If you’re feeding your dog low-grade dog food, chances are your pet is unable to differentiate the taste of that diet from its poop. A lot of nutritional value is left undigested when it comes to low-grade dog food and digestive issues encourage your dog to re-eat its food to get the most out of it (yeah, it sounds highly practical, but it shouldn’t be the case). This habit (or disease) of eating its own or some other pets poop is known as Coprophagia. It’s not just dogs, many other animals including, as stomach twisting it may sound, humans have this behavioral disorder. In this article on why do dogs eat poop you will be given information on the various factors for this unworthy habit and the solution.
There is no singular reason for dogs eating poop. As you can’t predict the behavior of a human being without first knowing their living conditions, circumstances, mindset etc, same goes for dogs. Pet psychologists have however proposed five reasons for dogs eating poop, which are discussed here.
Why Does My Dog Eat Poop? The Problems
1. Natural Instinct
Dogs, unlike cats or other hunting animals, are scavengers by nature. They used to live on whatever they could get their teeth on before we domesticated them and started feeding them the shiny box of so-called nutritional dog food. You might not be aware, but not all dog food brands give your dog the nutritional value it requires. Hence it may trigger its natural instinct of searching for nutritional food and eating whatever the poop it can find.
Just because you have learned that this is your dogs “natural instinct” it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to discourage it. There are solutions to get your dog over this issue but first you have to realize that this is an issue. We’ll come to the solutions part soon in this article.
2. Quick Learners
If you make the list of smart animals, dogs will be amongst the top few. This makes them a lot like infants who observe your every move and try to learn and execute it. When your dog sees you cleaning after the mess it makes, it subliminally sends a message across its learning mind to follow your intent next time. Unfortunately, your dog doesn’t know how to operate a vacuum cleaner or pick up its poop with a dustpan, so the smartest option he’s left with is eat the problem.
Another similarity you may observe in human children and puppies is the habit of putting everything in their mouth to better feed the curiosity (excuse the pun). So if you observe that your puppy is eating poop, he might stop doing that once his appetite for curiosity is fulfilled. The learning and experimentation is part and parcel of their growing phase which eventually ends with developing distaste for poop. If your puppy is all grown up and still likes to enjoy poop for lunch, you should take this issue seriously and follow the solutions part to eradicate the unworthy habit.
3. Medical Issues
Almost all behavioral issues can result from medical causes. To better understand the root cause of an issue like dog eating poop, you have to entertain the possibilities of medical conditions that your veterinarian can identify easily with some tests. Common health issues that may result in your dog eating poop is pancreas related medical problems, inability to absorb enough nutrients or the most common problem of parasites.
Another reason (which may be hard to digest) is when there are multiple dogs in a household and one of the dogs get sick. The healthy dog might start to eat the feces of the unhealthy dog as a natural reaction of saving it from “predators” that may find it following the tracks left behind. This is a rather motherly gesture of protective instincts that dogs show to each other.
4. Preferring Poop over Dog Food
As I wrote in the initial phase, dog food is not always what they advertise. Noticing that your dog prefers poop over his branded dog food should be a strong indicator that you need to invest a little more time and money in selecting your dog’s diet. You can consult your veterinarian for advice when selecting dog food rather than selecting the shiniest box that turns out to be low-grade indigestible food that your dog will curse you for.
Coprophagia, as discussed earlier, can be caused due to deficiencies of certain nutrients in which Vitamin B is noted as the top most. Some veterinary nutritionists have also suggested that dogs eat poop to replenish certain enzymes that encourage digestion and better prepare its body for the actual diet.
There is also a common theory that suggests that overfeeding your dog can lead to Coprophagia. Overfeeding a dog may result in the inability to absorb all the nutrients in its food and to solve this apparent problem your dog may recycle the wasted nutrients by eating its poop.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
This shouldn’t be a surprise that like many (if not all) pets, dogs desire attention from their owners. If you, as the dog owner is not giving the proper amount of attention under normal circumstances and when the dog eats poop, you suddenly give attention (even negative) and start either scolding or giving a few love slaps. This can reinforce the behavior instead of discouragement as the dog thinks of this habit as a way to seek your (master’s) attention.
Just like children do things that they are forbidden to do in order to get your attention when you’re busy with other stuff, dogs can depict similar behavior by doing the things that you don’t want them to do, like in this case eating poop.
How do you feel when you’re starving and aren’t given any food to eat? It shouldn’t be hard to understand if your dog comes to the point of eating its own feces to kill the hunger when you forget to feed it.
