We all love our cute four legged friends, but what isn’t so cute is when you catch your dog eating their own poo. While this tends to be more common in puppies, if not corrected during their early stages of development it can become a hazardous habit. Also known as coprophagia, a dog eating their own poo may be a sign of more serious medical issues and can become a health concern for owners, especially if your dog has a tendency to lick. Understanding why your dog may be engaging in this less than pleasant behaviour can help you to figure out how you can help them stop
Why Dogs Eat Poo
There are a number of reasons why your dog may be eating their own poo or even other animal’s poo, some more serious than others. Understanding why they’re engaging in this behaviour will help you know how to get them to stop.
If you keep catching your pup eating their own poo, it may be because their missing some vital nutrients in their regular diet or that their system isn’t properly absorbing the nutrients they need (a condition called malabsorption). Nutritional deficiencies are more common in dogs that are feed homemade or raw diets, however if you’re concerned this may be the cause, be sure to visit your local vet who will be able to run some tests to check whether a deficiency is the underlying issue.
If you’re dog suddenly starts eating poo, this may be a sign there is something more serious going on with their health. There are a variety of diseases that can cause your dog’s body to stop absorbing nutrients properly, leaving them with a deficiency that your pet is trying to fill, including;
- Cushing’s Disease
- a variety of other gastrointestinal diseases.
Other diseases such as anaemia, “doggie dementia” or liver disease can also cause your dog to start eating inappropriate things. If your dog suddenly picks up this habit, it’s best to consult with your local vet to check for any underlying medical issues.
Feeling stressed or anxious may be another reason why your dog has a habit of eating their own poo. They may suffer from separation anxiety, distress from being isolated or your dog may be stressed they will get in trouble for having an accident and eat their own poo to hide the evidence. Adopting a softer training approach or working on reducing your dog’s anxiety around being alone may help put a stop the behaviour.
If your dog is playing host to any internal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms or whipworms, these may be taking all the nutrients from your dog’s diet. This will leave your pet with a deficiency and can cause them to eat poo in an attempt to make up the nutrients. A trip to your local vet will help determine if this is the underlying cause.
If you’re not giving your furry friend as much attention as you should but will rouse on them every time they go near their poo, they may see this as an easy way to get your attention and start eating their poo to try and get you to play with them. Alternatively if your dog is finding themselves bored regularly, they may start looking around the yard for faeces to occupy themselves or, for inside dogs, seeking out the cat’s litter box.
They Are Just Hungry
It may simply be the case that your dog just isn’t getting enough food every day. You may be unknowingly underfeeding them or any medical treatments they may be on could have increased their appetite. If your dog isn’t getting enough calories each day, they may be seeking out the poo as way to try and fulfil this need.
Eating Where They Poo
If you’re dog is eating close to where they usually go to the bathroom, especially while they’re younger, they may wrongly associate poo as food. Especially if they don’t mind the taste of it, this often happens when dogs are in a small space for a long period of time and can’t properly seperate their bathroom area from their food area.
Can Your Dog Can Sick From Eating Poo?
While it’s not a very nice habit, is eating poo actually a hazard to your dog’s health? Eating poo can put your dog at risk of contracting diseases such as parvovirus, salmonella and Giardia, as well as various parasites. This is also the case if they’re getting into the poo of other animals in your house, such as cats, or finding faeces from other dogs out on your walks.
As most dogs like to chew on things or lick people’s faces, if they are contracting these diseases thanks to their not so pleasant habit, there is also the risk they could pass these on to you or anyone else in your house.
How to Stop Your Dog Eating Poo
Know you’ve got some idea on what might be causing your dog to engage in this habit, how do you put a stop to it?
Consult Your Vet
As mentioned, a dog eating its own poo could be a sign of a more serious underlying health issue, so your first step should be to visit your local vet to check for any of these. If medical issues are the cause, your vet will be able to put together a treatment plan to help your pet get back full health. If the habit is a nutritional issue, your vet will be able to put your dog on a diet that will help ensure your furry friend is getting all the vitamins and minerals they need.
Pick Up That Poo
If your dog can’t access it, they can’t eat it. Making sure you’re staying on top of cleaning up after your dog and making sure there’s no faeces easily accessible to them is one easy way to manage the habit. If you’re taking your dog outside to the bathroom, make sure to always take a poop bag with you. If you’re pet lives mostly outside, make sure your cleaning up their bathroom area daily.
Make Meal Time Fun
If your dog is seeking out faeces because of boredom or anxiety, making their meal time more enriching and engaging can help reduce their need to engage in this habit. When they are able to sniff, chew or lick things, this naturally helps reduce their stress levels and gives them something to focus on. Introducing something like a puzzle or slow feeder during meal time can help make things more engaging and stimulating, making them less likely to go and seek out something smelly afterwards.
Improve Their Diet
If your vet finds a lack of nutrients or simply a lack of food is causing the issue, feeding your dog more often and with more enriching foods should help put a stop to it. Consult with your local vet about what food options may be best for your pet based on their nutritional needs, age and activity level. As well as improving their diet, changing their eating routine may also improve the problem. Feeding your dog more smaller meals throughout the day rather than just one or twice a day can help with hunger issues. If you’re currently in the potty training stage with your pooch, be aware these diet changes may also change their usual bathroom schedule.
Use a Head Collar
If you find you struggle to keep your dog away from faeces during your walks, using a head collar may be the solution. These collars can give you better control over where their nose goes compared to a regular lead. While sniffing during a walk is a very normal and essential activity for your dog to engage in, being able to bring their nose away from the ground if they get a little to close to something smelly can help prevent them from getting it in their mouth.