Dog’s habit of eating poop— a.k.a. coprophagia (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh)—has both behavioral and physiological reasons . In a 2012 study presented at the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior annual conference, researchers found that:
- 16% (one in six) of dogs are classified as “serious” poop eaters, which means that they were caught in the act of eating poop five times
- 24% of the dogs in the study (one in four) were observed eating poop at least once
- dogs in the study (one in four) were observed eating poop at least once
Facts About Dogs Who Eat Poop:
- When it happens in puppies, it is a part of their process exploring the world around them, and it is generally safe.
- Coprophagia was more common in multi-dog households. In single-dog homes, only 20 percent of dogs had the habit of eating poop, while in homes with three dogs, that rose to 33 percent
- Dogs who eat poop are no harder to house train than any other dogs
- Female dogs are more likely to eat poop, and intact males were least likely
- 92 percent of poop eaters want fresh poop, only one to two days old
- 85 percent of dog poop eaters will not eat their own feces, only poop from other dogs
- Greedy eaters—dogs who steal food off tables—tend to be poop eaters
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
If your adult dog starts to eat poop, you should consult with your vet to rule out health problems like:
- Diets deficient in nutrients and calories
- Malabsorption syndromes
- Diabetes, Cushing’s, thyroid disease, and other conditions that might cause an increase in appetite
- Drugs, such as steroids
In some cases, dogs start to eat their own poop because of some kind of environmental stress or behavioral triggers, including:
- Isolation: Studies have shown that dogs who are kept alone in kennels or basements are more likely to eat poop than those dogs who live close to their people.
- Restrictive confinement: Spending too much time confined in a small space can cause a dog to develop a poop-eating problem. It’s not unusual to see coprophagia in dogs rescued from crowded shelters.
- Anxiety: Often, copraphagia is a result of a person using punishment or harsh methods during house training. According to this theory, dogs may eliminate and then eat their own poop to get rid of the evidence, but then they are punished more. It becomes a vicious cycle.
- Attention-seeking: Dogs may eat their own poop to get a reaction from their humans, which they inevitably will. So if you see your dog is eating poop, don’t overreact.
- Inappropriate association with real food: Dogs who are fed in proximity to their poop may make a connection between the odors of food and those of feces and will be unable to tell the difference.
- Living with a sick or elderly dog: Sometimes a healthy dog will consume poop from a weaker dog in the household, especially in cases of fecal incontinence. Scientists hypothesize that this may be related to the instinct to protect the pack from predators.
How to Stop a Dog From Eating Poop
Depending on the reason your dog eats poop, there are several strategies shown to work amongst vets and dog-parents:
- Vitamin supplementation:Dog multivitamins might be beneficial to eliminate poop from your dog’s diet. Vitamin-B deficiency, in particular, has been a prime suspect, and studies have backed this up.
- Enzyme supplementation: The modern canine diet is higher in carbohydrates and lower in meat-based proteins and fats than the canine ancestral diet, so adding digestive enzyme supplements could help to relance their digestion and eliminate the need to eat poop.
- Taste-aversion products: The theory is that certain tastes and smells are as disgusting to dogs as the idea of stool eating is to us, so offering a poop-eating deterrent treat or powder to food will make the poop that’s being produced less appealing. Many of these products contain monosodium glutamate, chamomile, pepper-plant derivatives, yucca, garlic, and parsley. Just remember: All of the dogs (and cats) in the household need to eat a stool-eating deterrent in order for their poop to be unpalatable to the dog who’s got the poop-eating habit. Some dog owners will also use bitter-tasting spray on poop to make it taste worse.
How did I stop my dog from eating his poop?
As per our vet's advice, I put Sriracha on his poop every single time he pooped. By Day 2 he had no desire of touching his poop again!