It may seem absurd at first, but dogs can eat poop even when they’re bored. Coming from a barren background (a puppy mill or pet store), dogs may find their poop interesting enough to play with and ultimately eat it.
The solution to Coprophagia is part-behavioral and part-dietary if there is no medical issue linked with the actual problem. As this is not a crucial defect, you can afford experimentation, which is required in abundance when it comes to Coprophagia. If the problem is due to medical reasons, you might skip the experimentation and take your dog to the veterinarian for inspection and treatment. Now let’s have a look at the steps you can safely take to solve this issue.
1. Upgrade The Diet
There’s a high chance that your dog eats poop because it is not getting out of its food what its supposed to. No matter how convenient your low-grade dog food is for you, a well-researched balanced diet can’t be ignored for the sake of your comfort. As you like to spend time with your dog, you also need to spare time for your dog’s health and well-being.
The second most important quality of the diet that is given to your dog is the food being digestible;first one is that it should be full of nutrients. If you observe that your dog is eating its poop, that’s because it wants to reattempt the extraction of nutritional content from its food. Of course this behavior looks practical but it isn’t a healthy way of filling in for the lost nutrients. Although the food might be well advertised and seemingly high quality, there is no guarantee that it suits your pet’s digestive system. Refer to a veterinarian with this issue if you see your dog trying to recycle the food and ask for an alternate to what you’re feeding it.
If you’re confident that you’re feeding your dog the right food, you might want to add a supplementary piece to the diet that solves all your issues, isn’t it? Good news is that feeding your dog pineapple has been observed to help digestion and stop them from eating poop.
2. Discourage Your Dog Eating Poop
Take notes of your dog’s bowel movements and accompany it outside during the potty breaks. Supervision can be extremely helpful in a scenario where you need to solve behavioral issues with training. Not everyone has the time and stamina to plan routines with their dog in order to solve behavioral problems but as much as you hate it, this is a very effective method and requires consistency and patience.
Whenever your dog gets free from its dirty business, remove the feces to cut down its supply of poop. Go through your entire backyard and make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Another helpful tip is to walk the dog on a leash so whenever it is sniffing and trying to eat poop, you can pull it away and physically restrict his ambitious efforts.
Positive reinforcement can work magic. As soon as your dog starts moving towards poop show with your words and actions that you don’t want it to do that. Say “no”, “leave it” and other negating words that you normally use with your dog (so that it recognizes them) and distract it with its favorite treat. You can also use toys and clickers that it usually plays with, followed by encouraging praise.
As a dog-parent, it is your responsibility to provide proper house-training to your pup. Providing proper exercise and take your dog out for a walk on a schedule so that they can get rid of their body wastes outside. Dogs don’t like to excrete in the place where they live and they have to be walked out on a regular basis in the day time and before bed at night. It is not healthy for an adult dog to be put inside a crate for more than 5-6 hours. So whenever you’re going to leave it alone, make sure it is in a proper pet-safe area not locked inside a crate. These unhealthy routines and behavioral enforcements cause psychological malfunctioning and nutritional imbalance resulting in Coprophagia.
4. Medical Checkup and Treatment
If nothing works, you can count on your veterinarian for help. A few tries with the diet-changing and behavioral training exercises will confirm that there is something medically wrong with your dog. If it is a problem of parasite infection, your dog will get proper treatment and medication.
Not all medical issues require such treatment, like there are products available in the market that can be applied to feces to discourage this habit.
5. Feeding alternatives
Add 2-4 tbsp of canned pumpkin daily to your dog’s normal diet. The effect has more to do with negative reinforcement rather than nutritional science as pumpkin tastes good when eaten directly but repugnant when it comes out as poop; after all no dog would want to eat distasteful poop, would it?
To improve your dog’s digestive system, add a teaspoon (if dog is small) or a tablespoon (if dog is grown up) of canned pineapple to the dog’s food. This will improve your pet’s digestive system and dogs wouldn’t mind this much quantity of pineapple in their food.
If canned pineapple is distasteful and it seems like a turnoff for your dog, try adding a teaspoon or tablespoon of pineapple juice or spinach (for small or big dog respectively) to the dog’s food.
Adding meat tenderizer to the dog’s food can also help them digest the food better and reduce the chances of them eating poop.
To summarize it, you can feed a balanced diet / higher-grade dog food, walk the dog out on regular basis, play and interact to keep it both physically and mentally healthy, clean up after your dog relieves itself to reduce the chances of it finding any poop to eat. Also, don’t leave your dog locked up in a crate for long periods of time and regularly visit the veterinarian for routine health inspection to rule out any irregularities with your dog.