can trust, which is why she joined Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts on our mission to help our readers give their pets the happy & healthy lives they deserve.

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