Dogs are amazing creatures. They're intelligent, they have a keen sense of time, and they are loving and loyal pets.
They can even smell your feelings! That's right - a dog's sense of smell is significantly superior to ours, which is why they can smell fear.
No matter how incredible these incredible canines are, they still do gross things, like, eat their own poop. Research shows 16% of pups eat feces regularly.
The question is - why do dogs eat poop? What drives our beloved pets to perform such a cringe-worthy act?
Read on if you want to find out why they do it, and what you can do to stop them.
There's a Word for It
There's a scientific name for the gross habit of dogs eating their own poop. It's called coprophagia.
Have you been wondering, "Why is my dog eating poop?" Don't despair! This article should help you get to the bottom of it all. The answer isn't cut and dry, however.
There are many reasons, both behavioral and physiological, which drive dogs to eat their own feces. Let's take a look at what they are!
Behavioral Reasons for Dogs Eating Their Own Poop
First, we'll take a look at the potential behavioral drives for a pup eating poop, and then we'll take a look at some of the health reasons.
One theory to explain why dogs eat poop is based on the instinct for a mother dog to keep her “nest” clean. When a female dog cleans up after her puppies, she'll eat the poop to keep their nest clean, and potentially prevent the spread of parasites or infection.
Some researchers believe this is instinctual while others conclude it is a learned behavior when puppies observe their mothers.
Curiosity and Boredom
Puppies are curious by nature. They spend their early months exploring their surroundings. It's an important part of healthy development to explore and try new things.
Eating poop is a common curiosity for most puppies exploring their surroundings. They're out on an adventure, come across a pile of poo, and investigate! Thankfully, most puppies grow out of this stage by around eight to twelve months.
If your best furry friend is home alone all day, without things to do, it could also lead to poop-eating. This may be due to “boredom” (lack of environmental stimuli), anxiety, or simple curiosity. The most important thing is to keep your pet’s environment as clean and “poo-free” as possible to prevent this from becoming a habit.
Attention-Seeking or Stress
Is your dog feeling neglected? Eating poop and finding other ways to get in trouble is a sure way to get a human's attention.
Some dogs are stressed or anxious, especially when their humans are. Dogs are highly empathetic and closely connected to our emotions. If a dog is feeling stressed, he might turn to consuming feces as a way to relieve that stress.
Isolation and Confinement
The same way that a dog may turn to eating poop when he's “bored,” he may also do so if he's confined. Dogs who spend a lot of time in kennels, basements, or other confined spaces away from their humans or with little environmental stimulation are more likely to eat their poop.
If a dog's poop is too close to their food, the smells can become intertwined, and a dog gets confused.
If a young dog is living with an elderly dog who has regular accidents, that younger dog might begin eating the older dog's poop.
Health Reasons for Dogs Eating Their Own Poop
It's not impossible to kick your pup's poop-eating habit. The key is to get to the bottom of WHY they're doing it. Here are some of the more common health and medical reasons why dogs eat poop.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)
EPI is a condition that occurs more often in young dogs, but it can also happen later in life.
Also known as pancreatic insufficiency, dogs that have EPI aren't able to create as many digestive enzymes in the pancreas as other dogs.
EPI symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, and of course, stool consumption.
Some diseases, like Cushing’s disease and diabetes, can cause your dog to feel hungry, even if he isn't.
Steroids and many anti-seizure medications can also make your dog feel hungry enough to eat poop. Your dog's abhorrent habit could be a result of a serious health issue.
Just like the rest of us, parasites get hungry, and they need food too.
If your dog is infected with intestinal parasites, he'll be competing for essential nutrients. As the parasites mature, he'll get less and less nutrition, which could lead him to eat his poop.
Keeping checking in with your pup and her weight to make sure she's getting enough food. Even if you feed your dog a fresh, junk-free diet, if she's losing weight, she's not getting enough good food.
If she's not getting enough food, guess what? She'll try to find supplement in her stool.
Malabsorption is a condition that leads to poor nutrient absorption. If your beloved pup is looking to get some undigested nutrients back, he might eat his own feces.
If you have a cat, he might eat the cat's feces too.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop
There are plenty of ways to stop dogs from eating their own poop.
Keep It Clean and Play With Your Pup
Supervise your pup when you take him outside to play or for a walk, and clean up any poop he leaves behind.
It's important to keep your pet's brain active and healthy. Develop a routine that gives her exercise and mental stimulation, especially if your pet is a working breed.
Choose safe toys that she can play with on her own when you're away. And let her know how much she is loved.
Screen for Parasites and Illness
If your dog is losing weight, struggling to absorb nutrients, and is obsessed with poop, you should probably get him screened for parasites and checked for a medical condition. These are quick and easy tests that any vet can run.
Don't Put Stress Around It
Don't punish your dog for eating her poop. It's not effective, and it can make the problem even worse.
Stay on top of your dog's digestion, visit your vet, and get to the bottom of the issue.
With high spirits and a determination to get to the bottom of your dog's poop-eating habit, poop-free kisses and a happy pup are just around the corner.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Why do dogs eat poop, you ask? As you now know, there are plenty of potential reasons behind the gross madness.
It's frustrating when a pup turns to eating his own feces, or the stool of other pets and animals. Fortunately, it's not uncommon, and with the right detective work, it's not difficult to figure out why he's doing it.
Remember to be patient and consistent in your quest to nip your pup's habit in the bud.
What Is Actually In Your Dog's Food?
WAIT! BEFORE YOU GO on about your day, ask yourself: Is the dog food you're feeding your best friend really the best food out there? At its core, there’s an unhealthy meat dependency in pet food. Most of the time, meat in your pet food means: Bad ingredients. Bad practices. And bad health. Learn more about clean protein dog food...