Is it normal for your dog to eat poop?

 Is it normal for your dog to eat poop? - Guilty Border Collie

Dog owners usually come to terms with the fact that their furry friends have some pretty gross habits. Some behaviors can be a little more difficult to ignore than others. One of the more disgusting complaints reported about life with dogs is coprophagia. Coprophagia is the scientific term for eating poop, a practice that is surprisingly common in many dogs. The bottom line with dogs is eating poop is usually not a sign of a problem, nor is it particularly harmful. True, eating poop is one way our dogs are exposed to intestinal parasites (worms), but those are ubiquitous so dogs are potentially exposed any time they go outside. Since this normal canine behavior is socially unacceptable to humans, it’s only natural that people have questions about it and want to know how to get their dogs to stop.

Why some dogs eat poop

Most dogs who eat poop do so for the same reason people climb mountains: because it’s there. Due to a dog’s indiscriminate palate, they think it’s delicious for some unknown reason, especially when frozen. The bottom line is poop eating is almost never the result of some type of medical problem.

A note about parasites and poop eating

If your dog is recovering from parasites, it is important to keep them from eating poop as it may re-infect them. Talk to a veterinarian to learn more about how our pets are exposed to parasites every day.

Think it’s a nutritional deficiency or hunger? Think again.

Many pet parents think their dog’s poop eating habit is the result of a nutritional deficiency, but this is a common misconception. Nutritional deficiencies are quite rare. While it’s true that a dog might turn to poop as a natural way to fill the gap if their diet is lacking in nutrients or calories, most of the time there is no underlying reason for the behavior. The vast majority of commercially-prepared diets that are widely available are nutritionally complete, so you don’t have to worry about deficiencies if that’s what you feed your dog. Foods with an AAFCO statement on the label provide everything your dog needs. The only dogs who are at risk for a nutritional deficiency are dogs with serious underlying medical conditions or who are fed an incomplete (e.g. homemade) diet exclusively for more than several months.  Misconceptions abound, so talk to a vet to learn more about the real scoop on eating poop.

Behavioral issues

Some dogs are motivated to eat poop due to behavioral reasons. It’s more common in puppies who are busy exploring their world with all their senses, including their mouths. If your dog enjoys inventing games to make you play, they might think it’s fun to get you to yell or chase them if they pick up some poop.  On the other hand, dogs who are more isolated and don’t receive enough attention or feedback from their owners are also known to eat poop more often due to boredom and lack of mental stimulation. Dogs who have excessive anxiety around house training may also take part in poop eating out of fear.

Habit

Some pups may eat poop just because they’ve gotten used to the taste or smell. This can happen when dogs are fed near their poop, such as in an animal shelter or in too small of an enclosure.

How to stop stool eating in dogs

Even though eating poop is normal canine behavior, it’s socially unacceptable to most humans. If we’re going to peacefully coexist, you’ll need some tips for breaking this habit. It’s difficult to get a dog to stop doing something they enjoy and perceive as rewarding, so the main strategy for preventing poop eating is to prevent access to it.

  • Supervise your dog while on walks and around other animals. Closely supervising your dog and removing the opportunity is the best way to curb unwanted behaviors of all types.
  • Teach your dog simple commands such as “come” or “leave it.” Basic obedience training can go a long way in improving your dog’s behavior, especially if they are eating poop out of boredom or as part of a game. Training your dog can be a rewarding experience for both of you.
  • Feed your dog away from the place where they eliminate. A dog’s natural instinct is to poop away from their living, eating, and sleeping places. Take advantage of this by creating spaces and habits that make it easy for your dog to separate these activities.
  • Consider using a commercially available deterrent. There are commercially available products intended to make the poop produced by the animal they less appealing for consumption. These types of products are usually safe, but they’re of limited usefulness. They’re not helpful if your dog is eating the poop of animals you’re not feeding the product to, for example. Additionally, it’s pretty difficult to make poop unappealing to dogs since they find it so delicious, so they’re often ineffective. When these products do successfully stop the behavior, it’s not unusual for the dogs to return to eating poop once use of the product is discontinued.
  • Speak to a qualified vet about the behavior. A vet can help you to determine if your pup has serious health issues and make sure your parasite control plan is up to date, as well as address specific behavioral issues in your dog.

When to be concerned about poop eating

Most pet parents are reassured to learn poop eating is a normal canine behavior that usually does not indicate an underlying problem like a nutritional deficiency or worms. It’s still always a good idea to check with a vet to make sure your dog’s health is in order and your parasite control plan is up to date. Book a virtual vet appointment for your pup to discuss this issue and learn more about the best ways to take care of your furry companion. Vetster offers 24/7 appointments that work with your schedule, so you can access an online vet from the comfort of your home.

The Vetster Editorial Team is comprised of seasoned writers and communicators dedicated to elevating stories about Vetster, pets and their owners.

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