Why Does My Dog Eat Poop – The Definitive Guide
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By kropek2021. • Updated July 27, 2021

‘ll admit it – even as a dog trainer, cleaning feces isn’t my favorite task. But when I said I was tired of playing the janitor, seeing my dog eat poop was entirely out of the question.

I could make peace with the zoomies and even look away from the butt-sniffing, but not that. And if you’re reading this as a pet owner, I know you feel my pain. But the truth is, poop eating is another instinctive trick that dogs keep under their fur.

Well, most of the time.

Being an animal lover myself, I figured it’s time to put an end to all the stress that comes from your dog’s special diet. What if I told you that I could answer the age-old question of “why does my dog eat poop?

Below, you’ll find all the resources needed to figure out why your pet may be a poop eater and how to stop it. You won’t have to worry about the taste of their licks for much longer.

Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop

Nursing Habits

Since primitive times, coprophagia – poop eating – was a way for momma dogs to protect their puppies from predators. At nights, bears, coyotes, and the notorious snake would lurk around the den, seeking their next meal. Stool eating eliminated any distinct smells that might indicate the presence of vulnerable prey.

Today, both wild and domesticated dogs eat poop. Besides the need to guard their young, mothers make it their duty to keep their dens clean – no matter the cost.

For at least the first month after birth, you’ll also notice most dogs giving their puppies a tongue bath. The licking motion across their bottoms encourages the pup to defecate. But it also means that the mother will end up eating feces.

You know what they say:

“A mother’s love endures through all.” – Washington Irving

Hence, you can imagine why the American Kennel Club noted that female dogs are more likely to make doodoo a part of their diet.

The thing is, however, puppies tend to copy the actions of their parents – just as a child would do with an adult. They get used to the scent of feces on their momma’s tongue and grow up believing that poop eating is normal.

By the time they’re an adult, your dog might be the poster child for you know what – but at no fault of theirs.

Boredom

Let’s face it – we can’t be around our dogs 24/7. Humans spend the more significant portion of the day away from home. In most cases, that leaves our animals unattended around the house.

If your dog gets bored of being alone – which they will – then they’ll have to get creative about their time solo. Fido will likely use the toilet on your floor, especially if he missed a thing or two from training.

Sometimes, the best dog treat is the one that shows up in front of them unexpectedly. Trust me; I know how it sounds. But your pet might take a liking to their poop at that moment and eat it.

Idle feasting is also typical in adopted dogs who originally lived on the streets. The stray life is a lonely one. Homeless canines don’t have the guidance of owners nor the company of other pups to play together.

Ultimately, wandering dogs are prone to entertain themselves with an eating-poop habit.

Anxiety

Toilet training is a big step for puppies and their new pet owners. But teaching your canine requires patience. Your pup won’t develop a good habit after a single session, and accidents will happen.

If you have multiple dogs, one may learn faster than the other. Still, it’s no excuse to pressure your late bloomer. The sad reality is that not everyone understands the process, and many puppies suffer the consequences.

The hardest part of teaching your dog is waiting for them to pick up. Yelling and spanking a young canine doesn’t improve behavior. In most cases, it does the complete opposite.

“Just because we can use pressure with a dog doesn’t mean we should rely on it.”
– Pat Nolan.

Dogs who experience harsh training techniques often end up eating poop to avoid punishment. The fear of getting shamed or scolded overwhelms them. In a fit, they hide their stool in the only practical way they know.

Coprophagia is also common among pets with separation anxiety. However, their motives are quite different from that of fearful dogs.

Domesticated canines love sharing company with their owners. And they’ll do just about anything to re-establish it.

Dogs eat poop to grab their families’ attention. It doesn’t matter to them that you’ll be upset or disgusted, as long as you come rushing to their need.

Your dog’s poop-eating problem could also result from:

  • Stress, due to changes in their environment
  • Worry, perhaps due to loneliness
  • Fear of abandonment, especially with former strays
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, maybe from a pre-adoption experience

In some cases, behavioral experts even believe that a stressed puppy will eat stool to help alleviate their anxiety attack.

