How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poo

  • SumoMe

 

This is one of the most common questions I get, and one one the most disgusting topics as well.  The simple fact of the matter is that coprophagia, for a number of reasons, is a normal canine behavior.  Female dogs will instinctively remove their puppy’s waste from the nest in order to keep the nest clean.  Females will also stimulate urination and defecation in their pups by licking their genitals.  Okay, so we can somewhat make a case for why females would do it, but why not all females?  Some do, some don’t, right?  And what about males?  What about puppies of both sexes?  In this post I will try to shed some light on why dogs engage in this behavior and what you can to to stop it.

Many people feel the reason that dogs eat poo is because they have a nutritional deficiency.  This would be an easy fix, but unfortunately this is just not the case.  There are MANY reasons proposed as to why dogs engage in this lovely behavior, here are the most common:

  • Anxiety, stress, or boredom
  • If a dog was punished for defecating in the house he will eat his stool in order to hide the evidence.
  • It tastes good! (to your dog anyway)
  • Exploration of their environment
  • Your dog may be trying to clean his environment, which you should be doing.
  • Mimicking the behavior of other dogs
  • If your dog eats a diet high fat.
  • Certain medications and dietary supplements can change the taste for the stool and make it more appealing.
  • Overfeeding
  • Only feeding your dog once a day (hunger)

So what can you do to help prevent coprophagia?  The ONLY way to get a 100% sucess rate in treatment of this issue is to pick it up as soon as it hits the ground.  Also, direct supervision is a must because some dogs will eat it as it is coming out!  There are several things that can be attempted if, for some reason, supervision and immediate pick up are not practical.

  • Be sure to have your dog examined by your veterinarian and have his stool checked as well.  All dogs should be dewormed monthly.
  • Be sure to feed a high quality, nutritionally balanced dog food that is formulated for his age, breed and size.
  • Do not overfeed your dog.  40-50% of my patients are overweight or obese.  There is A LOT of overfeeding going on out there.
  • Feed your dog twice a day.  If he is thin, feed a little more.
  • Have your dog on a leash and wearing a Gentle Leader head harness.  This way you will be there and able to control what happens after he has a bowel movement.  Be ready to distract him and reward him for leaving the poo and focusing on you :-).
  • If your dog comes across some other dogs’ poo, the Gentle Leader makes it incredibly easy to control your dogs’ muzzle and prevent him from consuming it.  You will then be in a better position to redirect his focus and reward him for doing something good.
  • If he’s defecating in the house, there many be several reasons.  Improper house training, separation anxiety, and a number of illnesses could be responsible.
  • There are several items that can be added to his food, Coproban, canned pumpkin (1-5 tablespoons), canned pineapple, pineapple juice, meat tenderizer, MSG and spinach to name a few.
  • You can also try to have your dog develop a taste aversion by sprinkling hot sauce, bitter apple, or lemon juice on the stool.

A special class of dogs with this problem does exist.  Dogs that are products of puppy mills and that are confined in small cages while awaiting a home will often develop this habit out of necessity.  It can be very difficult to get these guys to stop this behavior and a multi-modal approach that includes diligent clean up and monitoring will give you the greatest chance for success.

Most of the time, coprophagia is not a health issue to your dog, especially when it’s his own.  They can get parasites and other infections from eating the stool of other animals.  But lets face it, it’s nasty!  Most dogs are going to try to lick your face sooner or later.  The last thing I want to worry about is the topic of this post.  Getting started on the right foot is paramount.  It’s always easier to shape than it is to undo.  Thanks for reading!

Photo courtesy of iansand via Flickr

 

7 thoughts on “How To Stop Your Dog From Eating Poo

    • That is absolutely correct. Dogs with EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) are essentially starving. The pancreas makes enzymes that helps the body digest food. Without these enzymes, their bodies cannot use the food that is being consumed. One of the halmarks of EPI is a dog (or cat) that produces LARGE ammounts of very foul smelling stool (because of the large fat content in it).

  1. I have a dog that was dx. with diabetes six weeks ago. I make his high protein meals and he gets twice daily insulin shots. I have another dog that is now following him around eating his poop. My guess is the poop eater likes the high protein but can’t the residule insulin be dangerous to him? I am already adding spinach to the food for my diabetic dog and this does not seem to matter to the poop eater. Any ideas?

    Thanks so much

    Penny

    • Hi Penny,

      There is no need to worry about insulin in the stool, it will not be present there. Is your diabetic dog over weight? If so, decrease the volume of food being fed so there is not as much stool produced. There can be a strong attraction to some stools depending on what is being fed, I suspect that’s the issue here. Try using Coproban with your diabetic (check with your vet first) and see if that helps :-).

      • Thanks so much for your help. Maxwell (diabetic dog) is not over weight he did initally lose a few pounds but has since gained it back and seems to be maintaining. Max is a toy poodle and he weighs 11 pounds, I am feeding him 1 cup of food in the am with insulin and 1 cup in the evening then insulin. I will be getting some Copraban today and will see how it goes.
        Thank you for having this great informative website and taking the time to help people that are not in your area.

        Penny

  2. I have to Yorkies – 11 months old. Female and Male both are house trained and use a potty patch, however if we don’t pick up the poop right afterwards the males eats his and hers poop. We take them outside also to go potty and he doesn’t eat it then. Is this confusing him, going outside and also inside?

    • Hi Sherry,

      It sounds like he is trying to clean his environment. The heart of their environment is where they sleep. They will be much more likely to eat poop if the potty patch is near where they sleep. It’s behavior is more common in females, but males can do it too. An easy fix is just to have them eliminate outdoors. Alternatively, move the potty patch as far away from where they sleep as possible. This may or may not work if they see the entire house as the heart of their territory. This is also a common scenario with dogs that have been scolded for pooping in this house. Dogs that have been scolded for going in the house can learn to hide the evidence :-)

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