Of all the unpleasant behaviors our dogs exhibit—drinking from the toilet, rolling in swamp mud, licking their butthole—nothing disgusts the majority of owners more than your precious puppy eating someone else’s feces. If you’ve ever wondered why do dogs eat poop and how to prevent your dog from doing so, continue reading.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

There is a scientific term for this poop-eating behavior—coprophagia.  In 2012 study researchers led by Dr. Benjamin Hart of the University of California, it was discovered that:

  • 16% (one in six) of dogs are labelled as “serious” stool eaters, meaning they have been caught in the act 5 times.
  • 24% (one in four) of dogs in the study were noticed eating feces at least once.

The study concluded that consuming fresh stools reflects an intrinsic inclination of ancestral canids living in nature to protect pack members from intestinal parasites found in feces that may be spilled in the den/rest area on occasion. In a nutshell, it is genetically programmed for them to consume feces.

Some Facts About Dogs Eating Poop

Did you know that for the first three weeks after birth, mother dogs will lick their pups to encourage them to eliminate and clean up their excrement by eating it?

Puppies will naturally indulge in this activity as well, eating their own feces (autocoprophagia), feces from other dogs (allocoprophagia), as well as feces from cats and other animals.

While eating their own excrement is OK, eating other animals waste is not. They may get a variety of diseases.

However, the one silver lining (if you choose to call it that) is that this behavior will often subside before the puppy reaches around nine months of age.

When it happens in pups, coprophagia is widely seen as a natural part of the process of acclimating to their new environment.

While the majority of puppies will be content with a sniff, a minority, like human youngsters, will want to put everything in their mouths.

One peculiar fact: Dogs hardly never consume mushy, poorly shaped feces or diarrhea. They tend to be particularly drawn to hard stools.

Frozen feces, in particular, is eagerly consumed! The study above mentioned also made the following discoveries regarding why dogs eat poop:

  • Coprophagia was more prevalent in families with many dogs. Only 20% of canines in single-dog households exhibited the behavior, but this increased to 33% in households with three dogs.
  • Poop eaters are no more difficult to housetrain than any other dogs.
  • Females are more prone to consume feces than intact male dogs.
  • 92 percent of feces eaters need fresh material that is no more than one to two days old.
  • 85 percent of poop eaters will consume only the excrement of other canines.
  • Greedy eaters—dogs that take food from tables—are more likely to be feces eaters.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? Reasons

If your adult dog begins to consume excrement, you should visit your veterinarian to rule out any health issues such as:

  • Parasites
  • Nutrient and calorie-deficient diets
  • Malabsorption
  • Diabetes, Thyroid diseases, Cushing’s disease, thyroid illness, and a variety of other disorders can all result in an increase in appetite.
  • Drugs like steroids

Often, dogs begin eating their own feces as a result of environmental stress or behavioral cues, such as:

Isolation: Dogs housed alone in basements or kennels are more likely to consume excrement than dogs that live close to their owners.

Small Space: Spending an excessive amount of time trapped in a tiny place might contribute to the problem. Coprophagia is not uncommon in dogs rescued from overcrowded shelters.

Anxiety: Often caused by a person’s use of harsh measures or punishment during house training. According to this hypothesis, dogs may defecate and then consume their own feces in order to remove the evidence, but they are then punished much more severely. It develops into a vicious loop.

Attention: Dogs consume their own feces in order to elicit an emotional response from their people, which they invariably do. Therefore, if you observe your dog engaging in this behavior, do not react excessively.

Inappropriate association with actual food: Dogs fed in close proximity to their excrement may develop an inability to distinguish between the aromas of food and feces.

Scenting their mums with it: Pups may become confused in rare situations when they detect fecal odors on their mother’s breath after she has washed them.

Additionally, moms may vomit food contaminated with puppy feces. It is referred to this as a “aggressive inoculation,” which may predispose a puppy to acquire this undesirable behavior.

