Why do dogs eat poop?

By Dave Goff

I have never worked in an office where everybody spent so much time talking about poop, and coming from a music industry background, that’s really saying something! One of the most common issues for canines is stool-eating, technically known as Coprophagia. There are several reasons why a dog may eat feces, and no one answer is necessarily correct. Basically it breaks down into two main categories; behavior and/or nutrition. Products like Stool Eating Deterrent can be very helpful in breaking this habit but should be considered just a part of an over-all strategy.

Starting with puppies, it isn’t uncommon for very young dogs to want to investigate and play with strong smelling objects in their environment and feces, both theirs and others, definitely fit the bill. This behavior should be curbed and opportunity should be reduced as much as possible. It is especially important to be vigilant in cleaning up after your pets when you have a puppy around. Often this behavior will fade away as the dog gets older but for some dogs it becomes a habit and then it can be extremely difficult to stop.

Some other behavioral possibilities include something as simple as maintaining their space. Dogs want to have clean space to play and live in as much as you do and their most obvious way to rid the environment of waste is by eating it. Some dogs can be pickier about this than others, so once again, constant vigilance is needed when you have a dog who eats stool. As always, the best defense is to remove the opportunity.

Stress can also be a factor. As above, when dogs are stressed about their environment or territory they may react in inappropriate ways. If your dog has just begun eating stool, take a moment to think if there have been any recent changes in your dog’s life. Has a new dog been added to the household? A new family member? Has their space been reduced or changed in a significant way? Perhaps it is time to incorporate some herbal calming or flower essences into your dog’s regimen.

If it isn’t behavioral, it can certainly be nutritionally based. Stool eating can be a sign of inadequate nutrition or nutrient absorption. If your dog is seeking out alternate sources of nutrition, then there might be some nutrient missing from your dog’s diet. Take a moment to read this article (What you should know about your pet’s food) and look at your dog’s food. Is it full of fillers and grains? Sometimes a food change is the best way to fix a stool-eating problem.

If your dog is getting a good food, perhaps it is time to add some digestive assistance. The old saying is “you are what you eat” but what it really should be is “you are what you manage to digest.” If it isn’t digested and absorbed, it is just leaving the body as nutrient-dense feces. To your dog this means it is still a viable food source even the second time around. Along those same lines, if your dog is eating the feces of other pets in the household, then their digestion should also be considered.

If the cat’s stool still smells like food to the dog, it only makes sense your dog will want to eat it. The better the digestion, the less the stool will smell like food because more of the real food will stay in the body.

Some dogs may eat stool because of a condition or a medication that increases appetite, like conditions of diabetes or thyroid disease, or medications like prednisone. If your dog is constantly hungry, available stool will definitely seem like a food source.

As a quick and simple summary, to complete a strategy that starts with Stool Eating Deterrent; remove the opportunity, lower the stress, feed good food and add digestive support. If you consider all of the issues in your strategy, your possibility of success increases dramatically!

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18 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Dana said,

    I always wondered about this. I have a puppy who loves to rummage around in the cats litter pan and it grosses me out.

    So if I understand right, I need to give my cat some of that vitality digestive stuff?

  2. 2

    Hi Dana,

    There are several issues that can be involved in the equation, but increasing your cat’s digestive ability is definitely going to be key.

    I would also look at your cat’s food. If it is full of grains or by-products, your cat is going to have a harder time digesting it. Check out the article in our holistic health care library “What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food”.

  3. 3

    Joshua said,

    My dachsund is the swettest man around. I love him, nut i cannot stand the fact that he eats is own poop. When i first brought him home I kept him away from our other dog for a little while to make sure he would get adjusted and continue to eat well. I feed both of my dog’s Nutro. About the second day I had him i went to take a shower and when I came out he had pooped on the floor, and was already eating it when i came out. i gave him a firm scolding. But still to this day he will eat his own poop. I clean up the area that my dog’s live in right after i get home. And feed them very well. But he WON”T STOP……HELP!!!!

  4. 4

    Hello Joshua,

    I would check out the same article “What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food”.
    Be sure to check the food you are using for how much grain is in it. Most holistic vets agree that Corn Gluten Meal is a very poor protein source and both Wheat and corn are less easily digestible than actual meat proteins.
    Further, remember that no matter how good the food, adding some digestive support will help to assimilate the nutrients instead of allowing them to pass through.
    And of course, it is always worthwhile to try the Stool Eating Deterrent. This product is formulated with a natural blend of ingredients to deter dogs from eating their own stool.
    Good Luck with your little guy!

  5. 5

    nelsene erickson said,

    I am having poop eating problems with my 1 years old shihtzu “Annie”. I am presently giving her the stool eating deterrent and enzymes. Her food source is Canidae dry as well as canned. She eats both chicken and lamb the change seems to make no difference.. Also she is experiencing fear to ride in the car. I have tried two different types of natural products to try to calm her. I hope that someone has the tips we need to make her refrain from both of these unfortunate problems. thanks

  6. 6

    cathy wilson said,

    we have 2 shitzu puppies and they are only 3 months old. They would rather eat there own poop then eat dog food. We have 3 different brands of food out for them right now and they wont hardley touch it but one pup can be using the bathroom and the other one is standing there wathing it come out ready to eat it. we try to watch and get it from them but they go faind places to hide and eta it. We only catch them when we smell it…How nornal is this. I have nevr had a dog that did this.