Hygiene

Everything is good, once performed in moderation. I’m sure you heard a saying like that before. Well, the principle applies even with our dogs.

I see quite a few clients who need their dogs to get crate trained. It’s an excellent way to help ground your pet, especially if there’s an issue with their behavior.

Some dogs love chewing items around the house. A few hours in a cage daily restricts their access to objects that might trigger these urges. For others, the crate forms part of their treatment against separation anxiety.

It’s always wise to follow your trainer’s instructions on caging (or crating) an animal. Kennels aren’t large enough to keep your dog for longer than their prescribed time. And it’s not uncommon for Fido to use the bathroom there.

If you don’t free them from confinement within a reasonable schedule, the dog will remain in the crate with their poop. Contrary to popular belief, dogs enjoy clean environments. Even in the wide outdoors, they try their best not to walk in doodoo.

Thus, in the interest of space (or lack thereof), they’ll have no choice but to eat feces.

Moreover, feeding your dog in an area near their feces can lead to confusion. The smell of stool quickly mixes with that of dog food. Before you know it, your puppy starts mistaking their excrements as part of their meal.

Medical Issues

“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” – Orhan Pamuk

As a pet owner, your dog’s health should be one of your main priorities. Fostering a positive relationship with your dog can help you identify when something goes wrong.

You need to rule out illnesses before assuming that your dog is eating poop because of a behavior issue. Coprophagia can also be a cry for help from your best friend.

If you notice your dog eating feces, it may be a sign of:

  • Starvation. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Your dog may feel like eating stool is their only option to survive.
  • Malnutrition. The dog’s diet is lacking essential nutrients that it may be able to scavenge through waste.
  • Parasites. Tiny organisms may invade the digestive system and feed on the nutrients from pet food. They prevent Fido from getting nourished.
  • Pica. Animals with this eating disorder will consume non-food items like dirt, stones, and grass. Coprophagia is its most common form in canines.
  • Diabetes. Hunger pangs are common symptoms of Insulin Deficiency and Insulin Resistance. Dogs with this sickness may eat feces in an attempt to satisfy their cravings.
  • Gastrointestinal Disease. Damage to the inner linings of the gut can cause animals to pass out most of the nutrients in their meals. Your pet might consume their feces as a second attempt to digest these compounds.
  • Thyroid Disease. The thyroid gland controls mood-related hormones that can stir up anxiety attacks in your pet. Without proper treatment, Hypothyroidism and Thyrotoxicosis can affect the dog’s behavior.
  • Dementia. Illnesses of the brain often affect canine perception. This condition is prevalent among elderly dogs. The dementia-induced confusion can lead them to eat poop for food.

Obesity, unexplained weight loss, and altered personalities are all tell-tale warnings of these conditions.

You should let a veterinarian examine your dog, especially if you notice changes in their appetite or general eating habit.

Will Dogs Eat Other Poop?

In the face of adversity, canines will use their instinct to pull through any situation. Poor nutrition can strip dogs of essential vitamins and minerals that they need to survive.

Moreover, some deficiencies have dangerous effects like fur loss, skin disease, lethargy, and increased infections. A sick puppy will go out to retrieve its own medicine.

If you own other kinds of pets, spend a lot of time outdoors, or if you live on a farm – your dog will take advantage of the opportunity.

Various animal feces have high nutritional contents that can benefit a dog’s health. Although, quite frankly, no canine should have to resort to seeking such things.

Regardless, it’s natural for a dog to know which types of poop to search out. The answers, however, might be interesting for you to find out.

Why Does My Dog Eat Cat Poop?

Initially, I found this amusing since dogs and cats have such a bizarre relationship. Don’t you think?

Unlike many other mammals, cats derive their primary source of energy from proteins. Their liver is constantly in high drive, using enzymes to fuel the body.

As a result, cat food has significantly higher amounts of protein than regular dog chaw.

It’s the main reason why dogs may rummage through a feline litter box.

