Why Does My Dog Eat Poop? | Toronto Dog Walking

Coprophagia:  Why Dogs Eat Poop!

Let’s face it:  our dogs do some pretty gross things.  Who hasn’t had to refuse a slobbery kiss from a dog after watching him or her engage in a cleaning session of, shall we say, unsavoury body parts?  Dogs are also less discriminatory about what they eat.  As owners watch in horror, dogs have been known to pick up items such as rotten meat found outside a dumpster, mouldy bread in the park, or even feces.  Why do dogs engage in this behaviour?  Clinically known as coprophagia, eating feces is a relatively common problem. There are a number of causes, ranging from learned instinct to emotional distress. Listed below is everything you need to know about why your dog may be feasting nappropriately.

Instinct

Prior to domestication, canines were natural foragers.  In order to consume all the necessary nutrients, they often had to resort to eating the feces of other dogs and animals.  Modern dogs may continue to seek nutrients from feces as an ode to their ancestors, which necessitates taking a looking at your dog’s diet and ensuring that he or she is being fed nutrient rich food.  

Gut imbalance

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from imbalances of the microflora within their digestive tracts.  A “natural” way to fix this problem is to eat stool from other animals.  While this solution is not as appetising as eating an extra cup of yogurt per day, it can be an effective method to restore balance.  For these dogs, a canine probiotic may be necessary. 

Housekeeping

Instinctually, dogs do not like to have their living areas dirtied with scents that may attract predators.  When puppies are born, mother dogs tend to eat the feces of her young in order to tidy the den.  When dogs are primarily kept outside and the owner does not regularly clean up the dog’s messes, the pup make take it upon itself to clean the yard.  Additionally, a dog that is regularly scolded for relieving itself in the house may resort to coprophagia to hide the evidence. 

Parasites

When a dog is infected with parasites such as roundworm, tapeworm, whipworm, or hookworm, his or her nutritional needs will not be properly met.  These pets may resort to eating feces as a last-ditch effort in order to replenish the nutrients that the parasites are stealing from the dog’s food.  Owners should have a stool sample examined by a veterinarian in order to eliminate worms as a cause of coprophagia.  

Attention Seeking

If nutritional imbalances and housekeeping woes can be ruled out, feces-eating should be considered a behavioural problem.  As with the majority of behavioural issues that dogs display, there is an attention seeking component.  Dogs do not care whether the attention they are receiving is positive or negative, and if a dog has been scolded once for eating feces, he or she will continue to repeat the behaviour in order to elicit more attention.  For these dogs, a visit with a trainer may be the best option to curb the habit.