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Why Dogs Eat Poop, Stool Eating – Coprophagia in Dogs

If you have ever seen your dog eat poop you may have a) been disgusted and, b) wondered why your dog decided to consume such a seemingly unappealing substance.

There are many reasons why a dog may decide to eat his/her own poop, another dog’s poop or the poop of another animal species. The reasons way a dog consumes poop varies per individual canine – here are some typical factors to consider when looking to understand why your dog may eat poop…

why do dogs eat poop

Some Typical Root Causes of Coprophagia

  • Behaviour
    • A mother dog cleaning up after her very young pups’ stools – a behaviour evolved to protect the young from predators
    • Acquired habit
    • Anxiety and stress
    • Greedy eaters
    • Punishment for eliminating (pooping) in the ‘wrong’ place
    • Transferable behaviour – learning by example
  • Breed pre-disposition
    • Some breeds have a pre-disposition to poop eating – i.e. Border Collies , Shelties
  • Environmental Factors
    • Enzyme deficiency
    • Inappropriate
    • i.e. dry dog food
    • Insufficient diet – scarcity of food
    • i.e. dogs that have suffered deprivation – stray dog, puppy mill dog, neglected dog, etc.
  • Medical Issues
    • Gastrointestinal parasites
    • Mal-absorption of nutrients
    • Neutered males are more likely to ‘indulge’
    • Pancreatic Insufficiency
    • Pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes

Some dogs enjoy eating the poop of herbivores such as cows, deer, horses and rabbits. Rabbit poop is particularly rich in nutrients – vitamin B and digestive enzymes –

Other dogs enjoy raiding the cat litter box.  Cats that are feed a processed food diet tend to pass stools that are full of undigested matter – this can make the stool appealing to some canines.

I have eleven dogs in my own dog pack. They are all fed a diet consisting of primarily raw fresh and whole food. Given the opportunity – three of my dogs will indulge in dog stool coprophagia – the other eight dogs never do so. The three that ‘indulge’ have no medical issues…

So why do these three dogs eat poop – here is a little analysis (please note the three have asked me not to mention their names):

  • Poop eater No. 1
    • Breed – Sheltie
    • Sex – male, neutered
    • Background – puppy mill dog
  • Poop eater  No. 2
    • Breed – German Shepherd x Malamute
    • Sex – male, neutered
    • Background – homeless rescue who had to compete for food
  • Poop eater No. 3
    • Breed – Australian Shepherd
    • Sex – female, a very maternal female
    • Background – rescue who had severe anxiety issues

I also have companion rabbits, and yes rabbit poop is popular with most of my dogs as are the wild rabbit and deer droppings found on my trails. On occasion some dogs will also eat the poop of related species such as coyote, fox and wolf.

A walk on the trails can be a source of  natural ‘help-yourself’ treats’ for the dogs.  The foraged treats range from healthy and self medicating items, to disgusting to me ‘uh uh, don’t touch’ items and ‘don’t roll in it either’ items.

Examples of acceptable items that my dogs self-select are organic (non-pesticide or herbicide treated) grass, wild strawberries, juniper berries.

And, well – you have an idea of what the unacceptable items consist of :>)

My Australian Shepherd Tasha

About Karen

Dogs are my life, my work, my passion… I am a Dog Whisperer, Dog Behaviorist and Holistic Canine Wellness Adviser with a wealth of real-time, real-life experience living and working with dogs. For two and a half decades I have worked with and shared my life with dogs. My own dog pack is comprised of eleven dogs, various breeds and ages. I provide a full range of services including Obedience Training for puppies and dogs; canine Behavior Modification; canine Psychological Rehabilitation, specializing in assisting dogs that are experiencing extreme states of insecurity, anxiety and aggressive-reactive behavior; Diet, Nutrition and Wellness Advice and Plans for canines and felines…natural wisdom for you and your companion animal.

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2 comments

  1. my dog is exactly like your dog number 2, same background same breed GS, and neutered when I found him and he was probably 4 year old then. He eat poop occasionally and I am not sure why and how I can prevent that urge. I feed him basic blue (blue buffalo) salmon and sweet potatoes and he is a good size 85 lbs. I am not sure what to do. He’ll stop for a while and then start again.

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