Why Does My Dog Eat Rabbit Poop?

Rabbits (and most herbivores) have enlarged intestines. These structures grant them more time to digest fibrous cellulite from grass and hay.

When a dog eats rabbit poop, it’s in search of pre-digested micronutrients. Rabbit manure is rich in

  • Potassium;
  • Phosphorus;
  • Nitrogen;
  • Calcium;
  • Magnesium;
  • Zinc; and
  • Other trace elements.

A combination of these minerals helps improve and maintain muscle and bone health in canines. Their physiology isn’t that different from ours.

Why Does My Dog Eat Deer Poop?

Deers are what we like to call ruminants. Their digestive tract consists of four compartments that help degrade food into healthful compounds.

Normal deer diets constitute mainly grass and leaves. Pretty dull.

Wild creatures don’t have the luxury of eating feed with added nutritional value. That’s where the multiple stomachs come in – to ensure the deer get as much as they can out of starchy meals.

It may take a lot of energy, but natural food sources still provide them with enough critical minerals. And because of the deer’s intricate gut system, its poop is high in nitrogen and other partially digested substances.

Dogs suffering from malabsorption or pancreatic disease depend on enzymes like trypsin, amylase, and lipase to break down proteins, carbs, and fats. All these are present in deer poop.

Strangely, canines seem to like deer feces a bit more than other kinds. The facts might gross you out – I apologize. But it’s one of the things dogs search for eagerly during your regular walks through the forest.

Why Does My Dog Eat Goose Poop?

Geese generally have healthy diets. They feast on raw greens (shoots, roots, and stems) and some varieties of berries.

For whatever reason, canines find the strong smell and thick consistency of fiber-filled stool quite the attraction. But, of course, that isn’t the only reason. Most dogs eat goose poop to treat parasitic conditions.

No matter how often you feed Fido, the microbes will suck away their nutrition. Thus, your dog attempts to replenish those stores with minerals found in nearby droppings.

The early canine ancestors used this technique first to remedy their ailments. Nature can be brutal on a pup; sometimes, they have no choice but to go with their intuition.

Why Does My Dog Eat Chicken Poop?

If you’re into agriculture, you’d know that chicken manure is an excellent fertilizer. It contains substantial levels of essential plant minerals like zinc, manganese, copper, and iron.

Your dog knows that, too. That’s why both young and adult canines love sniffing out poultry poop around the yard.

Why Does My Dog Eat Bird Poop?

There’s a simple reason as to why dogs eat bird poop. Canine bodies can’t produce many of the enzymes needed to metabolize leafy greens. But since many dog food brands include plant-based ingredients, they’ll have to find some way to break down their meals.

Most small birds are herbivores – meaning they thrive on plants as their only energy source. As a result, their stool contains high levels of starch-digesting compounds like Vitamin B1, B9, and B12.

Bird poop, among others, would seem like the jackpot for your furry companion. Unfortunately, that may be far from true.

Can Dogs Get Sick From Eating Poop?

“I wish people would realize that animals are totally dependent on us, helpless, like children, a trust that is put upon us.” – James Herriot.

I want to say, “Kudos!” to your pup for taking the lead, but really, stool eating can be dangerous. Just imagine the number of micro-organisms festering on Fido’s tongue after he does the deed.

You can’t play around with health and hygiene – regardless of whether it’s your canine’s feces or some other animal’s. Your doggo’s eating habits can expose you both to;

  • Toxoplasmosis – contracted from contaminated cat stool (highly contagious for babies!)
  • Clostridium – brought on by bacteria in cat poop.
  • Campylobacter Infection -passed on via feline and chicken feces.
  • Giardia – caused by a parasitic invasion of the gut
  • Histoplasmosis – transmitted from fungi lurking in bird droppings
  • Salmonella Poisoning – passed on through bacteria-infested chicken feces.
  • Parasitic worms – contracted by ingesting Tapeworm, Hookworm, or Roundworm eggs
  • Avian coccidiosis – transmitted through bacteria found in goose poop
  • Leptospirosis – caused by deadly bacteria in deer urine (mixed with poop)

Canines who roam in cat litter may also experience constipation from ingesting too much starch.

