Why Your Dog Eats Poop and What to do About It

why does my dog eat poop

Have you ever noticed your dog sniffing something in the grass, then on closer inspection discovered he was snacking on poop! Yes I know it sounds disgusting, but it’s not that uncommon.

The “official” term for poop eating is Coprophagia, and there are various reasons why a dog might do it. Cushing’s, pancreatitis or intestinal issues, but most often it is behaviorial. The only way to stop it is to monitor him closely when out walking, clean up poop immediately,  and if you have a cat, keep the litter box clean.

Why your dog eats poop

If this is something your dog started doing recently, please make an appointment to see your vet. It’s something I always recommend when a dog exhibits a new behavior and you aren’t sure of the cause. It’s always best to start by ruling out any medical issues. 

No one really knows exactly why dogs eat poop, but here are some theories –

  • He likes the taste
  • Your dog is bored
  • Not eating a nutritionally balanced diet
  • Separation anxiety 
  • Looking for attention
  • Cat poop seems to be considered a delicacy – yes I’ve had a dog that liked it!
  • Steroids – can increase a dog’s appetite
  • They’ve been punished for having accidents in the house, and now “eat the evidence”
  • Puppy mill dogs – their environment is extremely stressful and they are usually fed a cheap, poor quality diet
  • Doing what their wolf ancestors did in the wild
  • Greedy eaters
  • Living in a multi dog household

Is eating poop harmful to your dog?

Generally speaking it isn’t, but if he eats the poop of other animals it can contain medication that would be harmful. It could also contain worms in which case your dog will get them as well.

If your dog has/does eat poop, be sure to wash your hands after coming in contact with his mouth.

My dog eats poop and his breath stinks!

I’m sure it does. The quickest fix is to give him a breath freshening treat. You can buy them, or better yet make some yourself. There are tons of easy recipes on Pinterest, and I’m including one to get you started.

DIY Doggie Breath Mints Recipe (this is from the skinnyms.com website)
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1 large egg
1/4 cup of water plus 1 tablespoon (more as needed to form the dough)
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil (unrefined extra virgin is best)
Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F
2. Add oats to a blender and pulse to a flour like consistency. In a large bowl whisk together diced parsley and mint, egg, water and oil. Add oat flour and stir to combine. Knead dough a few times then turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
3. Using your hands or a rolling pin, flatten dough to about 1/8″ thick. Using a cookie cutter or knife, cut out approximately 40 1″ mints. Place mints about 1/4 inch apart on a parchment lined or non-stick cookie sheet. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
4. Allow mints to cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.
Tip: For dogs with allergies to chicken products, substitute one egg with 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce.
Note: Please speak with your vet to ensure all ingredients are safe for your dog to eat.

 

Take the same steps you would take when caring for your dog’s teeth and gums

Brush daily or as many times a week as you can. Toothbrushes come in a variety of sizes and styles, and be sure to use toothpaste specifically for dogs. Water additives, which are just as the name suggests, added to your dog’s drinking water will also help. 

Why Your Dog Eats Poop and What to do About It

Things you can do to stop your dog eating poop

♦ Keep your yard and surrounding areas clean and free of poop.

♦ Stop your dog from getting bored by making sure he gets plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation – walks in different locations, hikes, swimming, play dates with doggie friends. play games with him, buy or make puzzles and treat dispensing toys.

♦ Feed him a good quality, nutritionally balanced diet.

♦ If your dog is off leash and finding poop in the park, put him on a leash or don’t let him run too far off. A long training lead will give him some freedom, but within your field of vision. After a few weeks of not being able to get at poop, you may break him of that habit or desire and he’ll be able to run free once again. 

♦ Regularly clean all litter boxes; find a place easily accessible for the cat, but not the dog; a litter box with a lid and door may help, but not all cats like that style so make sure yours is still using his litter box, or you’ll have another issue on your hands!

♦ Steroids are known to increase appetite, but to the extent your dog will eat poop? That’s hard to say. If your dog is on this drug and this behavior started at the same time, there likely is a correlation and hopefully this behavior will stop once the steroids do. If he’s on them long term, then keeping your yard clean and dog on a leash may be your best deterrents. 

♦ If your dog has an accident in the house, do not punish him. It may be time to do a refresher course of house training with your dog.  

♦ Doing what their wolf ancestors did in the wild – greedy eaters – living in a multi-dog household. I found these 3 possible reasons in a study called “The paradox of canine conspecific coprophagy.” I highly recommend you read it, because I found it extremely interesting and helpful.  

♦ If your dog is suffering from stress or separation anxiety, there are many things you can do to help. Products such as an Adaptil plug in, a Thundershirt, Rescue Remedy or Valerian and Skullcap can help reduce anxiety. In the case of separation anxiety, training your dog to learn to be left alone can be effective. 

♦ Teach your dog “leave it.” 

Step 1 – I put a piece of chicken on the floor as he was watching me, covered it with my hand and said “leave it” every time he tried to get the chicken. When he listened he got the chicken right way. I did this a few times a day until he was good at leaving it.

Step 2 – The same as step 1, only this time I only partially covered the chicken with my hand, so it made leaving it more challenging. When he listened he got the chicken. 

Step 3 – Again the same as step 1 but at this point I didn’t cover the chicken at all. I did keep my hand close by in case Jack made a grab for the treat. When he listened, he got the chicken.   

Step 4 – Like step 1 but now I took my hand completely away. I also said “leave it” a few times before he would get the chicken. It was a good way to practice impulse control.

♦ Cover your dog’s poop in Tabasco sauce, Bitter Apple or lemon juice. Be sure the hot sauce doesn’t contain any ingredients that can be harmful to your pup. It’s possible enough contact with these hot and bitter products will deter him from eating poop. 

♦ A small amount of canned pumpkin added to your dog’s food every day is a great source of fiber, and apparently it makes poop taste bad.

♦ Other products that claim to get your dog to stop eating poop include:

Do they work? Not one of the reviews were that great, but some people have found the products helpful. It doesn’t hurt to take a look at what others are saying, and see what kind of ingredients they contain. If you are interested in trying one of these or another product you’ve found, I recommend you speak with your vet first. 

Does pineapple stop a dog from eating poop?

There may not be scientific evidence that pineapple works, but some anecdotal evidence claims it does. Add small chunks to your dog’s meal, and it should make his poop taste bad. The thing is, will the taste deter your dog from eating his food?

 

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Hindy Pearson
I am a dog trainer and behaviour consultant, specialising in working with first time dog owners. Whether you're thinking of getting a dog and aren't sure if it's the right time, or you've been sharing your life with one for awhile but there are issues you can't resolve, I am here for you. No matter where in the world you live I can help.

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