Brown dog looking at camera

Dogs eat poop. Not every dog does it, but it’s safe to say that most dogs have dabbled in the act of feces-sampling. Coprophagia is a common canine behavior. Indeed, it can be a daily occurrence for some pups. Knowing that it’s “normal” may help dog owners cope with this, but it can definitely get in the way of some valuable snuggles. Plus, this behavior can actually be linked to serious health conditions.

How Do You Know?

Generally speaking, dogs eat poop because it’s instinctive. Puppies watch their mother groom her litter and clean up the den to protect against predators. This usually involves eating any feces excreted by nursing pups. Typically, a young dog will outgrow this behavior after being weaned, potty trained, and becoming more reliant on a household structure.

Early intervention can ensure that this instinct doesn’t take root as a daily habit. 

When Nature Calls

Sure, they may outgrow it, but that doesn’t mean that an occasional sample of their own feces is off-limits. Sometimes, dogs eat poop because it smells a lot like their dinner from the previous evening. Attracted by the scent, they may taste it to see if it all adds up.

Foreign Piles

It’s bad to see your dog eat their own feces, but it’s terrible to see them eat the waste of an unseen and wholly unfamiliar animal. You may have heard that dogs love to taste morsels left in the kitty litter — aka kitty roca. It’s also not unusual for dogs to eat poop left behind in public places. 

Dogs still have scavenger genes that dictate odd choices, such as litter box looting, trash can tipping, and grabbing tastes of anything they come across.

Smell & Taste

Since dogs are motivated by smell and taste, they really don’t discriminate that much when it comes to items that we find utterly disgusting. 

Dogs eat the poop of other animals because they may be curious about the texture, flavor, and odor of the pile left behind. When they eat the waste of herbivores, undoubtedly, they get to sample an array of veggies not typically enjoyed. 

When It’s Problematic

Sometimes, dogs eat poop when they are suffering from some form of malnutrition. Inadequate diets, or those lacking in certain minerals or vitamins can lead dogs to coprophagia. 

If you notice this behavior from your dog more often, it could be time to address their nutritional needs. If they are getting a full, well-balanced, age-appropriate diet they will be less likely to sample feces. 

Similarly, dogs eat poop because of various medical conditions. Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and thyroid disease can cause this behavior. When dogs are taking prescription steroids, they may also be drawn to eating waste. 

Hiding the Evidence

Some dogs eat poop because they feel compelled to hide the evidence of an in-house accident. If they’ve previously been scolded or punished for soiling inside the house, watch out for coprophagia. Help them re-establish or reinforce their housebreaking skills.

Dogs Eat Poop… Until They Don’t

It’s always a good idea to keep your dog on a leash in public places. This will help reduce their exposure to waste, and will also help you clean up after them. Be certain that they know basic obedience commands, such as “leave it” and “no.” Use them when you don’t want them to eat poop.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please let us know. The Pet’s Place Animal Hospital is always here for your pet!