The horror you get when you see your dog eating his own poop! And to think that he’ll be all over your face licking away and showing you some adorable doggy TLC…Yuck! Stool eating is common behavior in the canine community; if they are not eating their own poop, they are eating another animal’s poop. But why do they it when it’s as disgusting to hear as it is to look at?
Why does my dog eat his own faeces? Eating faeces is a sign that your dog:
- Is Stressed
- Has a Parasitic Infection
- Is Scavenging
- Has a Pancreatic Insufficiency
- Just likes the taste of poop
- Is Seeking attention
- Is Just Cleaning up
- Is Very Curious
It could also mean that he is suffering from:
- Enzyme deficiency
In this post, I will try to demystify the unusual act of your dog eating his own droppings and tell you about how you can get rid of this gross behavior.
Of all the repulsive mannerisms that your canine companion displays-rolling in the mud, digging a hole in the garden, licking his butt- you will agree that eating poop is at the top of the list.
The scientific term for this kind of behavior is Coprophagia. It often starts when dogs are still in their puppyhood; and while some may grow out of the habit, others carry on with it to adulthood.
Shih Tzus are especially prone to this type of behavior, my own included, so I know just how horrifying this appears.
There is a range of reasons why your dog is eating stool; some are actually quite interesting and may need further investigation, whereas others are just as gross as the act itself.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
There are various theories that have been advanced to explain your dog eating faeces, from the straightforward such as a liking for the flavor to instinctive reasons like canines being omnivorous.
Generally, the reasons can be divided into behavioral and medical as follows:
1. Behavioral Reasons
• He is stressed
Anxiety may be another cause for Coprophagia. When a dog is left alone for any length of time it can make them anxious. If your dog is bored with nothing to do, he can develop compulsions such as excessive chewing. In the process of searching for something to chew, he may engage in eating poop to relieve his separation anxiety.
So separation anxiety caused by being left alone can lead them to eat their own faeces, but it is also possible that they are stressed about leaving a mess to be found by their owner when they return, so they eat it to hide it in an effort not to be told off.
• He wants to clean
Eating poop is normal behavior for doggy-mommies who clean up after their pups to keep the nest clean. They may also do it to get rid of the scent; a wild canine instinct to keep intruders and other predators away. This is the only time that eating poop falls in line with the natural order of things. And this motive for cleanliness could also explain your dog’s decision to “clean up” poop.
• He is just curious
The curiosity in your little pup can drive him to explore the surrounding and discover what his immediate environment has to offer. He may end up taking a bite out of his droppings as part of the investigation process. The positive thing is that your puppy is likely to grow out of this.
• He is scavenging
Your dog is naturally an omnivorous scavenger and any scent is bound to attract him, however repulsive. Unlike humans, dogs will follow the smell of faeces and given the opportunity; they might just end up devouring it.
• He likes the flavor
As funny as it may sound; your pooch may actually have a liking for his own stool. This could be as a consequence of being fed excessive human food which enriches his poop with the residual flavors and scents of human cuisine. Remember that this is the same dog that you found playing with a rotting mouse carcass, so don’t expect him to worry about the taste. Many dogs also like the taste of pooh from other animals, horse manure is another favorite of many dogs.
• He is bored
Sometimes your pooch is just bored. If you leave him alone all day long with no one to play, he is bound to find a way of entertaining himself. He may start playing with his poop and before you know it, he is taking a bite out of it because there is nothing else like toys to chew (buy some). There are many toys that will engage their interest for hours, particularly those that contain treats take a look at our resource page on Treats For Your Dog.
• He is seeking attention
Dogs love attention and they will do anything to get you to focus on them if they feel ignored. If you’ve caught your pup in the act and chased him around the yard in disgust, he may perceive this as entertainment and a sure way to get your attention. So the next time you see your dog eating poop, maybe he just wants you to stop ignoring him.
• He is Impersonating
Sometimes, your dog is just doing what he saw another dog doing. This is very true if he learned this behavior from his mother or another dog when he was still a puppy. He may end up carrying this acquired taste into adulthood if nobody trained him that its wrong as he was growing.
2. Medical Reasons
• He is suffering from Pancreatic Insufficiency
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is a condition whereby your dog is producing inadequate or no digestive enzymes in his pancreas. Failure to address this problem will see your dog starving gradually with visible symptoms diarrhea, weight loss, and stool eating. He will do this to try and get those crucial missing nutrients.