If you noticed your pet eating poop, it’s safest to observe their behavior throughout the following week. Keep an eye open for any sign of fever, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, bloating, or excessive panting. 

And if these do arise, you should take your pup to the vet immediately. They’ll perform an exam and perhaps run some rapid toxicology tests.

Hopefully, a dose of antimicrobial medication will do.

How to Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?

Now that you know the truth about your dog’s dirty habit, it’s time to do better. With the proper techniques, you can stop your dog from eating poop. But remember, it’s a slow process.

Patterns take time to break, especially if they have some emotional connection. Adult dogs can be just as fragile as puppies. Take it in strides, and you’ll soon see a change in your pet’s behavior.

Here’s my best advice:

Use More Protein

Like I mentioned earlier, canines resort to cats’ feces because of their high protein content. If you want to curb its cravings for poop, try increasing the amount of meat you serve in their bowl.

And try to spice meals up a bit. Nothing is exciting about getting served chicken wings on a daily basis. Plus, different meat varieties hold varying nutritional contents.

Red meat, for instance, is rich in both protein and iron. So be sure to include beef and pork on the menu – just don’t overdo it. Too much of everything can have adverse effects.

Include Probiotics

Probiotics improve gut health by promoting the growth of good bacteria within the tract. The more beneficial microbiota in the intestines, the easier it is to absorb essential vitamins and minerals.

Adding these to meals can work wonders for malnourished pups, those recovering from gastric ailments, or those who just completed a round of antibiotics.

Get Supplements

Honestly, store-bought feed doesn’t come close to providing canines with adequate nutrition. Moreover, pets with absorption issues will struggle to gain access to the little benefits granted from commercial brands.

Organic vitamins and enzyme supplements help meet those requirements. They boost your pup’s ability to break down its meals and get the most out of every bite.

Fido might lose his taste for doodoo after a few weeks on a plan from your veterinarian.

Get Rid of The Taste

Adding a deterrent to fresh poop will alter its taste and make it unpleasant for your pup to eat. Some clients also managed to change their dog’s mind using cayenne pepper powder on the stool.

The choice is yours. Test it out first. And consider it a positive sign if you notice your doggo retreating prematurely from the poop site.

Just Add Water

Water does wonders for both humans and our pets. One of its prime functions is to aid in digestion. It helps absorb beneficial compounds and flush out unnecessary ones.

Drinking water after a nice bowl of Kibble can keep a canine satisfied – without any lingering appetite for poop.

Restrict Access

Cats willingly use the bathroom in their litter box but don’t always do a great job covering their poop afterward. Besides, if the container is within your dog’s reach, they’d just dig out whatever got buried.

The most practical solution would be to hide the cat litter. Place it somewhere elevated. Somewhere that’s accessible to your feline but not to your doggo.

At first, this may cause a frenzy for your pup – mainly because they’ll be able to smell the poop but not find it. Don’t worry; they’ll adjust.

Schedule Exercise

Active canines don’t have time to focus on their destructive behavior.  They’ll be too busy enjoying your bonding session to worry about the poop next door.

Regular exercise also helps improve mood-related conditions like anxiety and depression. You might get to kill two birds with one stone!

Training Helps

It would help if you showed your pooch that stool eating is terrible behavior. But remember, it’s not a call for punishment.

Leash-walk your puppy to the bathroom. Teach them obedience commands, like to ‘sit‘ and ‘stay‘ while you clean up after them.

Use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage them. A small treat can have a significant impact.

And be sure to pick up that poop immediately after it drops. Leave no window for Fido to snatch it.

Conclusion

Stool eating is a foul deed. Nonetheless, it’s normal among canines everywhere.

No doubt, the training process can be overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to help!

Schedule an appointment with one of our experts when you’re ready to start. We welcome you with open paws!

And don’t hesitate to follow our blog for more articles and resources on canine health and maintenance.