There are countless joys to owning a dog. Dogs bring joy, provide companionship, cuddle when it’s cold, and comfort you when you’re sad.
Even so, dog owners sometimes struggle when their canine comrades engage in the occasional unsavory habits.
Perhaps your puppy chews a treasured stuffed animal, drinks from the toilet, or has an accident on the new carpet. Nevertheless, on the list of bad habits, few behaviors are more gross than a dog’s affinity for eating poop.
While on a nice walk, dog owners watch in horror as their sweet, cuddly pooch beelines for a stinky pile on the sidewalk.
Like moths to a flame, dogs always seem to discover nature’s nastiest delicacies.
We’ve done our “doody” and found answers to some of your more puzzling poop-related questions.
Learn why dogs eat poop
Your dog has several motivations for eating poop.
While the idea may offend our human sensibilities, when you consider the various reasons behind the behavior, it may seem less outrageous.
Surprisingly, it’s such a typical behavior that there is even an official scientific word for it: coprophagy.
First and foremost, eating poop is embedded in dog DNA.
Dogs are inherently scavengers, meaning they’ll eat what’s available.
Moreover, the smellier the food, the likelier it will draw scavengers to the buffet, meaning poop is one of the easier things for hungry dogs to find.
Scavenging animals can’t afford to be picky to survive as a species, so when food was scarce, your dog’s ancestors likely ate the occasional “number two.”
Some experts believe that dogs eat poop to protect their packs.
Wolves, whose fecal matter often contains parasites due to their diets, habitually defecate outside the pack’s den — much like your pooch generally prefers to poop outside the house.
However, scientists purport that when a wolf cannot leave the shelter (whether due to illness or injury), it will instead consume its poop to prevent its pack members from accidentally ingesting potentially dangerous parasites.
Humans tend to find feces disgusting, but eating defecation is a delicacy to a dog. Poop contains nutrients. And, believe it or not, they like the poop taste.
In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s not a bad idea to add some dog poo to your compost pile.
While the occasional poo snack is normal, note if your dog suddenly wants to add fecal matter to its diet. Overeating poop can indicate nutritional deficiencies.
An escalation in the behavior could signal some critical nutrients are missing, and you may want to plan a trip to the vet.
Common symptoms of a deficiency or medical concern include flaky skin, brittle fur, weight loss, weight gain, or excessive itching or sores.
If you have any concerns about what to feed your dog, consult your vet. You may need to consider enzyme supplementation.
Some dogs just really like the taste of poop. After all, it’s technically just pre-digested food, right?
Dog owners with a cat at home will likely need to keep their dog away from the litter box; protein-packed cat feces make a mouth-watering snack for a hungry dog.
Your dog could be eating poop as attention-seeking behavior. Consider what you normally do when your dog beelines for a particularly stinky stool.
Do you have a strong reaction? Do you raise your voice? Your dog has likely connected the dots — eating poop is a surefire way to get your attention.
So, being poop eaters can be a behavioral issue.
Anxious or stressed-out dogs, such as those isolated for long periods or kept in crowded animal shelters, will often eat their poop.
You’ll also likely see the behavior in dogs that are punished too severely for having an accident in the house; your dog has learned it’s better to hide the evidence than face your displeasure.
Do other animals eat poop?
Dogs are not the only animal that eats poop.
Rabbits are a prime example. Because of their plant-based diets, rabbits redigest their feces to extract more nutritional value.
Pigs, especially piglets, will often eat poop as well.
Some scientists believe piglets eating their mother’s droppings might receive additional health benefits.
Can eating poop make your dog sick?
Despite some of this information, eating poop can make your dog sick.
Feces often contains bacteria and parasites.
Dogs that indulge too often in eating poop are at a higher risk for common parasites, including hookworms, giardia, roundworms, and coccidia.
While parasite issues are treatable, they still cause your dog discomfort and can be dangerous for young puppies.
Should you stop dogs from eating poop?
According to a 2012 study, eating poop is typical dog behavior. Researchers witnessed almost 25% of the canines in the study eating poop at least once.
Despite these realities, most dog owners will attempt to stop dogs from eating poop. You can use these strategies to get your dog to stop eating poop.
The best way to prevent the behavior is by removing the temptation.
For dog owners with a cat, ensure the litter box is out of your dog’s reach.
Keep the lawn poop-free. While on a walk, have your pooper scooper tools at hand. Supervise your dog closely when visiting areas with a high poop-to-dog ratio (like your local dog park).
Work on avoidance commands like “leave it.”
If you’re consistent in telling your dog to leave something alone (and have a more tempting treat at the ready as a reward), it’ll be less likely to dart towards a rogue dropping on the sidewalk.
There are taste-aversion products available that you can add to your dog’s food or give as a treat to help prevent your dog from eating feces.
These harmless additives contain ingredients that will make your dog’s poop unappetizing.
Final thoughts on how to stop dogs from eating poop
So, while you may think twice about indulging in those puppy kisses next time, your pup’s penchant for eating poop isn’t a cause for concern.
However, watch for any secondary symptoms that may signal that your dog suffers from nutritional absorption issues, deficiencies, or parasites.
As always, give your vet a call if you have any doubts.