Have you ever noticed your dog nibbling at his poop? We all know that dogs eat the strangest things. They may devour their dog food and gobble up their favourite treats. They might also have unwanted behaviours, such as eating socks or nibbling on grass. One of the strangest canine behaviours might be eating poop.
Is Coprophagia Normal in Dogs?
Known as coprophagia, poop eating is a common behaviour, especially among puppies. A 2012 research published at American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior annual conference discovered that 16% of dogs were observed eating feces at least five times, while 24% of dogs were caught in the act at least once.
On the other hand, animal behaviourist Steven R. Lindsay, who is the author of Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, found out that coprophagia could be a survival behaviour which has evolved to cope with starvation in canines.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Coprophagia is fairly common in canines. Many dogs and puppies do it for a variety of reasons – they can be behavioural or medical.
Eating poop could be as simple as "doggy see, doggy do". Many young puppies start consuming feces while they are still in the litter since it’s an evolutionary behaviour learned from their mothers. According to PetMD, it’s very common for the mother to practice coprophagia for cleanliness and to keep her babies safe from predators. Since puppies are in the process of learning how to be dogs, they may naturally follow her lead and do what she does.
Growing dogs are curious. Like human babies, young puppies also have a tendency to put everything in their mouth. They could be simply attracted to the strong scent and eat poop out of curiosity.
Another theory comes from a nutritional standpoint. It suggests that dogs may eat poop to make up for a nutritional deficiency. Poor diet, underfeeding and parasites may result in poor absorption of nutrients and breakdown of food particles. A medical condition called Malabsorption Syndrome is a digestive disorder interfering with an animal’s ability to absorb nutrients. As a result of the disease, a dog may have more enticing stool with undigested bits of food in it, causing stool consumption..
Other possible reasons for your dog eating poop include:
- Boredom: Your dog may eat poop simply because he is bored. Dogs who are home alone all day may eat poop to pass time.
- Stress: Stress will often drive dogs to eat their own stool. Puppy mill dogs are a common example of this.
- Intestinal parasites: Be sure your pooch hasn't picked up worms. Any type of parasite hanging out in your dog’s digestive tract will consume nutrients from his dog food. This means your dog isn't getting what he needs and can increase hunger, causing the behavior of poop eating.
- Hunger: Hunger caused by underfeeding could make your dog feast on anything, including his own stool.
- Attention-seeking: Playing with or consuming poop usually attracts a great deal of attention from the owner, which may further reinforce the dog’s behaviour. It's very important to recognize that the fuss you make when your pet misbehaves may actually be encouraging the unwanted behaviour. A positive redirection is a much better strategy.
- Dogs simply enjoy doing it: Sometimes there's just no obvious reason.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop?
Coprophagia is a common issue among both puppies and adult dogs. There are several ways to help combat this bad habit.
- The easiest way to prevent your puppy from eating poop is to not react. Your puppy may eat stool to get your attention. If you catch him in the act, don’t make eye contact or speak. Instead, always immediately clean up after your puppy as soon as possible so he doesn’t have a chance to eat it.
- Make sure you are feeding your dog a healthy, nutritious diet. If your dog is showing signs of poor digestion, such as a low weight, vomiting, lethargy, discomfort, poop with large pieces of undigested food or watery poop, get him to the vet immediately.
- Provide your dog with plenty of exercise with walks and playtime. Looking for a way to keep your furry friend busy and entertained while you're out? These pet-friendly toys will entertain your dog for hours when he's home alone. Also, you can take your dog out for a day of sunshine to explore at these dog-friendly parks in Malaysia!
- Always clean up after your dog as soon as possible.
- Always keep your dog on a leash when you take him outside. Gently pull him away from other dogs’ poop. As soon as your pooch walks away from the poop, reward him with a treat. Check out our best dog treats for training - these tasty dog treats work great as a training reward that your dog will crave!
- Get your dog to the vet for regular check-ups and keep an eye out for signs of intestinal parasites.
Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?
If your dog shows signs of poor digestion or won’t stop eating poop, contact your veterinarian immediately. In these cases, consuming stool might be a sign of parasites or disease. Also, be sure your dog is up to date with his vaccinations and worming treatment.