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Home Doggie Health and NutritionDoggie Health Why My Dog Eats Poop: Causes & Solutions

Why My Dog Eats Poop: Causes & Solutions

by Kimberley Lehman
Dog eats poop -- why?

Hey there, fellow dog owners! Let’s talk about a topic that might make you cringe a little but is undeniably important – why my dog eats poop. Yep, it’s a behavior called canine coprophagia, and it’s not uncommon. But why does it happen, and, more importantly, how can we end it?

In this article, I’ll take a peek at the motivations behind poop-eating behavior in dogs and aim to provide you with practical strategies to address it. So, buckle up because we’re about to unravel the mystery behind this peculiar and unpleasant habit.

First, it’s crucial to understand that this article aims to inform and help you navigate this slightly awkward topic. I’m here with you, trying to find solutions to this not-so-pleasant behavior that our beloved canine companions sometimes exhibit.

Key Takeaways:

  • Canine coprophagia refers to the behavior of dogs eating poop.
  • Understanding the reasons behind this behavior is essential for addressing it.
  • Nursing dogs may eat their puppies’ poop instinctively for cleanliness.
  • Feces from other animals may attract dogs due to their nutritional appeal.
  • Possible causes of coprophagy include medical conditions, dietary deficiencies, and environmental factors.

Understanding Canine Coprophagia

Defining Coprophagia in Dogs

Let’s dig (pun intended!) into the intriguing world of canine coprophagia – the behavior of dogs eating their own or other animal’s feces. Yes, you read that right!

Coprophagia may seem unusual or even repulsive to us humans, but for dogs, it’s a behavior that dates back to their ancestral roots.

Defining coprophagia is simple: it’s the act of a dog eating poop. While it may sound like a strange habit, it’s not uncommon. Many dog owners have witnessed their furry friends engaging in this behavior at some point and ponder that age-old question, why my dog eats poop?

Normal vs. Abnormal Poop-Eating Behavior

Who knew? Normal poop eating? Let’s look into it.

Normal poop-eating behavior, or coprophagy, can be observed in certain situations. For example, mother dogs may consume the feces of their puppies to keep their den clean and protect them from predators. It’s a natural instinct driven by the desire to maintain hygiene and safeguard their vulnerable offspring.

On the other hand, abnormal poop-eating behavior refers to instances where dogs consume feces excessively, indiscriminately, or outside of the natural context mentioned above. This behavior may indicate underlying issues such as nutritional deficiencies, medical conditions, behavioral problems, or simply a strong attraction to the smell and taste of poop.

Okay, I have to address this here from personal experience with several dogs. While hiking and often waaaaay off the beaten path, my dogs have discovered human waste that humans unfortunately did not bury. Each of them dove in like they discovered the mother load of yum, and if you think about it, it probably is exactly that.

Humans eat a huge variety of sweet things. Many are on medications. No doubt remnants of what they consume are carried out in their waste, and likely, my dogs, your dogs, and any dogs would think they found an “almond joy” of flavor out in the wilderness. It is not a fun experience to witness, but it is all part of nature and how it works despite our best efforts.

What is the moral of this story? If you must relieve yourself outside, bury it!

If your dog finds human waste, try to get them away from it or, if possible, get a sample for your vet in case your dog gets sick. Unfortunately, Penny did get sick from human waste, and it was a recycled human prescription for anxiety that made her quite sick for about a week. Fortunately, I could grab a sample and the vet could pinpoint exactly what happened to Penny and how to help her recover. I always have a roll of these earth-rated poop bags in my pack for just such occasions and for the classic use as well. Don’t leave home without them!

Understanding the difference between normal and abnormal poop-eating behavior is essential for dog owners. By recognizing the signs and knowing when to intervene, we can address any potential health concerns or behavioral issues that may be contributing to this behavior.

Dog Eats Poop: Normal Predatory Instincts or Behavioral Concern?

Certain behaviors can leave us scratching our heads in confusion regarding our canine companions. One such behavior is when a dog eats poop. But is this behavior driven by normal predatory instincts, or is it a behavioral concern that needs to be addressed? Let’s explore the possible reasons behind this peculiar behavior.

Instinctual Behavior in Nursing Dogs

Believe it or not, there is a natural and necessary instinct for cleanliness that can explain why nursing dogs eat the poop of their young. As mentioned above, nursing dogs instinctively clean up their puppies’ waste to keep their den environment clean and free from odors that could attract predators. This behavior serves the purpose of protecting their vulnerable offspring and maintaining a safe living space, which from the human perspective, makes sense.

