We all love a good poop joke, but when our dogs are EATING poop ... well, that’s no laughing matter.
But take heart: you’re not alone in your struggles with a poop-eating pooch. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 6 dogs is a poop-eater.
So what’s behind this gross behavior and what can you do to fix it? Keep reading for the scoop on dogs that eat poop.
Types of Dog Poop Eaters
There are three types of poop eating in dogs (scientifically known as coprophagy):
- Autocoprophagia: when dogs eat their own poop
- Intraspecific coprophagia: when dogs eat the poop of other dogs (most common)
- Interspecific coprophagia: when dogs eat the poop of other animals: cats, rabbits, deer, etc.
No matter which type of poop-eater you have on your hands, the good news is that the behavior can likely be fixed. But it may not be a QUICK fix, as it can take time and commitment to break a dog's poop-eating habit.
"Fun" Facts About Dogs That Eat Poop
- Poop eating is more common in multi-dog households, 20% vs. 33%, respectively
- Female dogs are more likely to eat poop; intact males are least likely
- 92% of poop eaters only want to eat poop when it’s fresh (less than 2 days old)
- Dogs consider frozen stools a delicacy (hence the word "poopsicle"?!)
- Dogs will rarely eat loose stool
Medical Reasons for Why Dogs Eat Poop
If you have an adult dog and the poop-eating habit appears out of nowhere, it could be due to a health condition. You’ll want to make an appointment with the vet to get to the bottom of your dog’s penchant for poop eating.
Health conditions that can cause a dog to eat poop include:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Thyroid conditions
- Intestinal parasites
- Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)
- Improper digestion
- Drug treatments such as steroids and psychotropics
- Female dog is nursing and eating the poop of their young to keep the area clean
Oftentimes, dogs that eat poop due to a medical condition will have other symptoms too, such as vomiting or diarrhea, so be sure to let the vet know of any changes in your dog’s health.
Behavioral Reasons for Dogs Eating Poop
Behavioral reasons are more common than medical reasons for why dogs eat poop. So if your dog is on a quality diet and doesn’t have any health issues, the reason for your dog’s poop eating is most likely behavioral:
- Dog is bored/lonely: If your dog is left alone in the yard, basement or kennel for long periods of time, they may eat poop out of boredom. They want to be with their people!
- Ineffective training: Dogs who are punished for eating poop, especially harshly, may eat poop to clean up the evidence and avoid getting punished. Dog parents who rub their dogs’ noses in the poop as punishment may actually be encouraging their dogs to eat their feces.
- Attention-seeking behavior: If your dog’s poop eating gets you all riled up, your pet may enjoy all the hoopla and see it as a game. (Kind of like if your dog grabs your shoe to chew on and a chase ensues.) That’s why it’s important to stay calm and not give a reaction to your dog’s poop eating.
- Your dog takes pleasure in poop eating: The most common reason that pets eat poop is they (eww!) like the taste of it.
- Space, please! If you feed your dog in close proximity to where they go #2, they may form a connection between the smell of food and their fecal matter, and therefore want to eat it.
- A pack member is sick: Sometimes a healthy dog will eat the stool of an unhealthy dog, especially if that dog is incontinent. This is related to a dog’s instinct to protect their pack members from predators.
Best Remedies for Dogs Eating Poop
- Clean up dog poop immediately. Just like how we can’t eat chips if they aren’t in the pantry, you’ll want to eliminate your dog's access to stool. This means cleaning up dog poop immediately, so your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to eat it. (Remember: dogs like the fresh stuff best!) Yes, it’s work, but well worth it to break your pooch of the poop-eating habit.
- Distract with a toy or treat. If your dog is looking around for poop to eat during a potty break, bring out a toy or treat to distract them.
- Keep it positive. Use positive reinforcement with dog training and never punish your dog for inappropriate elimination. This can ramp up their anxiety and, ironically, make them eat more poop. Don’t show attention if your dog has eaten poop. Instead, especially with training a puppy, praise them after they go and offer a treat. Meanwhile, quickly clean up the stool to limit their access.
- Feed dog 2x daily. Some dogs are fine with being fed once a day, but others, even if they are completely healthy, prefer to eat more than once a day. If they are only being fed every 24 hours, some dogs may want to snack on stool in between feedings.
- Dog-proof the litter box. Many dogs love the taste of cat poop, and if this is your dog, you’ll want to get a top-entry cat litter box or put up a baby gate around the litter box.
- Feed your dog high-quality food. You’ll want to feed your dog a quality diet high in protein and fats and low in carbs. (Do not go grain free, however, as this can be harmful to dogs’ hearts.) Talk to your veterinarian about what they recommend for your pet.
- Try a dog multivitamin. Sometimes dogs eat poop because they’re missing something from their diets. If you think that’s the case with your dog, a multivitamin may be beneficial.
- Try an enzyme supplement. If your dog keeps eating poop, consider adding a digestive enzyme supplement to their diet to see if that solves the problem.
- Use a taste deterrent. If you suspect your dog is eating poop (their own or their dog sibling’s poop) because they enjoy the taste, you can make it less palatable by using a taste deterrent. Your pet won’t be aware of your strategy, as they come as bite-sized treats. Check out this list of the top-ranked poop-eating deterrents.
Dog Breath Smells Like Poop? Get the #1 Solution.
If your dog is a poop eater, you definitely don’t want them up in your face for some doggie kisses. Dogs can struggle with having fresh breath as it is and if you add a poop-eating habit into the mix ... whoa, watch out!
Fortunately, there’s an easy, totally hands-off way to give your dog fresh breath and essential protection against plaque and tartar: Oxyfresh Water Additive. Just add to their water bowl each day and call it good!
Formulated with the proprietary, purifying ingredient Oxygene®, this dental water additive for dogs quickly stops bad breath and plaque-causing bacteria right at the source, every time they drink their water.
Best of all, it's flavor free so your dog won’t even know it’s in their water bowl. No brushing, no fussing, and no more poopy-smelling breath!
Whether your dog is a poop eater or not, you need this in your dog’s life to protect against gum disease, expensive dental bills, yellow dog teeth and bad breath!