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Why do dogs eat their own poop?

Feb 28, 2024
Why do dogs eat their own poop?



Dogs eating their own poop is scientifically known as coprophagia. It’s a behaviour that we find very strange as it’s eating poop, EURGH!


To a dog though this is very different. They will practice coprophagia for a variety of reasons ranging from nutritional deficiencies to behavioural issues.


This is a common question I’m asked so wanted to fill you in on this yucky but understandable behaviour and offer some suggestions on how to address it.


Nutritional Deficiencies


One of the main reasons dogs may eat their (or others) poop is down to nutritional deficiencies.


A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine suggests that dogs that engage in coprophagia may do so in an attempt to recapture nutrients that were not initially adequately absorbed by their bodies.


This could be because of a diet that lacks enough essential vitamins and minerals or it could be caused by digestion and absorption issues.


Enzyme Deficiency


Domestic dogs are likely to have inherited a trait from their ancestors, who, like dogs in the wild are scavengers, and would have eaten feces as a source of digestive enzymes.


It’s understood that in some cases that supplementing a dog's diet with adequate enzymes can reduce instances of coprophagia.  This suggests strongly the importance of a balanced diet to help prevent this behaviour.


Behavioural Issues


A dog’s behaviour could also play a role in why dogs eat their own poop.


Puppies, for example might do this simply out of curiosity or during the teething phase as a way to explore their environment.


Adult dogs though, might engage in coprophagia due to anxiety, stress, or attention-seeking behaviours.


Some dogs, if they have been scolded for pooping in the house may eat their poop in order to avoid their owners telling them off.


Improving your dog's environment and providing enough mental and physical stimulation can significantly reduce this behaviour.


Health Issues


Some health issues can also lead to coprophagia. Parasites, diseases affecting the pancreas, or gastrointestinal disorders can lead dogs to eat their feces.


A full health check by your vet can rule in/out these potential health problems.


Cleaning Behaviour


Certainly, in the wild some mothers (dogs) will eat the poop of their puppies to keep the den clean and protect their litter from predators (removing unwanted and easily tracked smells).


This natural cleaning behaviour can sometimes be seen in domestic dogs too, especially those with strong maternal instincts or in dogs that have been bred many times.


How to stop Coprophagia


Working to change this behaviour can include dietary changes, behavioural training, and making sure the dog's environment is enriching and stress-free.


It’s possible to buy supplements for their food that make the feces taste unpleasant to the dog can also be used as a deterrent, of course this wouldn’t help with any nutritional or enzyme deficiencies.



To summarise, with proper care, appropriate health checks, dietary management, and behavioural training, it’s possible to discourage dogs from exhibiting this behaviour.