  7. 7

    Bailey said,

    My German shepard Hedi is about 6 years and we can’t get her to stop eating it ! I heard that it was a protein problem,but the bad part is she introduced this broblem to are….3 month old bluehealer puppie…………
    what should I do????????

  8. 9

    Kari said,

    I have a sweet as can be eight month old golden retriever. Her only bad habit is the poop eating. She would really like to be out in the yard enjoying the sunshine, but I can’t leave her for a second without her enjoying a “tasty snack.” I have talked to the vet and we’ve tried 5 different kinds of food, meat tenderizer, and I’ve covered her poop with cayenne. If I’m watching, she does the “poop dance” around her “business” and waits for me to pick it up. If I’m inside it’s gone in an instant. Help, I’m at my wits end.

  9. 10

    Rose Caz said,

    I have 3 greyhounds and one eats poop …I feed her as much as my big brinle and she gets so many treats through out the day…I put her muzzle on at times to let her know it is not acceptable…I try to get out there and oick it up as soon as they go …but times she finds some…

  10. 11

    Linda Ritter said,

    I have a 1 year old rescued Boston Terrier who has just recently started poop eating. She has been on Ivamox since we got her for demdenic mange. Is that a steriod? We have tried SEP, no luck, she eats Eagle Pack Anchovy because we feel the fish oil is helping with the skin and fur issues. SEP made her vomit, pineapple seems to be having no effect.
    Do you guarentee Stool Eating Deterent?

    • 12

      Hello Linda,

      In regards to the demodectic mange, it would be a good idea to boost the immune system to assist your Boston Terrier in the fight against the mange. Please see this article in our Holistic Health Care Library.

      We do guarantee our Stool Eating Deterrent, but keep in mind, it will only be successful if it is part of an over-all strategy that includes attention to digestion, behavior, environment and assistance from a product like this. For the absolute optimal approach, you might want to switch to a highly-digestible raw or freeze-dried food, add in digestive support like Vital Digest, walk your dog often to expand it’s territory, pick up stool right away and perhaps see a pet behaviorist for the emotional/behavioral aspects.

      I hope this helps!

  11. 13

    Erika Husk said,

    I have nine dogs, a fenced in yard. I clean up on a daily to twice daily basis. I feed merrick before grain salmon and hills prescription diet for stomach upset for two of my dogs. I have four that are real problems as far as eating poop. I am at my wits end because they get sick and throw it up and I don’t mean a little. I want to throw up as well after smelling that. Thank goodness, for a lot of dog cleaners and a good steam cleaner. My vet knows not what to do, trainers know not what to do!! I am goingggg to pull my hair out and be bald soon–sooo please–HELP!!!!!! Erika

    P.S. I have used every possble poop deterent on the market!!!

    • 14

      Hello Erika,

      You are definitely taking the best step in making sure the area is clean to remove the temptation as much as possible. However, one of the biggest reasons for stool-eating is digestive issues. This can affect the issue in two ways; one, there might a vital nutrient that the dog’s body is craving and so they will look for any available food source to get it, and two, the food that is not being digested properly is passing right through the body, so the stool still smells like food.

      We would absolutely suggest using the most digestible food possible, preferable a raw, freeze-dried or dehydrated diet, and add in some digestive support.

      Please fee free to contact customer care for more guidance on this difficult issue!

  12. 15

    joann said,

    Both my cockers are eating poop and i started giving them Nutro lite because they are chunky and I guess that was a mistake, maybe not enough nutrients in it. I will get them a better product maybe Blue or some other top quality food.
    My dogs love to give kisses and sometimes it’s on the face and I am totally grossed out just thinking about it. How long does it take for a dogs mouth to clean itself out. I heard it takes about 30 minuits, is this true.
    At my witts end of being grossed out.
    JoAnn

  13. 16

    tyndallhouse said,

    My rescue dog, Darby is Blue Heeler/Husky and started eating one of my roommate’s dogs poop about a year ago. Lola contracted Valley Fever at that time and I was told that a dog will eat another’s poop if they know that dog is “sick”. We have another dog in the house who is not sick and she doesn’t bother with that dog’s poop at all. In hindsight, prior to eating Lola’s poop, on occasion she would eat an older dog’s poop (since expired) who was “sick” (since expired). Do you think there’s anything to this? My trainer has me walking Darby around the yard on a leash and using the “Leave it” command when we get to the poop piles. This teaches Darby that I am in charge of the yard/poop and she is not. It is working and she is relieved of the stress of ‘taking care’ of Lola.

  14. 17

    jone mullaney said,

    my 10 month old shih-zu bichon puppy has eaten his poops since I got him at 2 months.He has a tendency to eat everything in sight including paper etc.He is very smart but I can’t deal with poop eating I have tried everything and tried to keep his area super clean and every where I take him.At this point it a run to see who can get the poop first!!Is this common in this type of dog someone told me it is.Thankyou

  15. 18

    Bill said,

    Anybody have experience with senior dogs eating thei own poop. My German Shorthaired Pointer who is somewhere between 15 and 16 (I adopted him 12+ years ago so his true age is not known) has recently started to sometimes eat his own poop. It happens only during the night when he poops in the house (another recent development), I find some dried tiny pieces in the morning but nothing more. I haven’t seen him do this during the day. Any suggestions or knowlege of this issue, other than that he has been a wonderful dog.. Thanks


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