Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Taken from article by Dr.  Livingston – Professional Pet Sitter Group

As all pet owners will know, dogs have a habit of doing weird and wonderful things from time to time – it’s all part of their unique charm and character!  However, if there’s one thing that never fails to turn the stomach of any dog owner, it’s when they find their beloved dog eating poop.  In some cases it’s a surprising one-off and in others it seems to happen way too often, but in any and all cases it’s just about the most disguisting thing imaginable… at least for a human being.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that one of the most commonly asked questions among dog owners every day is – why do dogs eat poop?

Seriously – Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

The scientific term for eating of poop is Coprophagia, which if you can get past the obvious horror of it all is actually quite interesting.  There’s a good deal of science to explain many of the causes of poop eating, but at the same time there are also dozens of long-standing theories that could also shed light on the subject.

For example, a great many animal experts insists that the act of dog eating poop dates right back to the ancient origins of the animal.  Prior to being domesticated, dogs were scavengers and would basically have no choice other than to eat anything that presented itself in order to ward off starvation.  As such, the theory remains that poop eating is a historic behavior that still presents from time to time.

One of the most common instances in which a person will see their dog eating poop is when the dog has recently given birth to a litter of puppies.  Dogs are instinctively wired to keep tabs on their babies and to ward off any potential predatory attacks.  And as predators would pick up on the smell of her new babies’ poop, she’ll make sure she cleans up every last bit of it by eating it.   Disgusting it may be, but at the same time she’s just being a good mum!

And then of course come the instances of simple domination, which are common in households where there are several dogs present.  In such cases, it may be a natural and instinctive behavior for a submissive dog lower down the pecking-order to eat the poop of his superior.

Why Poop Eating Shouldn’t be Ignored.

More often than not, poop eating won’t cause any real harm to the dog, other than terrible bad breath.  It isn’t necessarily anything to worry about.  At the same time however, it should never be ignored, but instead brought to the attention of a professional as soon as possible.

When a dog eats poop, there’s always the chance that it could be a sign of a potentially serious illness which will need checking up straight away. For example, when and where a dog has a digestive problem and is unable to absorb enough nutrients from its food, there’s a chance it may instinctively eat his own poop.  There are also varioius health problems associated with nutritional deficiencies that could be the cause of the poop eating.

Along with physical health problems, there are also certain behavioral issues that poop eating can be a sign of.  For example, high levels of stress or anxiety can trigger poop eating in dogs as something of a compulsive behavior they have little to no control over.  This is precisely why poop eating is common in boarding kennels and other such communal doggy areas as the animals may become too stressed out to really know what they are doing.

In some instances, it has become clear that the actions of an irresponsible dog owner have contributed to the poop eating problem.  When and where a dog is made to feel that pooping is a crime and is scared to death of being attacked by its owner after pooping, the dog may resort to eating the poop in order to get rid of it.  This is a rare and highly distressing behavior trait for which the owner is 100% responsible.

Regardless of the cause of the poop eating however, one of the main reasons it is crucial not to ignore it is the way in which you cannot predict or control which poops your dog may eat.  And if he decides to eat the poop of a dog with a serious illness, chances are he’ll end up with the same disease.

What to Do About Poop Eating.

The first thing any responsible pet owner must do is take their dog to the veterinarian and have him checked out for any signs of illness.  If the vet gives the dog the all-clear, this essentially means that the poop eating isn’t a serious problem and can therefore be addressed by the owner.

First and foremost, the best tip of all is to prevent access to any poop in the first place.  If an when the dog goes to the bathroom, it’s owner’s duty is to pick it up and dispose of it as quickly as possible, which over time can teach the dog that it’s not in fact to be eaten.

It sounds awful, but in some cases it has been reported that dogs resort to eating poop either because they simply cannot stand the food they are being given at home, or their daily diet is lacking what their body needs.  As such, in all cases of poop eating it’s a good idea to look carefully at the dog’s diet and ask – is it really 100% premium, or just the cheapest garbage on the shelf?

Last but not least, dogs often eat poop simply because they are bored and have nothing else to occupy them, so it’s always a good idea to try adding a few new toys and generally giving him all he needs to stay occupied and happy. 

Why do dogs eat poop?

For a multitude of reasons, but no matter what the cause of the poop eating is, there’s always a solution.


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