Updated: Sep 11
Dogs can have habits and exhibit strange behavior. This can range from drinking from the toilet, rolling around in the mud, and sniffing other dogs, However, the most repulsive canine habit is eating poop, whether it’s another dog’s or its own. But why do dogs do this? Is it a normal habit or is it a sign of a health issue?
The reasons why some dogs eat faeces are not entirely known, we understand how frustrating it can be for dog owners. If you find that your pup is often eating poop, don't fret it is relatively common in dogs. It's also treatable in several ways, such as keeping your yard free of dog droppings and understanding why your dog is doing this in the first place.
Why dogs do this?
The reasons why some dogs eat faeces are not entirely known, but there are a few theories. It's possible that dogs eat stool for reasons like instinct, hunger, stress, or illness.
Mother dogs instinctively lick their pups clean, which includes ingesting the puppies' faeces. This normal maternal behavior keeps the pups and their environment clean. Many puppies will begin to eat faeces at a young age. Some pups grow out of this normal behavior while others continue this into adulthood
Typically, puppies stop this behavior after they reach nine months old. Puppies eat poop as part of an instinct to explore the world around them, which involves wanting to put unfamiliar things in their mouths.
Eating the faeces of other species is also considered natural behavior. If you have a cat, you may notice that your dog cannot stay away from the litter box. Most dogs love the taste of cat poop. Perhaps this is because of the high-protein diets of cats.
Hunger & food obsession
A dog suffering from starvation or severe malnutrition might eat anything it can find. Some dogs, though well-nourished, are hungry all the time (this may be a sign of illness or simply the personality of the dog). Many dogs are completely obsessed with food and will ingest anything that tastes good to them.
Unfortunately, many dogs seem to like the taste of faeces (especially cat poop). Some people believe that dogs eat faeces when they are lacking something in their diets.
Anxiety, fear & stress
A dog in fear or under a great deal of stress may eat his own stool. In some cases, this could be a kind of self-soothing mechanism. However, if a dog is punished for inappropriate defecation or other action related to faeces, he may associate the punishment with the presence of faeces. By eating the faeces, he is removing the "evidence" to avoid punishment.
Certain diseases and illnesses can cause a dog to eat faeces. A symptom of some diseases is increased appetite or ingestion of inappropriate items (called pica). An illness that changes the consistency or smell of the stool might encourage a dog to eat his own stool. Sudden onset of coprophagia calls for a veterinary exam.
Some dogs with dementia and other brain diseases have been known to start eating stool. This may be due to the confusion and disorientation caused by the disease.
What are the risks of dogs eating faeces?
It generally poses little danger for a dog to eat his own stool. However, bacteria and parasites from that stool can possibly be transmitted to humans and other animals through contact with the dog's mouth and saliva. If you are unable to keep your dog from eating faeces, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly if you are in contact with your dog's mouth/saliva.
When a dog eats the faeces of another animal (especially another dog or a cat), he is at risk for ingesting the eggs of intestinal parasites and potentially harmful bacteria that can easily lead to illness. A dog that is known to eat the faeces of other animals should have frequent faecal analyses by a veterinarian.
Perhaps the worst effect of a dog eating poop is the foul breath you have to smell. Home dental care can help the breath, but it's best to prevent stool-eating altogether.
Is It bad for adult dogs to eat their own poop?
An adult dog eating its own poop is not normal behavior.
There are a variety of reasons why an adult dog may eat its own poop, including:
Confined in a small space
Fed too close to the presence of faeces
Smelling faeces on its mother (applicable to puppies)
Fear of punishment for having an accident in the house
How can you stop your dog from eating poop?
Whether it’s normal or not, most dog owners don’t want their dogs eating poop. It’s off-putting, potentially harmful, and embarrassing if done in front of others. There could be harmful bacteria in another dog or another animal’s faeces.
To stop your dog from eating poop, try the following:
Restrict access to poop
Distract the dog with a treat and quickly clean up the poop
Give your dog a larger space
Don’t leave your dog alone
Teach your dog a cue or command to leave poop alone
Direct the dog away from poop with a muzzle or head collar
Supplement your dog’s food with vitamins and enzymes
Use a taste-aversion product
Keep the dog’s den or living area clean of poop
Supervise all walks and trips outside
Your vet may have suggestions for how to best train your dog to stop eating poop, depending on what causes the behavior.
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