A Not-So-Discerning Palate: Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Dog with nose in grassOur best dog pals have some wonderful traits. They greet us at the door, show unconditional love, and are always ready to go for a run. But eating poop (and other gross things) is not one of the things we love about them!

The issue of poop-eating has certainly caused many a dog lover to make a face, yell, and get grossed out –and we can’t help but wonder why our dogs do it.

At The Maywood Veterinary Clinic, we’ve heard this question many times. We’ve seen our own dogs in action enough to be able to answer some of these questions. So let’s dive in and learn more about why dogs eat poop.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Why dogs eat poop is an age-old conundrum. The scientific term is coprophagia, and it’s not uncommon among wild or pet dogs. Mother dogs and wolves commonly eat the poop of their puppies to keep the den clean, adult wolves may also eat poop to keep their dens clean.

The causes of coprophagia may also have other behavioral causes as well. These include:

  • Boredom
  • As a way to avoid punishment for defecating in the house (get rid of the evidence)
  • Anxiety
  • Not being fed enough
  • An underlying medical condition
  • Out of habit after learning to keep their bedding from being soiled (usually after a long confinement, as in puppy mills)

What To Do If Your Dogs Eat Poop

Even if the reason makes a bit more sense, poop eating is still a nasty habit. Not only that, it is unsanitary and can pose a health risk to people. So what can a conscientious pet owner do to help alleviate this behavior?

The first thing we need to do is rule out a medical condition. In rare cases, coprophagia can be caused by anemia, parasites, liver disease, or malnutrition. After we are sure those are not problems for your dog, consider the following suggestions.

  • Eliminate access to poop by picking up your yard immediately.
  • Distract your dog when on walks by offering a treat immediately after he defecates, and picking up the stool and disposing of it.
  • Increase the number of daily leash walks, stimulating toys, and exercise
  • Never punish or shame your puppy for having accidents in the house. Use the positive training approach instead.
  • Alter the taste of the feces by adding a meat tenderizer to your dog’s food (when you stop adding this, your dog may go back to eating his feces)
  • Make sure your dog is not learning this behavior from “friends” and littermates.

Poop eating in dogs is a common behavior, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it forever. Give us a call at (201) 800-6039 for ideas and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment.