Eating poop is a relatively common dog behavior. And, disgusting as it may seem to us, it is a perfectly natural thing for a dog to do. This habit, for which the technical name is coprophagia. Is one of the reasons owners sometimes give as the reason they are surrendering their dog to a shelter or even having him euthanized.
According to a study published by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior is 2012, about 1 in 6 dogs were classed as serious poop eaters and one in four were seen eating poop at least once.
Why Dogs Eat Poop
Dogs eat poop for a number of reasons.
Mothers and Puppies
A mother with puppies will lick them to stimulate defecation and when they do, will clean it up by eating it. This happens for the first three weeks of puppy’s life, when he is not very mobile.
Puppies will eat their own droppings and those of other dogs.
It is harmless for puppies to eat their own poop but there could be parasites or toxins in the stools of other animals.
Ancestral dogs were scavengers. They ate anything they could find. There is speculation that one of the reasons man adopted dogs as a companion was that they ate human waste and kept the areas around campsites clean.
It seems counter-intuitive that dogs would eat poop as a means of reducing parasite load. The theory is that the dog feces contain parasite eggs that need a few days to develop into the infectious larval stage. Dogs tend to only eat fresh poop. They digest the eggs which are not infectious.
Wild living dogs devoured the whole carcase of animals they caught or came across as they scavenged. This included the guts of the animal which contained digestive enzymes which the dog needs. Many dogs are now fed a diet which is predominantly kibble which is lacking in these enzymes. Without the enzymes, the dog’s poop still contains many nutrients which have not been absorbed. Some dogs may eat the poop in a second attempt to capture these nutrients.
Some diseases, the most common of which is diabetes, just make the dog hungrier. The dog may become hungry enough to start eating stools.
It is important that you feed your dog a nutritious well-balanced diet. He should get enough food so that he is not driven to eating feces through hunger.
Things you can do to prevent or reduce poop eating
Keep your dog’s area clean. Pick up after him straight away. You are removing the temptation and the opportunity.
Make sure he is receiving enough physical and mental stimulation. Some dogs will start to eat poop because they are bored.
Related Article: Why Your Dog Needs Mental Stimulation
Avoid Punishment. This is the most ineffective way of teaching your dog anything. Use positive reinforcement for training your dog. Sometimes eating poop will be so ingrained in your dog’s behavior that it will be extremely difficult to change with any form of training.
Make sure your dog’s parasite control schedule is up to date.