Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
The term coprophagy or coprophagia comes from Greek words copros (feces) and phagein (eating) and it means consumption of poop. The appearance of coprophagy is normal physiological behavior in some animals, on the other side, it can be a red flag for some serious physical and mental diseases.
There are several types of coprophagy:
- Autocoprophagy: where an animal eats its own poop
- Alocoprophagy: where an animal is eating poop from another animal of the same species
- Heterophagy: where an animal is eating poop from another animal different species (cats and herbivores)
When is coprophagy normal?
Coprophagy is instinctive behavior among animals from the order Lagomorpha (hares, rabbits) and chinchillas. Consumption of their own poop helps them to maintain optimal pH levels for their gastric microflora. If we are talking about dogs, coprophagy is normal for pregnant bitches and very young puppies. The urge for eating their own poop is instinct; in nature young puppies are good prey for predators so the mother eats their feces to protect them by hiding trace.
Except for hiding trace of their brood, bitches eat feces to replace missing vitamins and nutrients that they haven't got from food. Puppies are very curious and they imitate behavior they see from their mother so that is the main reason for eating feces. As time pass, the behavior of coprophagy should fade away. Coprophagy is normal until the moment it becomes continuously and obsessive.
Causes why do dogs eat poop and how to solve them?
- Poor food quality
- Intestinal worms (tapeworms, roundworms)
- Diabetes, thyroid problems, Cushing's syndrome
- Anxiety, boredom, stress
Dog eating poop because of poor food quality and hunger
As mentioned, coprophagy is an indication of the existence of health problems. The most common problem is an inadequate and unbalanced diet caused by poor food quality. Dogs are often hungry because given food doesn't fulfill their energy needs. Energy needs are determined by dog breed, amount of daily activity, size of your dog, and condition he is in (ex. pregnant bitch, sick dog…). If food doesn't fulfill their needs, dogs are looking for other food sources (in this case feces) to replace missing nutrients.
For example, if your dog eats herbivore poop it can be an indication of lack of vitamin B-complex. Furthermore, one of the causes can also be imitating. That type of coprophagy is most common in puppies and young curious dogs. Besides hunger, coprophagy is an indication of some serious health problems.
Parasites as a cause of dog eating poop
Lots of parasites that live in the intestines can cause excessive hunger because they are using all nutrients from food instead of your dog. Common parasites that we can find in our pets digestive tract are tapeworms (D.caninum) and roundworms (T.canis). We can easily see them in the feces of an infected animal. Best prevention against both, external and internal parasites, are regular anti parasites treatments.
Excessive hunger and consuming dog poop can be indications of diabetes, thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism), pancreas problems, and Cushing's syndrome (excessive secretion of ACTH hormone as a result of benign or malignant pituitary or adrenal gland tumor).
Dog eating poop as a result of mental problems
Aside from health problems, coprophagy occurs in anxious, stressed, and bored dogs. It's often seen in dogs who spend a lot of time alone in small space; they are neglected so eating feces is a way of getting attention and get rid of stress. If this is the case of your dog eating poop, the best solution is making more time for your pet, longer walks, and more love and attention.
In conclusion, eating their own poop can indicate health problems, we don't recommend encouraging that behavior because feces is a source of many infections such as hepatitis and canine parvovirus. If you notice that your dog is eating poop first try to modify their food (dogs should eat a minimum of two times a day) and increase activity. Coprophagy is not a behavior to ignore. If eating poop becomes more often we recommend going to your vet.
World Dog Finder team