Coexisting with a sick or elderly dog: Occasionally, a healthy dog will swallow feces from a weaker canine household member, particularly in circumstances of fecal incontinence. Scientists think that this is connected to the pack’s urge to defend themselves against predators.

Is It Harmful for My Dog to Consume Poop?

Consuming feces is a natural behavior for dogs, and while it may seem repulsive to us, it is typically rather safe. While your dog may like eating excrement, it is usually something to avoid due to the risk of parasites, viruses, and germs.

Also, certain medicines can travel through an animal and into its feces like worming medications found in horse dung, may be hazardous to your dog.

Is It Possible for My Dog to Contract Worms by Eating Poop?

Yes. Certain parasites or their eggs may be detected in animal feces and may be passed on to your dog if consumed. Hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, etc. can all infect dogs and cause illness.

Ensure that your dog is routinely wormed and consult your veterinarian for the most up-to-date worming information.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Consuming Poop

Whatever the reason for your dog’s poop-eating habit, you’ll want to address it. Due to the risks associated with parasite disease transmission via coprophagia, your dog’s foul breath will be the least of your concerns! Several methods exist for preventing your dog from eating poop:

  • Use leash to walk your dog. If you have a better hold on your dog and are vigilant, you can easily keep them away from any feces they may encounter.
  • Clean up your dogs poop immediately  While it may be tempting to leave feces in the yard, this allows your dog to eat his backyard dumps. If your dog is a poop eater, take them outside with you so you can quickly distract them and pick up their excrement.
  • Enhance his diet with meat tenderizer, canned pumpkin, or similar deterrent. These products taste good when consumed, however they impart an unpleasant flavor to dog feces.
  • Teach your dog the command “Leave It.”

Consult your veterinarian about changing your dog’s food or moving to a full and balanced diet to ensure your dog receives all the nutrients they require.

Avoid using punitive measures – While punishment may temporarily halt the behavior, it may harm your connection with your dog and may even exacerbate the problem.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Ingesting Cat Feces?

Many dogs appear to particularly love eating cat feces, and for some, a cat’s litter pan is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. To deter your dog, you might attempt the following:

  • Regularly clean your cat’s litter tray
  • Relocating the litter tray to an area that is accessible to your cat but not to your dog, such as:
    • Atop a table
    • Behind a stairgate with an integrated cat flap
    • Within a litter pan equipped with a cover or a door

How Do I Clean the Mouth of My Dog After It Has Eaten Poop?

One of the most upsetting aspects of watching your dog eat feces is knowing that they may later attempt to lick you or have foul-smelling breath, so how can you clean them? If your dog likes eating feces, you could consider the following:

  1. Give them something to eat and water to drink, as this will help wash away any bad odors and make them feel a bit more refreshed.
  2. Wipe a towel and some water around their lips.
  3. If you already have a toothbrush for your dog, use it. Never use human toothpaste on your dog, since some of them may be poisonous.
  4. Give a dental stick to them to gnaw on.
  5. Praise them frequently while you clean them up to keep things as stress-free as possible. Additionally, it will assist in diverting your attention away from it!

Why Does My Dog Eat Feces During the Winter?

Generally, dogs do not eat soft feces or diarrhea, but appear to favor more hard stools. The more robust, the better.

Certain breeds of dogs enjoy frozen feces, and dogs that do not normally chew on stools may be lured by these crisp ‘poosicles.’

In the winter, particularly when it is snowed, excrement stands out more against the white snow and may be more appealing to them.

When Should I Notify My Veterinarian if My Dog Consumes Feces?

If your dog habitually consumes feces or you have concerns about their health or behavior, you should always seek guidance from your veterinarian, especially if this is a new problem.

Your veterinarian may be able to provide you with advice on how to manage this issue, or they may refer you to a behaviorist.

If your dog is eating feces and exhibiting other symptoms of disease, you should immediately call your veterinarian.

Sources: 1, 2