Top Theories on Why Your Dog Eats Poop

Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?

Poop eating. It’s not something that is pleasant for us, that’s for sure. Especially if your dog then wants to lick you in the face. YUCK! But why do dogs do it in the first place? There must be a reason, right? And if you know the reasons, curbing your dog’s desire to eat feces should be easy, right?

THE PROBLEM? No One Really Knows!

There are many theories, speculations and even just good ol- fashioned guesses when it comes to why dogs eat poop.

Let’s Start With Dogs That Eat Their Own Poop

This is called autocoprophagia and it’s pretty common in the dog world. And while we cannot say for certain why some dogs do this, there are a couple theories that have more backing than others. They are:

A Bad Habit. Mother dogs eat the poop of their young to keep the “den area” (i.e. wherever you have placed your bitch and her litter) clean. Since puppies will often do this in imitation of their mother, it’s possible one or two of the puppies picked up this habit and just kept doing it.

Instinct. Wild dogs eat their own feces and there have been studies/research into the possible reasons why. One study from the University of California done by Dr. Benjamin Hart concluded that dogs may have this instinct in them because wild dogs eat feces around their den area to prevent intestinal parasites present in the poop from being spread to other pack members. Other researchers believe that wild dogs sometimes eat poop to keep from starving, since they are largely scavengers. They believe that some domestic dogs have retained this survival instinct.

House Training Anxiety. If it’s a puppy that has started to eat its own poop, this can be linked to housetraining. If the puppy has been physically punished (in particular, sticking a dog’s nose in its feces was found to be a main culprit in studies) for going in the house, some learn to eat their own poop so the owner doesn’t find it. Smart dogs, really. But, this is a good case for using positive rewards while housetraining rather than correction so you don’t cause another nasty problem.

Dogs That Eat Their Own Poop and/or Other Animals’ Poop

Then there are the dogs that eat their own poop and/or other animals, called allocoprophagia. Cat, horse, duck, goose and other dog droppings are very popular, but some dogs will eat any type of poop they come across. But why? Here are some leading theories:

Isolation. Studies have shown that dogs kept in isolation FROM HUMANS are more likely to eat their own or other animals’ poop. This may be linked to survival instinct, but they are not really sure.

Medical Problems. There are actually a few medical issues that can cause a dog to want to eat its own poop, or that of other animals. These include: diabetes, Cushing’s, and thyroid disease. If your dog has suddenly picked up this habit, taken him to the vet to have him checked out. Steroids from the vet can also cause dogs to eat poop.

Imbalanced Diet. A dog that is malnourished or deficient in certain nutrients may turn to eating poop to try and get the nourishment he lacks. Again, this most likely stems from the survival instinct. Interestingly, there are two possibilities when this happens.

1. If your dog seems to be targeting another dog, that dog should be tested for diseases that may be causing him to not digest/absorb nutrients properly, which are then being passed into his feces making them more appealing to the dog that’s lacking them!

2. Or…the targeted dog may have a more diverse microbiome and the dog eating it may be trying to replenish gut microorganism levels.

Diet is probably the only one of these reasons that has a “simple” fix. If your dog is eating poop because his current dog food is not satisfying him, it’s time to switch! If you think that is the case, you should check our dog food. Stay Loyal has a carefully researched ingredient list that is full of the nutrients your dog needs. Check it out here. https://stayloyal.com.au/ingredients

To stop coprophagia the process should be- have you dog checked out by the vet to rule out medical issues. Think about a diet change- Barring those, it’s time to talk with a dog trainer that can help you develop a management and training plan to curb your dog’s gross appetite. Failing all that maybe we should understand that what is grose to us is normal for them, and just let this one be.

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks for that info and my 7 month old puppy eats and thoroughly swallows tissue paper and fabric. Not just inside either he does it in the park or on the street as well Any ideas?

    1. Hi Michele,

      Its probably a good idea to get your puppy out of that habit. If he swallows something bigger it could cause an obstruction. This is a dog training issue so you will have to consult a dog trainer on how to stop this habit. Unfortunately its not something you can explain it needs to be shown.

  2. That is a very good article and I thank you for it, I had dogs on the sheep station and always had pet lambs for feeding and I often saw dogs licking the lamb’s mouth and bottom as well as any droppings, and I just thought that there was protein in the lamb’s droppings but didn’t see any dog eating its own

  3. I noticed many years ago when I introduced a different line into my breeding program I had pups starting to do this. I have to agree, the pups copy mum and eat poo. I take my mum away from the pups during the day once they start solids so they don’t view her doing this. Pick up the poo asap. Awful to view for sure and I too thought that their digestive systems mustn’t be properly absorbing nutrients. I have always put coconut oil onto my dogs food and perhaps this was lingering in the poo so gobbled up again. Just today I have gone into the kennel and sighted what was poo, now gone and a tell tail mark left on the floor. Ugh, plenty of food in dishes to eat and the poo has been eaten. Why? I never make a fuss of poo on the floor, just clean it up so no need to hide it. This is a little bitch that is not a good doer growth wise, very poor eater. Offered plenty of food. Given supplements. other than run around scooping up poo what to you do?

    1. Hi Jenni, If she isnt absorbing her food well you could try probiotics. i find it helps most of the time when dogs lack condition and seem like they are not absorbing their food well.

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