Why do Dogs Eat Their Poop?

This blog will help dog owners understand the multiple potential causes of coprophagia (or poop-eating), including nutritional and behavioral. It also offers tips for addressing these causes. Read now to learn more about a nasty, nasty habit that could be a warning sign of something far worse. Bonus? A poop joke at the end!

The eating of feces, called coprophagia or coprophagy, is fairly common among dogs. In fact, one study found that of the dogs observed, one in four ate their feces at least once.* Experts agree that to some degree this behavior is innate, harkening back to ancestral dogs that either (a) ate feces occasionally dropped in the nest area to keep it clean, or (b) ate it to supplement their diet when food was scarce.

For dogs who continue this behavior into adulthood, multiple causes could be responsible stemming from nutritional deficiencies, behavioral issues, or both.


Nutritional Deficiencies

Some dogs eat their own feces because they are lacking certain nutrients, most commonly Vitamin B, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and certain minerals. Poor quality food is typically the culprit. Consider an all-natural, high protein (human grade), low carb diet. Raw frozen and freeze dried foods are convenient options nowadays. If necessary, these can be supplemented with probiotics, digestive enzymes (read up on raw green tripe) and trace minerals like kelp.

Of course, always check with your vet to rule out other physiological causes such as parasites; also conditions that include diabetes, Cushing’s disease and thyroid disease, all of which can increase appetite.


Behavioral Issues

Behavioral causes of coprophagia can include boredom, stress, isolation and lack of attention. Be sure your dog is getting plenty of mental and physical stimulation. It’s also critical to pick up after your dog as soon as possible. Some dogs eat feces to keep their living area clean.

And never punish a dog for this behavior. Numerous studies have found this to be completely ineffective. In particular, dogs who engage in this as an attention-getting device actually get rewarded when you make a big fuss over it.

For more information about why dogs eat poop and what to do about it, check out this article from the AKC: http://www.akc.org/content/health/articles/why-dogs-eat-poop/.



I know this isn’t the most pleasant of subjects, but it can be a serious one for certain dogs. On a not-so-serious note, I was going to tell you a poop joke but it’s really crappy.


*2012 study presented at the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior annual conference.

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