• He has parasites
Your dog could also have parasites living in his intestines that are absorbing the nutrients your dog should be acquiring from his meals. This is another factor that will cause your dog to crave his stool.
• He has other deficiencies
According to some experts, a deficiency in hydrochloric acid that may come with age or a poor diet, can also result in poor digestion that forces your dog to look for nutrients in the stool. Hydrochloric acid is used to break down proteins in the digestive process and any deficiency, even in trace minerals can push your dog to eat stool or other less digestible items like plastic.
• Enzyme deficiency
In a wild habitat, canines get ample food reserves from their surroundings. Whenever they hunt prey, canines usually eat it whole, including the guts which contain the right amount of digestive enzymes that a dog would need. Unfortunately, this is not true for your domesticated pooch that relies entirely on a highly-processed diet. Digestive enzymes form a crucial component of your pooch’s digestive process; and even though he produces enzymes in his own body, they are not enough to effectively complete the digestion. Dogs normally get these extra digestive enzymes from the food they eat. However, deficiency can lead to the onset of certain ailments and cravings for the faeces they just eliminated.
• He is suffering from malabsorption
Any condition that results in poor absorption of nutrients may, in turn, cause your dog to eat poop. Apart from just wanting to eat his own stool due to the undigested nutrients, you may realize that he is also going after the cat’s stool. It is crucial that you determine whose droppings your pooch is seeking as this may be an indicator of the deficiency he is experiencing.
• He is underfed
If your dog is not getting enough food, he may look for additional food sources that may not please you. Eating poop is just one of the alternatives he may choose to pursue. That’s why it is important to give your dog the correct amount of foodstuff and the right type of foods. If you notice a reduction in weight despite him being on a fresh, whole diet; feed him some more.
How Do I Stop My Dog from eating Poop?
Getting your dog to stop eating poop will require that you address his medical deficiencies and/or the behavioral factors that are causing him to act this way. Firstly, you want to make sure that his environment is always clean. Pick up his poop immediately you see him eliminating so that he doesn’t get the temptation to taste it. If there are any other pets in your home like cats, make sure that their litterbox is regularly cleared and refilled. Ensure that your pup is mentally and physically stimulated with exciting activity.
Take him out for walks whenever you can and keep him surrounded with toys and other chews for entertainment. You also want to train your dog on commands like “come” and “stop it” to prevent him from eating his stool.
A simple drill you can try out is to call your dog and give him high-value treats whenever he has finished eliminating. This way, he will become accustomed to running to you after pooping for a tasty bite instead of turning around for a bite of his faeces.
If you think it is his nutritional needs that may be the problem, you may want to feed your dog raw, whole, and varied foods rich in quality proteins. Raw food contains the digestive enzymes that your pup requires to effectively complete the digestive process.
If you are used to giving him cooked meals, you will have to start adding digestive enzymes. You can use raw, green tripe for this; it is very rich in digestive enzymes and probiotics.
For a deficiency in trace minerals, you can add some kelp to the diet whereas apple cider vinegar will work well when there is a deficiency of hydrochloric acid. 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar for every 25lbs of your dog’s food may assist to mimic the absent acid and trigger his body to make up for the deficiency.
Ensure your dog’s stool is tested for the presence of any parasites in his stomach or intestines.
Finally, make a point of looking into the digestion situation of any other pet you may have in the home. This is because your pooch may be attracted to another dog’s or cat’s droppings, not because of his own deficiencies, but because his friends are not absorbing all the nutrients in their food and this can make their faeces enticing to your loveable dog.
NB: Scold your dog if you must but try not to punish your dog when find him eating his poop; it doesn’t help. If anything, it may make him think he’s being punished for pooping, causing him to eliminate the evidence by eating it even quicker the next time he goes.
Eating poop, even for a dog, is, to us without a doubt gross; but sometimes it might be more complicated than it looks. If you see your dog nibbling his stool, take him to vet to be checked for any underlying medical issues. And if he turns out fine, be sure to feed him well, keep him engaged, and keep his environment spic and span. Meanwhile, be patient and consistent as you try to get rid of this repulsive behavior. lo