It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the sun is shining. You’re taking your dog out for a walk to enjoy the day with your fur family. Your faithful furriend is having the time of her life but she seems to be very focused on something… Even chewing on it? You don’t recall tossing her a treat, so you go over to see what she’s up to when terror hits you with the force of a thousand suns: she’s eating dog poop! 🤢
As disgusting as this practice may seem to us, mere humans, there are a few reasons why dogs might be inclined to behave this way. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Medical reasons 👩🏻⚕️
Let’s first explore the potential medical causes that may lead to your dog eating poop.
- Enzyme deficiency
Long before our furbabies’ ancestors were domesticated, a wild dog’s diet would solely rely on whole prey and local vegetation. When a dog eats whole prey it includes the digestive tract, which naturally provides the appropriate amount of digestive enzymes needed to break down nutrients and food. Unfortunately, many dogs today are fed highly processed diets and even though your dog can create enzymes on its own, they aren’t always enough to do the work properly. This is why a good diet is key to avoiding such a deficiency.
- Exocrine Pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
This genetic condition, which usually manifests itself through diarrhea, weight loss and eating poop, is something that mostly young dogs struggle with. However, these symptoms could also be developed later on in life. This condition impacts the creation of digestive enzymes in the pancreas. Your dog will need to be supplemented with enzymes as they may not be able to absorb all the required nutrients and thus lead to a slow process of starvation.
- Parasites 🐛
Worms, just like any other intestinal parasite, need their share of food. As they grow, your dog will be getting less nutrition, thus putting your dog in the uncomfortable position of going for his stool to compensate his potential deficiency.
- Conditions causing increased appetite 🧁
Diseases such as diabetes or thyroid disease can create a sensation of hunger within your dog, even if he’s not actually hungry. Hunger will then, just as if he had a parasite, make him go for other sources of nutrition.
- Other deficiencies
It’s possible that your dog has a deficiency in hydrochloric acid or in certain minerals. Hydrochloric acid is used in the body to break down proteins. A lack of those proteins implies that your dog won’t be able to digest food. It will just pass through without your dog having absorbed any of the nutrients needed. The result, as you might expect , is that he will look for those missing nutrients in poop.
In general, malnutrition could also lead to dogs eating poop. Make sure that you keep your feeding schedule tightly in check so your dog doesn’t feel the need to compensate by eating feces.
Behavioural reasons 🐕
Same result but different causes, most of the following are usually easy to tackle as they mostly depend on you.
- Keep things clean 🧽
If there is one instance in which a dog eating poop is normal, it’s this one. In order to keep the nest clean, female dogs will clean up after their puppies.
- Puppies 🐶
With their very adventurous and exploring sides, puppies have a tendency to eat anything and everything. It’s part of their journey to know what’s good and what’s not. Poop is no exception here so don’t be surprised if your puppy tries to snack on some freshly produced treats. Don’t be worried either as it usually is a fairly short phase in the puppy’s development.
- Scavengers 🐺
As stinky as their feces are to us, to them it’s like God’s gift up their nostrils! They might very well be attracted to eating poop just out of pure enjoyment. Make sure your garden is clean and that you provide various treats as an alternative to cancel out this behaviour.
- Boredom 😩
Dogs are very creative when left alone – from dismantling a vacuum to spreading out your brand new set of Trivial Pursuits cards. Eating poop is just one of those alone-time occupations. Try to keep your dog entertained before leaving or leave some chewing toys around to avoid coming back home to an artsy – albeit stinky – renovation of your living room.
- “Moooom, look at me, I’m here!” 🙋🏼♀️
Eating stool is a way for your dog to get in trouble and thus get your attention. If this is the case, it might indicate that your dog wants to spend some more time with you, so don’t hesitate to do so and see if the behaviour improves!
Now that we know why… What can we do to help our dog overcome this?
Luckily there are a few things that can help your dog overcome his poop-eating urges:
- Be as clean as possible 🧼
By keeping things neat and tidy while also supervising your dog, you can scoop the poop when it happens. If you have a cat at home, it’s highly advised to keep the litter box as clean as possible as it’s a giant box of delicious sprinkles to your dog.
- Keep your dog entertained 🎾
A healthy mind in a healthy body is also valid for our four-legged friends! Have a routine of playing with your dog to make sure he gets his physical and mental stimulation. Get good chewing toys and chewing snacks to make sure that he’s having a good time, even when you’re not around.
- Food is the way to your dog’s health (and heart) ♥️
A varied and healthy diet is key. Making sure all nutrients are properly absorbed will not only decrease your dog’s poop-eating habits but generally increase his health. If needed, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian. They might recommend you to add supplements to your dog’s diet so you can make sure there are no deficiencies.
Q: Does your dog eat poop? How do you handle it?