Of all the quirky canine habits like butt sniffing and squirrel watching, dogs eating their own poop takes the cake as the least palatable among our pet parents. To answer the perennial question, “why does my dog eat poop,” the team at BEEVET Animal Hospital has compiled some key insights for you to consider, as well as steps for discouraging this less-than-appetizing behavior.
What’s it Called When Dogs Eat Poop?
There is actually a proper term for poop eating: coprophagia. While it may be stomach-churning to witness, coprophagia is fairly common—particularly for puppies.
Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Poop?
Often, the issue is behavioral and can be resolved with dog training that uses positive reinforcement. However, there are medical conditions that can cause or contribute to a dog’s poop eating habit.
Behavioral Causes of Coprophagia
Your dog’s desire to eat poop may actually stem from imprinted behavioral cues, including:
- A puppy may be mimicking his mom, whose job was to clean up after her babies.
- Adult dogs may eat excrement when grooming or cleaning up after their newborns.
- Dogs are ultimately pack animals, and cleaning up the den is part of the team’s responsibility.
Other behavioral reasons include:
- Wanting to hide the “evidence”
- It’s attention-grabbing
- It’s an expression of “scavenging” behavior
- It’s a leftover habit from being bored and unsupervised as a puppy, such as in a puppy mill where lack of stimulation can lead to poop eating as a form of play
Medical Causes of Coprophagia
If your dog is eating poop, it’s important to rule out medical conditions that could be to blame, such as:
- Poorly balanced dog diet
- Any medical condition that causes malabsorption of nutrients
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Worms or parasites
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Chronic health conditions like Cushing’s or thyroid disease
What Should I Do if My Dog Eats Poop?
If your dog is eating poop—especially if you have an adult dog and this is new behavior—please contact us right away. At BEEVET, we offer internal medicine for dogs with comprehensive examinations and diagnostic testing to identify problems with the major systems of the body.
Once a medical reason is ruled out, there are dog training techniques and at-home modifications to try, including:
- Feed your dog a well-balanced diet (we are happy to make recommendations).
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Clean up after your dog immediately.
- Train your dog to come to you and sit for a yummy reward after he eliminates.
- If you catch your dog sniffing poop, interrupt him with a firm command.