Our scoopologists at Scoopology Pet Waste Removal often get asked by customers if they should be concerned their dog is eating poop. Poop-eating, also called coprophagia in dogs, is surprisingly common in the following scenarios:
- They Are Nursing
Nursing female dogs often will eat the poop of their young to keep their den clean. For about the first three weeks after birth, mother dogs will lick their puppies to urge them to eliminate and clean up their poop by eating it. Dogs, of course, are not human, so canine behavior that is utterly disgusting to us is just natural behavior to them and nothing to be concerned about.
- The Poop of Other Animals Tastes Good to Them
Puppies are naturally curious. Just like human babies they tend to explore with their mouths. While some puppies are satisfied with a big sniff, others can’t help but take a taste. According to vets, poop eating is generally considered part of the process of exploring the world around them.
Dogs, especially puppies, will not restrict themselves to just dog poop. Horse manure and goose droppings seem to be especially appealing to our canine friends. Cat poop can even be considered nutritious. In most cases, dogs who eat their own poop is considered harmless, but consuming poop from other animals, even nutritious cat poop, may cause health problems if the feces is contaminated with parasites, viruses, or toxins.
In one of the most cited studies on coprophagia, researchers led by Dr. Benjamin Hart, from the University of California, presented the 2012 findings at the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior annual conference. Hart and his team found:
- 16 percent (one in six) of dogs are classified as “serious” dog poop eaters, which means that they were caught in the act five times
- 24 percent of the dogs in the study (one in four) were observed eating poop at least once
- 19% of poop eaters were in single dog homes whereas 24% lived with two dogs and 30% lived in a three-dog household
- Eighty five percent of poop-eaters ate the feces of other dogs
- Female dogs are more likely to eat poop, and intact males were least likely
- 92 percent of poop eaters want the fresh stuff, only one to two days old
- Hart found that the best predictors of poop eating was whether the dog was a greedy eater. 52% of poop eaters in his study stole food off tables. Only 27% of non-poop eaters showed this lack of impulse control.
When Should I be Concerned?
Medical and physical reasons for coprophagia in dogs:
- Intestinal parasites – The parasites are feeding on the dog’s nutrients
- Endocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) – This is a disorder where the pancreas is not producing digestive enzymes; the food being ingested is not broken down nor are the nutrients being absorbed (the dog is starving)
- Underfed – Not feeding the dog the right amount of food
- Poor quality diet – Malnourished – Dogs diagnosed with deficient diets need to be fed a better-quality commercial food. It is recommended that you read the ingredient label; the first ingredient should be a protein not a “by-product”
- Inappropriate association with real food: Dogs who are fed in proximity to their poop may make a connection between the odors of food and those of feces and will be unable to tell the difference.
- Prescription medications can make a dog very hungry
Behavioral reasons for coprophagia in dogs:
- An abused dog that was not being fed (got used to eating his own feces)
- Puppy mill puppies that were neglected and overcrowded causing anxiety issues
- Puppy wants to seek the pet parent’s attention
- Boredom (no activities or playtime)
- Kenneled/isolated for an extended amount of time
- Attention-seeking: Dogs eat their own poop to get a reaction from their humans, which they inevitably will. So, if you see your dog is eating poop, don’t overreact.
What Can You Do?
Dogs are pack animals and do not do well being isolated or confined. They require love, activities and attention. In addition, picking up feces from the yard by using a pet waste removal company like Scoopology may also help your dog stop eating feces. If the poop isn’t sitting around waiting to be eaten, it won’t be eaten. There are also deterrent soft chews made of natural ingredients which may also help your dog stop eating their own feces.
In some cases you may try Taste-aversion products: The theory is that certain tastes and smells are as disgusting to dogs as the idea of stool eating is to us, so adding a poop-eating deterrent to food or treats will make the poop that’s being produced less appealing. Many of these products contain monosodium glutamate, chamomile, pepper-plant derivatives, yucca, garlic, and parsley. Just remember to treat all the dogs in a multi-dog household if there’s a poop-eating problem! Some owners will also use a bitter-tasting spray to make poop taste worse.
Training – New Beginning Dog Training is great place to start. Work hard on the cues “leave it” and “come.” One simple exercise is to teach your dog to come to you for a food treat as soon as he has pooped. That way, the dog will develop a habit of paying attention to you for a tasty tidbit, instead of turning toward the revolting one on the ground.
If after trying all the above consult with a veterinarian about possible underlying issues. The following are some recommendations (tell them Scoopology recommended them):
- Grays Harbor: Raintree Veterinary Center, Blue Cross Veterinary Clinic, Brady Veterinary Hospital
- Thurston County: Healthy Pets Animal Hospital and Deschutes Animal Clinic
- Kitsap County: Kitsap Veterinary Hospital
- Mason County: Shelton Veterinary Hospital
- Pierce County: Farris Veterinary Clinic and University Place Veterinary Hospital
- King County: McMonigle Veterinary Hospital, Lake Union Veterinary Clinic, A Valley Animal Hospital
There you have it – the nitty, gritty on dogs eating poo. Remember, Scoopology poop removal may be all you need to eliminate the temptation. We offer weekly, twice a week, and bi-weekly service. If you are looking to just catch up on your poop removal – we also offer one-time cleans.