Why Do Dogs Eat Poo?

No one wants to admit that their dog eats poo, but it’s more common than you think. As a dog owner you will want to know why your dog eats poo, and the steps needed to stop the behaviour.

What is Copraphagia?
The technical term for dogs eating faeces is called Copraphagia – either their own or that of another animal. It’s a behaviour that many dog owners (and those in the general vicinity) will turn their noses up at, but it’s a habit for some dogs that often happens at some stage in their lives. It may start during puppyhood with some growing out of it as they get older. However if given half a chance, a lot of dogs will quite happily tuck into the cats nearby litter tray filled with “delicious” treats.

Why do dogs eat faeces?
There are many theories as to why dogs eat faeces, from the seemingly obvious “because they enjoy the taste” to more instinctive reasons such as dogs being omnivorous scavengers and faeces containing some nutritional value such as undigested fat and protein. Although the latter is the most likely explanation, no one really knows.

One old wives’ tale, that has been largely disproved, is that it’s a response to something lacking in their diet. There are some medical disorders thought to contribute to copraphagia, so if you have any concerns over your dog’s health you should always speak with your vet first.

Another theory is that copraphagia is a learned behaviour, caused by a puppy watching and copying their mother or friends. Sometimes dogs eat the faeces of their puppies to keep the nest area clean and free from disease and, perhaps instinctively, to prevent attracting predators to the nest.

In certain cases, if a pet owner uses the incorrect training technique of sticking the dog’s nose in their stool when they have soiled the home it may encourage them to coprophagia.

What can be done about dog eating faeces?
If your dog is partial to eating their own faeces and you’d like to put a stop to it, there are several possible solutions you can try. Try these one at a time so you can work out which, if any, are successful. However, if your dog is young, very old or has a history of gastro-intestinal problems these methods aren’t recommended without consulting a vet first.

Restrict access to faecal material, supervise all outdoor access and clean up as soon as your dog has done their business.
Put a cover over your cat’s litter box, and consider a baby gate to prevent your dog from accessing it.
If they ignore faeces, reward them with a tasty treat.
Give your dog something else to do with their mouth! Provide a wide variety of chew toys and increase your quality time with your dog.
Some dogs eat faeces as an attention seeking behaviour, so ignore your dog unless you catch him in the act.
Increase the number of feeds (not the amount of food) during the day so that your dog is never hungry and doesn’t feel the need to hunt down food anywhere else.
In extreme cases you can try fitting a basket type muzzle on your dog while you’re out walking, but never leave your dog alone when they’re wearing it.

Professional help for copraphagia
If your dog is only eating faeces when they’re left alone, for example at night, it is possible that there is an emotional reason for their behaviour. It could be related to them being left alone. If you suspect that this may be the case, speak to your vet who will be able to refer you to an animal behaviourist.

Equally, if you’re concerned about your dog eating faeces over a sustained period of time, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of an animal behaviourist. Your vet will be able to refer you.

Speak to our PetCare Advice Team
If you’d like more information on copraphagia and dogs eating poo, or have any other queries, contact our PetCare Advice team Monday to Friday 9-5 on 1800 738 238 or online.


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