A Case For a Sophisticated Palate: Why Dogs Eat Poop

Our canine companions certainly have some quirky habits. From stealing your shoes to chasing their tail, many are comical, cute, and even clever. Perhaps one of the dog’s least endearing traits, however, it the inclination to eat stool.

Why dogs eat feces is an age-old question that has plagued many a dog-lover. Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates doesn’t claim to be able to solve the mystery entirely, but we do have some excellent insight for you about why dogs eat poop.

A Palate for Poop

Poop eating, more properly called coprophagia, in dogs is a common issue pet owners face. The reasons behind this less-than appetizing behavior are mostly rooted in real behavioral wiring. If you think about your dog in the context of a wolf pack, it can start to make sense. While we know that your Shih Tzu isn’t a wolf, many of her behavioral cues come from far back in her ancestry.

Dog species in packs work as a team to do many things, including cleaning up the den. In this context, poop eating is really a pretty normal behavior in the canine species. Female dogs in particular are prone to “clean up after the pups” as well as more submissive dogs in the pack hierarchy.

Dogs eat poop for other behavioral reasons as well. These can include:

  • Boredom
  • A desire to hide the evidence
  • To get your attention (really, guys?)
  • As a learned thing to play with (common in dogs raised in extremely non-stimulating environments such as puppy mills)
  • Due to watching other dogs engage in the behavior
  • A strong drive for food

There are also some legitimate medical reasons a dog might eat stool. Malnutrition, dietary imbalances, parasites, increased appetite due to systemic problems, anxiety issues, or a problem with proper digestion can all lead to coprophagia. Call us if your dog is eating stool, especially if it is a new problem, so that we can be sure that nothing more serious is occuring.

What’s a Pet Owner to Do?

Let’s face it. Poop eating it is a gross habit regardless of whether there is a legitimate reason for it. Besides bad breath, it isn’t sanitary and can put you and your pooch at risk in certain situations. It can also put your relationship at risk (who wants kisses from a poop-eater?).

While coprophagia may be occuring for a reason, there is no reason to tolerate it. Once we have ruled out a medical reason for your pup to be partaking in poop, consider the following:

  • Altering the taste of the stool by changing to a more-digestible diet or using food additives (Accent Meat tenderizer, For-Bid powder, pineapple)
  • Using a canine- specific probiotic to aid in digestion
  • Picking up after your pet(s) immediately to remove the temptation
  • Teaching your dog to “leave it” (this is a useful command to have for many situations)
  • Training your pet to safely wear a basket muzzle when going out
  • Providing your dog with more stimulation, exercise, and access to more desirable toys
  • Avoiding shaming your puppy for mistakes in the house, use positive training techniques
  • Choosing puppy playmates who do not exhibit this behavior

Poop eating in dogs is not the most desirable behavior, but it is a common one. Don’t forget that we are here to work with you to help stop the issue. Don’t hesitate to ask if you need help, we are happy to do what we can to support the bond between you and man’s best friend.