If you’ve ever encountered your dog eating feces (scientifically known as coprophagia), your initial reaction was likely one of pure horror.
After dragging them away, your next thought was probably, “What should I do if my dog eats poop?” or “How do I stop my dog from eating poop again?”
A dog who eats poop is a relatively common problem. One study found that one in six dogs (16 percent) were considered “serious” poop eaters, and one in four (24 percent) had been observed eating poop at least one time.
Whether your dog is a serial poop eater or a one-time offender, this guide outlines everything you need to know about why dogs eat poop, how to stop it, and more.
Is It Normal for My Dog to Be Eating Poop?
Let’s start with one of the most frequently asked questions regarding a dog eating excrement.
Is this normal?
It’s understandable to be alarmed or disgusted the first time you see your dog engaging in this behavior, but it’s not particularly surprising. Plenty of dogs find themselves pulled toward poop at one point or another.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Your dog may consume poop for several reasons. The following are some of the most well-known causes:
Sometimes, the simplest explanation for your dog eating poop is that they’re hungry. Dogs might start looking elsewhere if they’re not getting enough calories in their diets.
Conversely, poop eating might also be a sign of an absorption issue.
In other words, your dog might be getting enough calories and nutrients from their food, but they’re not absorbing those calories. This issue causes them to continue feeling hungry and start scavenging for poop.
A nutrient deficiency might also drive dogs to start eating poop. If dogs lack nutrients like B vitamins, they might be drawn to “food” that contains those nutrients.
Eating poop can signify a more serious chronic illness in some dogs.
Conditions like diabetes and Cushing’s disease (a disorder that causes increased cortisol production) can all cause an increase in appetite. If they don’t have access to food, this increase might trigger your dog to eat poop to curb their hunger.
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Medication Side Effects
Some medications cause hunger as a side effect, too.
Steroids are known for causing increased appetite, for example. If your dog has recently been prescribed steroids, you might notice them trying to eat poop or get extra calories from other unsavory sources.
Dogs may also eat feces when they’re dealing with stress. If you’ve ruled out physical health issues, it might be time to consider outside factors.
For example, dogs that spend a lot of time alone or confined in small spaces may be more inclined to eat poop.
The same goes for anxious dogs, especially those that are punished harshly while being potty trained. If they know they’ll get in trouble for pooping in the house, they might try to get rid of the evidence.
Will Eating Feces Make My Dog Sick?
Poop eating could make your dog sick.
Usually, when dogs eat their own feces, they don’t experience any illnesses. However, if they eat another dog’s poop (or poop from another animal), they could expose themselves to various infectious diseases and parasites. A big one of these parasites would be Giardia, which is mostly transferred through the poop of an infected dog. If your dog eats that, then there’s a good chance that your dog will get this parasite.
If your dog has recently eaten poop, they might develop symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, or fatigue. These symptoms can be associated with gastroenteritis (inflammation of the digestive system) or intestinal parasites.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Feces
Even if your dog hasn’t gotten sick after eating feces, chances are you want to manage this issue and prevent it from happening again. Here are some tips to help you stop your dog from eating feces in the future:
Talk to Your Vet
The first step to addressing feces eating is consulting your veterinarian.
As we mentioned above, dogs often eat poop because of issues like nutrient deficiencies, chronic health conditions, or medication side effects. Your vet can evaluate your dog and determine whether any of these issues are the source of the problem.
If your vet does find signs of an underlying health problem, they can give you a customized plan to combat the condition and improve your dog’s quality of life.
Use Taste-Aversion Products
The idea of eating poop is disgusting to you. However, something about it is clearly appetizing to your dog.
Taste-aversion products often contain ingredients like parsley, chamomile, or yucca. You can add them to a dog’s food to make their poop less appealing.
Of course, this solution won’t work if your dog eats other dogs’ poop. However, it might be worth trying if the issue is limited to your house.
It’s almost always easier to prevent an issue than attempt to solve it.
In the case of poop eating, sometimes, the solution is simply to be more proactive when cleaning up your dog’s poop.
If you pick up after them in the backyard every time they do their business, they won’t have anything to snack on the next time you let them out.
Practice Positive Training
Positive reinforcement training can also help you prevent poop eating. Teach your dog to “leave it” and reward them with a tasty treat whenever they ignore something tempting and come to you instead.
Suppose you’ve been using harsh punishments during potty training. Pivot to more positive methods instead.
Celebrate when your dog does the right thing, and use preventative tactics (like limiting access to poop) to prevent them from doing something you don’t want.
Need Extra Dog Diet Help?
When a dog eats poop once it might not be a significant issue. If it repeatedly happens, though, or if your dog exhibits symptoms like nausea or fatigue, it’s time to talk to a vet.
Cooper Pet Care’s mission is to protect our furry friends by providing simple, flexible and transparent healthcare solutions for the pet parents of today. So schedule an instant video consultation with one of our qualified veterinarians and get your pet the care they need. Your concerns about poop eating will be addressed within minutes.