The scoop on dogs eating poop!

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

Even though we may find the idea of eating our own or someone elses poop, it’s actually quite common amongst our canine friends.  We may not understand this canine delicacy,but there are actually many reasons why your cute, furry companion decides to dine on these “delicacies”.

The reasons dogs eat poop are many, and can range from simply boredom all the way to a serious health issue like diabetes.  It is therefore important, if not perhaps slightly gross, that we discuss this habit and understand why our dog is partaking in this pastime.

Let’s first look at the medical reasons that could cause your dog to eat poop.

1. Enzyme deficiency

Dogs in the wild eat whole prey, which includes the digestive tract.  The digestive tract contains digestive enzymes needed by the dog.  In our modern times however, most dogs eat processed diets and don’t get those digestive enzymes, so aren’t properly absorbing all their food.  Some will pass through in an undigested form.  They do create some of their own digestive enzymes, however they usually aren’t sufficient, so it’s a good idea to add some to their diet to make sure they are getting enough and to ensure their nutrition is complete, which will help keep them disease free.

2. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

EPI is a genetic disease that can show symptoms as the dog ages.  These dogs can’t create digestive enzymes and need to be supplemented or else they will slowy starve as they can’t digest nutrients properly.  Symptoms include weight loss, diarrhea and eating stool.  

3. Parasites

If your dog has internal parasites, the parasites will steal nutrients from him and he will therefore get less nutrition.

4. Multiple conditions that cause an increase in appetite

Diabetes and thyroid problems can make your dog feel hungry and therefore stool will become appetizing.  Steroid usage also can cause an increase in hunger.

5. Other deficiencies

Aging or a poor diet can cause a hydrochloric acid deficiency.  This will in turn cause a lack in protein breakdown and therefore your dog will not be able to digest all his food properly.  

6. Malabsorption

Any condition that causes poor nutrient absorption can lead to stool eating.  Your dog may eat his own stool in order to get the nutrients in the undigested food present in his stool.  Keep an eye on whose stool your dog is eating, as this can point to the dog that has the illness or the nutrient deficiency.

7. Underfeeding

Make sure you are feeding your dog enough food.  If he is losing weight or looks very thin, increase his food.  Also try to feed him often enough as a hungry dog will look for other sources of food if none are provided.

Now let’s take a look at behavioral reasons your dog may be eating poop.

1. Cleanliness

This tends to only happen when a mother dog is cleaning up after her puppies, in order to keep the nest clean.  Some dogs however will hold onto this habit and continue to clean up stool in the yard.

2. Puppies

It is not unusual for puppies to eat poop, among many other things, while learning and exploring new environments.  Most puppies grow out of this with age.

3. Scavengers

Dogs are natural scavengers and are attracted to strong smells, poop being very strong smelling.

4. Boredom

If your dog is home alone all do with nothing to do he will search for things to do. Eating poop can become a form of entertainment while also being a treat.

5. Attention seeking

Some dogs will do anything to get their owner’s attention, and getting in trouble can be included in this attention seeking.  If they know you will yell at them, therefore giving them attention, for eating poop, this may become a habit.

6. Stress

Some stressed dog will resort to eating stool in order to relieve their stress.

7. Puppy mills

Puppy mill dogs are forced to live in stressful and unsanitary conditions which very often leads to stool consumption.  

8. Punishment

If a dog has been punished for having an accident in the house, he may resort to hiding the evidence by eating his poop, to avoid the punishment.

9. Copying

A younger dog can pick up the habit from an older dog who eats poo by seeing him doing it regularly.

So how do you stop your dog from eatng poop?  There are some simple steps you can take to avoid or stop this behavior.  

Supervise your dog when he is in the yard or out on walks and pick up poo as soon as it happens.  If you have cats, keep their litter box clean as well.  Keep your dog’s brain happy and healthy by playing with him and exercising him regularly.  Choose safe toys for him when you are not home.  Feed the best diet you can afford.  If you can afford to feed a varied, raw diet which includes digestive enzymes then that will be the best. You can also add raw tripe to the diet, which is very high in digestive enzymes. If you can’t or don’t want to feed raw, then add supplements as needed.  For a mineral deficiency, you can add some kelp, and for a hydrochloric acid deficiency you can add apple cider vineger (1 teaspoon per 10 kilos of weight).  Make sure to have your dog screened for parasites as well as any other medical conditions if your dog is showing symptoms.

And remember, don’t make poop eating a big deal.  Never, ever, punish your dog for eating poop!  Punishment is not effective and will only damage your relationship with your dog.