Why does my dog eat his poop?
Dogs have a few quirky behaviors and habits that make them quite unique. Some of them are adorable while others can be a little weird and unusual. One common undesirable behavior that dogs show is when they eat their poop. This is a commonly reported behavior that most dog owners find abnormal and disgusting. Dog owners believe that this behavior is an indication of a health problem in dogs that needs to be identified and addressed. But does eating poop really mean your dog is sick or has a nutritional deficiency? Keep reading to find out!
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Reasons Why Dogs Eat Their Poop or That of Other Dogs
There have been several theories explaining the baffling habit of dogs eating poop, and it turns out it’s not as weird as most people believe. Actually, the behavior of eating one’s feces, or that of others, is well-reported in the animal kingdom.
Coprophagy is the term used to describe the habit of eating feces or stool. Autocoprophagy means eating one’s feces and allocoprophagy means ingesting the stool of another individual.
In the wild, prey animals perform coprophagy to erase traces of their existence so predators can’t hunt them. For rabbits, eating their feces is normal behavior that helps maintain good gastrointestinal health. Autocoprogaphy in rabbits provides probiotics that are essential in the proper digestion of high fiber content in their diet.
Like with other animals, coprophagy in dogs can be an instinctive behavior in eliminating their traces. Though technically not necessary anymore in domesticated dogs, it is believed that this behavior is a persistent survival instinct that remains in their genes, being descendants of wolves in the wild.
While the type of diet and coprophagy in dogs are not considered to be directly related, some experts believe that stool-eating behavior is caused by the inability of the dog to digest their diet. If parts of the dog’s food remain undigested after it has passed through the GI tract, there is an increased chance that the dog will attempt to eat it again.
Another reason most experts cite as a cause for dogs’ poop-eating behavior is boredom and isolation. Dogs are highly social animals and need frequent interactions with their owners or with other dogs at home. If left alone, especially for an extended period, dogs have a higher tendency to eat their stool. There have been reports of less stool-eating behavior in dogs that are in constant company with their owners.
Stress and Anxiety
Anxiety is another psychological reason for coprophagy in dogs, and the development of this behavior often happens in dogs undergoing house training. When a puppy gets punished for making errors during house training, they are often punished. This causes anxiety during the training process. The anxiety, in turn, causes them to eat their stool to hide evidence of what they believe is a mistake and avoid punishment.
In some cases, dogs just eat their poop to seek attention. Dogs are highly social animals and most crave frequent attention. Once they’ve realized that eating their stool is a highly effective way to get the attention of the people around them it can become a habit.
Will eating poop make my dog sick?
You’d think that eating one’s own stool can have serious health implications, but in reality, autocoprophagy in dogs seldom leads to health problems. Like in rabbits, autocoprophagy in dogs is often harmless and doesn’t typically cause adverse reactions. But that doesn’t mean eating their poop is healthy…
The most apparent problem associated with coprophagy is foul breath smell. As they eat their poop, parts of it will get stuck on the surface of their teeth or in between them, leading to foul-smelling breath. Feces also have bacteria that can cause periodontal disease in dogs who frequently eat feces.
While eating their stool rarely causes GI problems in dogs, it’s a totally different case if they start ingesting the poop of other dogs. Ingesting feces from other dogs puts them at high risk of contracting contagious GI infections - many bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections are transmitted via the fecal-oral route.
How do you make your dog stop eating poop?
Though poop-eating behavior is considered common in dogs, it’s still best to take steps to prevent this from starting or take measures to stop the behavior before it starts to become worse.
The most effective way to make sure your dog doesn’t eat its poop is by cleaning up after them immediately. In multiple dog households, this is especially important because it also removes the dog’s ability to eat another dog’s feces and helps to control the transmission of infectious diseases between dogs.
Another way to control coprophagy in dogs is by addressing possible triggers contributing to the behavior. Supplements like probiotics help improve the digestion of food and reduce the risk of them eating their feces.
Making sure that your dog is given enough attention can help reduce the incidence of boredom-related coprophagy. Using positive reinforcement instead of punishment during house training can prevent anxiety-induced coprophagy in young puppies.
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