Dietary Appeal of Other Animals’ Feces

Another reason why dogs may be drawn to eating poop lies in the dietary appeal of other animals’ feces. While it may seem repulsive to us, certain animal feces can provide various scents and flavors enticing to our furry friends. T

his behavior can be attributed to their evolutionary history as scavengers, where the consumption of feces served as a means to obtain additional nutrients. Just think of poop as a trip to the natural dietary supplement store for your dog! A hard to fathom fact but a truth in nature’s way of providing for her creatures.

It’s important to note that while these instinctual and dietary factors may explain some instances of dogs eating poop, it is still crucial to assess each individual case and seek professional advice if necessary. Understanding the underlying reasons behind this behavior can help dog owners address the issue effectively and ensure the overall well-being of their beloved pets.

Identifying the Causes of Coprophagy in Dogs

Man talking with dog.

When it comes to coprophagy, there are several possible causes to consider. Understanding these causes can help dog owners identify and address the underlying reasons behind this behavior. Let’s explore the various factors that may contribute to coprophagy in dogs:

  1. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as malabsorption disorders or gastrointestinal parasites, can lead to coprophagy in dogs. It is essential to consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues that may be causing this behavior. DO THIS – if you see your dog engaging in poop dining, grab a baggie and try to get a sample for your vet. This is a tremendous help for your vet to begin to unravel the mystery behind this behavior.
  2. Dietary Deficiencies: Inadequate nutrition can also contribute to coprophagy. When a dog’s diet lacks essential nutrients, they may be driven to seek them out in their own or other animal’s feces. Ensuring a balanced and nutritious diet for your dog prevents this behavior.
  3. Environmental Factors: Environmental conditions can play a role in coprophagy. Dogs may engage in this behavior if they are confined in small spaces, lack mental and physical stimulation, or are exposed to unclean living conditions. Providing a stimulating and clean environment for your dog can help discourage coprophagy.
  4. Stress or Anxiety: Dogs experiencing stress or anxiety may engage in coprophagy as a way to self-soothe. It is important to address and manage any underlying stressors or anxieties that your dog may be experiencing.
  5. Learned Behavior: In some cases, coprophagy can be a learned behavior. If a dog observes and imitates another dog engaging in this behavior, they may start doing it themselves. It is essential to prevent access to feces and discourage this behavior early in your dog’s life to avoid it becoming a learned habit.

By considering these possible causes and examining your dog’s specific circumstances, you can understand why they may engage in coprophagy.

Health and Nutritional Factors Affecting Poop-Eating Habits in Canines

A woman and her dog discuss nutrition.


The Role of Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies can play a significant role in triggering coprophagy in dogs. If a dog’s diet lacks essential nutrients, they may be inclined to seek out alternative sources, including their own feces. This behavior clearly indicates that their diet lacks key vitamins, minerals, or other essential substances.

To address this issue, it is crucial to ensure that dogs receive a balanced and nutritious diet. Consult with a veterinarian to develop a meal plan that meets all of your dog’s dietary requirements. Providing a well-rounded diet can help minimize the risk of coprophagy by fulfilling their nutritional needs.

Medical Conditions Leading to Coprophagy

In some cases, coprophagy can be attributed to underlying medical conditions. Dogs with certain gastrointestinal issues or malabsorption disorders may be more prone to engage in poop-eating behavior. These conditions can interfere with proper digestion and nutrient absorption, leading dogs to seek out feces for additional nourishment. Can you blame them, really?

If your dog exhibits coprophagy alongside other symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, or changes in appetite, it is essential for your dog’s health to consult a veterinarian. They can perform a thorough examination and diagnose any potential medical conditions that could be contributing to the behavior. Treating the underlying condition can help eliminate the desire for poop consumption.

Again, if you see them eating poop, do your best to get a sample for the vet!

Understanding the Relation Between Parasites and Poop-Eating

Parasites can also play a role in a dog’s poop-eating habits. Certain parasites, like intestinal worms, can be transmitted by consuming infected feces. Dogs may use coprophagy to acquire these parasites, leading to potential health complications.

To mitigate the risk of parasites, it is crucial to maintain regular deworming protocols recommended by your veterinarian. By keeping your dog’s feces free from parasites, you can help discourage coprophagy and protect their overall health.

Dog owners can play a vital role in discouraging coprophagy by addressing health and nutritional factors, including nutritional deficiencies, medical conditions, and the potential for parasite transmission. A holistic approach focusing on proper diet, veterinary care, and preventive measures can help promote healthier poop-eating habits in canines.

