Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

It’s a sight that has perplexed and perhaps slightly disgusted many dog owners – your beloved canine companion indulging in the unsavory habit of eating poop.

While it’s a far cry from the gourmet treats we’d like to imagine our pets enjoying, this behavior, known scientifically as coprophagia, is not uncommon among dogs.

In this article, we’ll delve into the answer on “why do dogs eat poop”, offering insights into your dog’s dietary eccentricities.

From nutritional deficiencies to behavioral quirks, various theories try to explain why dogs are drawn to this peculiar ‘snack.’

The Enigmatic Canine Behavior: Coprophagia

Imagine you’re at the park with your beloved four-legged friend, Fido.

You’ve just finished a round of fetch, and it’s time to head home.

As you collect the leash and turn to call Fido, you spot him indulging in a rather unpleasant snack: poop.

You’ll ask yourself: “Omg, why does my dog eat poop?”.

This situation might be familiar to some dog owners, leaving them puzzled and even a bit grossed out.

The act of consuming feces, known as coprophagia, is not only unique to dogs but exists across a variety of animal species.

Although repugnant to humans, understanding why it happens can make us more compassionate pet parents and even help us address the issue.

Demystifying Coprophagia In Dogs

Definition and Brief Explanation of Coprophagia

Let’s begin by breaking down the term.

Coprophagia comes from the Greek words “kopros,” meaning feces, and “phagein,” which means to eat.

Hence, quite literally, it means the consumption of feces.

It might surprise you to learn that this behavior is fairly common in the animal kingdom.

Rabbits, for instance, routinely eat their poop to extract extra nutrients.

However, in dogs, the reasons can be more complicated and diverse.

Range of Animals Exhibiting Coprophagia, Emphasizing Dogs

From rodents to elephants, several animals exhibit coprophagia.

Dogs, in particular, can develop this habit due to various reasons we’ll be delving into next.

Whether it’s a one-time incident or a recurring behavior, understanding the reasons can help in effectively managing it.

So, buckle up as we take you through the fascinating and lesser-known reasons why dogs engage in coprophagia.

Common Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop

Nutritional Deficiencies

Imagine you’re on a diet that doesn’t provide all the nutrients your body needs.

You’d feel a constant gnawing hunger, right?

Similarly, dogs who are not getting sufficient nutrients may resort to eating poop.

It’s an instinctual response to try and replenish those missing nutrients.

Many commercial dog foods may lack in providing all the necessary vitamins and minerals, leading to such behavior.

Enzyme Lack

Dogs, especially those on a highly-processed diet, may lack certain enzymes needed to fully break down and utilize their food.

Picture it like trying to open a locked door without the right key; no matter how much you try, it won’t budge.

Without the necessary enzymes, dogs can’t unlock the full nutrient potential of their food.

So, they may end up eating feces in an attempt to regain these missing enzymes.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions, like diabetes, thyroid disease, or parasites, could provoke dogs to eat poop.

These conditions can increase appetite or create an inability to absorb nutrients properly, pushing dogs toward coprophagia.

It’s like when you’re sick, and you have weird food cravings – your body is trying to tell you something.

This is why a sudden onset of coprophagia could warrant a trip to the vet to rule out any underlying health issues.

Behavioral Causes

In our journey so far, we’ve talked about a lot of “internal” causes of coprophagia.

But what about external ones?

Dogs, much like humans, can have emotional responses.

Boredom, anxiety, or simply seeking attention can lead to this behavior.

Think about it: every time Fido eats poop, he gets a response (even though it’s a negative one).

For him, any attention may be better than no attention.

Understanding this can help us address the problem from a completely new perspective, which we will explore in our next sections.

Deep-Dive Into Coprophagia And Puppies

Maternal Behavior And Its Influence

Picture a mother dog with her newborn puppies.

To keep the den clean and protect the puppies from predators (who might be attracted to the scent), she instinctively eats her puppies’ feces.

