Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? How Can I Stop It?
Most pet owners find coprophagia repulsive and very disturbing. This is a common behavior in dogs where the pet eats its own feces or that of other dogs. While the behavior is disgusting, it should ring the alarm bells among responsible pet owners. When a dog eats feces, it is often a sign of a problem. One should set out to find the cause of the behavior to help determine how best to stop the pet from eating its own feces.
Why Do Some Dogs Eat Poop?
There are many reasons why a dog can display coprophagia or the behavior of eating feces. It can be because of an existing medical condition. It is also possible that the answer to why do dog eat their poop is part of their learned behavior.
- Enzyme Deficiency
Enzymes facilitate the digestion of food. It allows the intestines to absorb as many nutrients from food as possible. Dogs can produce their own digestive enzymes. However, the amount is often not enough to digest all of the food. They need to get additional enzymes from their diet. The problem is that most of the dog food today do not contain these beneficial digestive enzymes. Hence, a dog will eat poop in an attempt to get much-needed nutrients from the stool.
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
If the pancreas is not functioning properly, it will not be able to produce digestive enzymes. This can have an impact in the dog’s digestion. It will not be able to process the nutrients that it needs for health. As such, the dog will try to eat its own feces to obtain the nutrients it needs.
- Diabetes, Thyroid Problems, and Other Medical Conditions
There are medical conditions that can make a dog go hungrier than usual. Diabetes and hyperthyroidism can make a dog feel hungry all the time. This can make it eat things other than its food. The closest thing to food that a dog can eat is its own feces. After all, it is the byproduct of digestion.
- Presence of Intestinal Parasites
Intestinal worms can deprive the dog of the nutrients that its body needs. Instead of being absorbed into the pet’s bloodstream, many of these nutrients get eaten up by the intestinal parasites. The resulting nutrient deficiency can make the dog eat other things, like feces. This will help compensate for the insufficient nutrients that it gets from its food.
A dog that is suffering from malabsorption syndrome can also try to eat its own feces or the stool of others. It does this to compensate for the insufficient nutrients that it is not getting. Malabsorption should not be confused with intolerance, although the manifestations are almost the same.
- Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency
It is also possible that your dog is suffering from hydrochloric acid deficiency if it eats its own feces. Hydrochloric acid is important in the digestion of food particles in the stomach. It helps break down large food particles so that the digestive enzymes can break these down to their component nutrients. A deficiency in hydrochloric acid robs the dog of its ability to digest food particles.
- Not Feeding Enough
Another reason why your dog is eating its own feces is that you are not feeding it enough. Insufficient amount of dog food can translate to insufficient amount of nutrients. The dog will attempt to supplement its nutrition by eating the same byproducts of its own digestion.
- Learned Behavior
In the absence of medical problems, a behavioral issue can be the reason behind the dog’s coprophagic tendencies. For example, mother dogs often clean up their puppies right after pooping. This can help keep the puppies clean. A dog that eats its own poop can be interpreted as its inherent need to maintain cleanliness.
Puppies also love to explore their surroundings. When they eat their own feces, they may find it pleasing. Most puppies tend to outgrow such a behavior. However, there are those that may still exhibit such a behavior, especially in periods of stress.
Puppies and dogs that get punished for pooping in the wrong places are also more predisposed to coprophagia. Pet behaviorists say this is a compensatory mechanism. The dog does not want its owner to scold it or punish it. As such, it will eat its own feces.
It is also possible that coprophagia is the result of attention-seeking behavior. If a dog feels ignored, it may do things that will get its owner’s attention. It doesn’t matter if the dog gets punished for it. What matters is that it was able to get its owner’s attention.
- Boredom and Stress
Being left in the house with nothing to do can be very frustrating for some dogs. It will try to entertain itself by eating things other than its food. This includes its stool. The same is true with stress. Eating poop can be a dog’s way of alleviating its anxiety.
How to Stop Dog from Eating Poop
Now that we have a clear understanding of the possible reasons why a dog eats feces, we can now look into the different ways you can put a stop to this behavior.
- Rule Out any Medical Condition that May be Causing the Problem
Learning how to stop dog from eating poop starts with a visit to your veterinarian. It is important that you ascertain the presence (or absence) of a medical condition that may be causing your pet to eat stool. No amount of behavioral management or nutritional adjustments will be enough to put a stop to a dog’s coprophagic tendency if one does not address the medical problem.
- Supplement the Dog’s Diet with Vitamins and/or Acids
One of the reasons why do dog eat their poop is that they are deficient in certain vitamins. Studies show that the microbial flora in the dog’s large intestines produce thiamine. A deficiency in such a B-vitamin can make the dog eat feces because fecal matter contains this vitamin. In such cases, it would be wise to supplement your dog’s diet with B-vitamins. If you are giving the dog high-quality, well-balanced food, it may not be necessary to supplement.
If the dog is deficient in hydrochloric acid, you can add apple cider vinegar to its diet. Add about a teaspoon of ACV for every 25 pounds of dog food. This can help compensate for the missing hydrochloric acid in the dog’s stomach.
- Give Your Dog Raw Food or Supplement its Diet with Enzymes
Giving your pet high-quality raw dog food can supply it with the necessary digestive enzymes. You can give tripe as this contains the same enzymes found in the dog’s digestive tract.
If you are not keen on giving your pet raw dog food, then you should talk to your veterinarian about a suitable enzyme supplement. Enzymes are critical to the optimal digestion of food. This helps ensure that the nutrients get absorbed in the dog’s system in a more efficient manner.
- Add Taste-Aversion Products to Your Dog’s Meal
There are pet products that you can add to your dog’s meal. These products tend to produce poop that is less appealing to your dog. It can have a nasty odor, deterring your pet from eating it. It can also leave a very bitter taste in the dog poop. If your pet eats its own poop, it will vomit it out because of the unpleasant taste.
Many of these taste-aversion products contain chamomile, yucca, and parsley. Some also contain pepper derivatives, garlic, and monosodium glutamate. Always talk to your veterinarian about these products before you give them to your dog. These can also have unexpected consequences that may spell more health problems for your pet.
- Keep Your Home Clean
One of the best ways on how to stop dog from eating poop is by keeping your house clean. Always pick up dog poop right after your pet passes it out. If you have babies at home, you should also keep poop-containing diapers in a more secure place. It is also important to clean the litter box everyday if you have cats in the house.
- Engage Your Dog in More Meaningful Activities
A dog eats feces when it is bored or has nothing else to do. It will tend to seek out something ‘more interesting’ to while its time. It is for this reason that pet owners should engage their dogs in more meaningful activities. Exercise and play time are two great ways to entertain your pet. Giving them puzzle toys works best as playthings can keep the dog focused on securing the ‘prize’ from the puzzle.
- Teach Your Dog the “Leave It” Command
You can also teach your pet to leave poop alone. You will have to train it to respond to the “leave it” command. This can be very helpful during outdoor activities. If your dog comes across a poop on the ground and starts sniffing it, you can command it to leave the poop. If you are not sure how to train your pet this command, you can always enlist the help of a dog trainer.
Learning how to stop dog from eating poop starts with a clear understanding of why they do it in the first place. If you are still having problems with your pet’s coprophagia, your veterinarian can help you find a more appropriate solution.