Effective Strategies to Discourage Your Dog from Eating Poop

Several proven strategies can help deter this unpleasant habit when tackling poop-eating behavior in dogs. By implementing these tactics, you can provide your furry friend with a safe, healthy environment and much fresher breath!

Let’s explore some effective strategies to discourage your dog from indulging in coprophagy.

Positive Reinforcement Techniques

One of the most powerful tools in tackling poop-eating behavior is positive reinforcement. By rewarding your dog for desirable behaviors, such as not eating poop, you can encourage them to make the right choices. When you catch your dog disinterested in feces or focusing on other activities, offer them praise, treats, or their favorite toys. Consistency and patience are key to success!

Environmental Management to Prevent Access

Ensure that your dog’s living space, both indoors and outdoors, is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Keep poop bags or a pooper-scooper handy during walks to promptly clean up after your dog.

Additionally, supervise your dog during potty breaks and redirect their attention to play or training activities to deter them from scavenging for poop.

Dietary Changes and Supplements

A dog’s diet is crucial to their overall health and behavior.

Introducing dietary changes can help discourage poop-eating behavior. Consulting with your veterinarian, you can explore options such as switching to high-quality commercial dog food, which may include specific ingredients to discourage coprophagy. Additionally, your vet may recommend dietary supplements that can address nutritional deficiencies contributing to this behavior.

Implementing these strategies can support your efforts in discouraging your dog from eating poop. Remember, it is important to be consistent, patient, and understanding during this training process. With positive reinforcement, environmental management, and appropriate dietary changes, you can help your furry friend overcome this behavior and lead a healthier, happier life.

Fostering Healthy Eating Habits in Your Dog

First and foremost, it’s important to ensure that your dog’s nutritional needs are being met.

Providing a well-balanced diet rich in necessary nutrients can help address any potential nutritional deficiencies that may be driving the poop-eating behavior. Additionally, consider working with your veterinarian about introducing suitable dietary supplements that can support your dog’s overall health and reduce the inclination to eat poop.

Seeking Professional Advice for Coprophagia

Don’t hesitate to seek professional advice if you struggle to address your dog’s coprophagia despite your best efforts. Veterinarians and animal behaviorists are specialized in understanding and managing such behavioral issues. They can provide tailored guidance and recommend specific interventions based on your dog’s individual needs.

Remember, every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Professional insights can make a significant difference in resolving this behavior.

Promoting a Clean and Safe Environment

Consider using a leash or muzzle during walks as a temporary preventive measure. Furthermore, providing engaging toys, mental stimulation, and plenty of exercise can distract your dog from engaging in poop-eating behavior.

Remember, breaking the poop-eating habit takes time, patience, and consistency. By combining these strategies, you can foster healthy eating habits in your dog and help them overcome this undesirable behavior. Total success may not happen overnight, but with dedication, you’re on the right track to positively changing your dog’s behavior.

That saying “A good dog is a tired dog,” so ensure your canine companion has adequate exercise and entertainment to keep them from creating their own entertainment!


What is coprophagia?

Coprophagia is the behavior of dogs eating poop. It refers to the act of consuming feces, either their own or that of other animals.

How can I differentiate between normal and abnormal poop-eating behavior in dogs?

Normal poop-eating behavior in dogs may include occasional sniffing or investigation of feces. Abnormal behavior involves consuming large quantities consistently, which may require intervention.

Why do dogs eat poop?

The reasons behind a dog eating poop can vary. It could be due to instinctual behavior, dietary appeal of other animals’ feces, health conditions, or nutritional deficiencies.

What are some possible causes of coprophagy in dogs?

Coprophagy in dogs can be caused by various factors, including medical conditions, dietary deficiencies, behavioral issues, stress, boredom, or a history of punishment associated with pooping.

How do health and nutritional factors impact a dog’s poop-eating habits?

Nutritional deficiencies and certain medical conditions can trigger coprophagy in dogs. Parasites transmitted through poop-eating can also affect a dog’s health.

What strategies can I use to discourage my dog from eating poop?

Effective strategies include positive reinforcement techniques, environmental management to prevent access to poop, and considering dietary changes or supplements after consulting with a veterinarian.

How can I foster healthy eating habits in my dog?

Encourage regular mealtimes, provide a balanced diet, and ensure your dog receives appropriate nutrition. Avoid leaving poop accessible and maintain a clean environment.

How can I promote a clean and safe environment for my dog?

Clean up poop promptly, keep your dog’s living area clean, provide plenty of toys and mental stimulation, and ensure regular veterinary check-ups to maintain a healthy environment for your dog.

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Kimberley Lehman

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