It’s a fact of pet (dog) ownership that we’d rather not have to face, but some dogs will voluntarily eat poo. Yes, it’s disgusting. It’s also not uncommon.
The scientific term for voluntarily consuming faeces is coprophagia. Many puppies participate in the act, and while most will grow out of it, some will continue doing so well past their canine adolescence and into adulthood. They may eat their own faeces or another dog’s faeces. Some dogs will even sample the contents of a kitty litter in their own home.
Yes, did we mention that we know it’s disgusting?
There are times when this behaviour is normal. Female dogs will lick, clean, and eat the faeces of their infant puppies to keep the newborn pups and their living area clean – this is a normal activity and should not be discouraged.
Why Does My Dog Do This?
There’re a number of reasons why adolescent and adult dogs choose to eat faeces. Some are medical, while others are purely behavioural…
- The dog is underfed and hungry or even starving
- The dog’s appetite is increased due to health issues such as thyroid disease or diabetes
- Food isn’t digested properly due to enzyme deficiencies in the dog, so the dog becomes undernourished
- The dog has intestinal parasites or worms
- The dog is hungry or craving nutrients due to malabsorption
- The dog has a poor quality diet so is hungry or craving essential nutrients
- Exploration – very common in puppies as they explore their world
- Attention-seeking – this behaviour will invariably get a reaction from a dog’s human!
- Fear, anxiety, or stress – especially separation anxiety at being left alone
- Mimicking a new mother dog’s behaviour – this can be practised by pups as they develop or by other adult dogs in the home
How Do I Stop My Dog Eating Faeces?
Eating faeces (unless the dog is a new mother caring for tiny pups) is a bad habit and as a pet owner, you’ll wish to stop it from occurring.
First and foremost, you need to eliminate the possibility that the behaviour is related to an underlying medical issue. Get your dog thoroughly checked by your vet to rule out underlying medical causes.
- Regularly treat your dog for intestinal worms.
- Choose a high-quality food suitable for your dog’s breed, size, and age to ensure a proper dose of nutrients.
- Keep the dog’s yard and kennel clean, scooping up dog droppings as soon as they are spotted – and at the very least, once daily.
- Clean kitty litter frequently and minimise canine access to it.
- Stimulate your pet with dog walking, playtime, and attention to prevent boredom. If your dog spends a lot of time alone, consider doggie day care.
Seek advice from your vet if the problem continues. It can take the time to break the bad habit – so be patient!