It’s nature’s way of keeping things tidy and safe.

Puppies, in their early learning stage, can imitate this behavior, resulting in coprophagia.

Understanding this natural occurrence, we realize that this behavior, while disagreeable to us, can be normal in the canine world.

Puppy Curiosity And Learning – A Brief Analysis

Do you remember the story of the curious little puppy exploring his world for the first time?

Everything is a mystery, everything is a game, and everything (unfortunately) is a potential snack!

This includes feces.

As puppies grow, they learn about their surroundings through their mouth.

Consuming feces can be part of their exploration.

Usually, as the puppy matures and finds other forms of entertainment and nourishment, this behavior fades.

When Is Eating Poop A Problem?

Highlighting The Potential Health Risks

Much like the tale of the Trojan horse, feces can carry parasites and diseases hidden inside.

When your dog consumes feces, especially those of other animals, they risk ingesting these harmful organisms.

This could result in various health problems, like gastrointestinal infections or parasites like hookworms and roundworms.

So while coprophagia might seem like just a nasty habit, it can be a trojan horse of health risks.

Understanding The Social Implications And Stigma

Beyond the health risks, there are also social implications to coprophagia.

It’s not exactly a dinner conversation or a selling point when guests come over and see your dog indulging in such a habit.

The stigma surrounding coprophagia can lead to friction between the pet, the owner, and their social circle.

Understanding this aspect is key to handling the issue with patience and compassion.

How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop

There are ways to make your dog stop from eating poop.

It involves a mix of health check-ups, diet modifications, cleanliness, and potentially, behavior training.

In the forthcoming paragraphs, we will guide you through the various strategies to stop your dog from partaking in this unsavory practice, ensuring a healthier and happier environment for both you and your furry companion

Related: How To Stop Dog From Eating Poop | 15 Home Remedies

Dietary Adjustments

The story of your dog’s diet is like the foundation of a house.

If it’s solid, the house stands tall; if it’s shaky, the house can collapse.

A balanced diet is crucial in preventing coprophagia.

By ensuring your dog’s food is rich in essential nutrients and digestive enzymes, you reduce the need for your pet to seek them elsewhere (like in feces).

The addition of certain foods like pineapple to your dog’s diet can also make their poop less appealing.

Health Check-Ups And Medications

Regular vet visits are like chapters in a book.

Each one adds to the story of your pet’s health.

These check-ups can help detect any health issues that might lead to coprophagia.

If a medical cause is determined, your vet might prescribe medication to treat the underlying condition.

Remember, just as you wouldn’t ignore a recurring symptom in your health, your dog’s health deserves the same consideration.

Behavioral Training And Environmental Enrichment

Training and environmental changes can be a powerful combo in your arsenal against coprophagia.

Techniques such as positive reinforcement can discourage the behavior.

Meanwhile, providing a stimulating environment with plenty of toys and activities can keep your dog occupied and reduce boredom-induced eating of poop.

The Role Of Veterinarians In Managing Coprophagia

Veterinary Insights On Dogs Eating Poop

Veterinarians are like the detectives of the animal world.

Their insights can provide a deeper understanding of why your dog is engaging in coprophagia and how to address it.

Each case is unique, much like every dog is unique.

Therefore, seeking a professional opinion can be an invaluable step in managing this behavior.

Importance Of Professional Help In Severe Cases

In some cases, the story of a dog’s coprophagia can be a long and challenging journey.

If the behavior persists despite attempts at resolution, it could be a sign of a more serious issue, and professional help might be necessary.

A dog behaviorist or a vet can provide targeted interventions to help resolve the problem.

Before You Go…

Now you know why dogs eat poop.

If you want to learn more, read the following articles too!

Or watch this video:

Dimitra Kokologianni, DVM
Dimitra holds a Masters’s degree in public health and a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. She is a versatile professional with over 7 years of experience. Her passion for animal welfare and preventive medicine makes her an excellent resource for our readers.