Why do dogs eat their own feces? Can this be avoided?

Turns out the biggest problem with a dog eating poop is disgusting to its owners. Dogs, especially puppies, eat a lot of things they shouldn’t, and that often includes their feces and those of other dogs and even other animals. Although “gross”, it is quite common for dogs to eat poop.


Gary Richter, owner and medical director of Montclair Veterinary Hospital, “The science isn’t entirely clear why dogs or puppies eat feces, known as coprophagia” said.

“Assuming the dog is getting a well-balanced diet, nutritional deficiencies leading to coprophagia are very unlikely. In reality, eating feces is almost exclusively a behavioral rather than a physical problem,” Richter says.

Russell Hartstein, certified dog trainer in Los Angeles and founder of Fun Paw Care, adds that while there’s no conclusive evidence pointing to a single reason dogs eat poop, it’s perfectly natural.

However, there are some reasons why your dog may eat poop:


“It’s part of dog genetics. Dogs are omnivores (both meat and grass-fed creatures) who like to play and eat things that would normally bother humans, like unpleasant and pungent odors. Dogs are very nutritious for fun or because they’re interesting to them “They eat a lot,” says Hartstein.

According to a 2018 study, coprophagia may be a disposition inherited from wolves, the ancestors of dogs. The wolves defecated outside their den because it contained parasite eggs. If a wolf was too sick or injured to do its job elsewhere, it ate its poop to protect the herd. The researchers pointed out that parasite eggs can become contagious after a few days. This may also explain why dogs generally don’t eat poop for more than a day or two.

2. AGE

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), eating poop is a natural behavior at certain stages of a dog’s life. For example, mother dogs lick their puppies to encourage them to do their chores. They also clean up after their young by eating their droppings for the first three weeks after birth. Puppies naturally mimic this behavior by eating their own poop and the poop of other dogs.


As Richter mentioned earlier, nutritional deficiencies are unlikely if your dog is on a balanced diet. However, dog owners should watch for signs of nutritional deficiency, which could be due to feeding or absorption problems caused by an underlying medical condition.

Symptoms of nutrient deficiency depend on which nutrients are missing, but often include dull or brittle skin, dry, scaly or flaking skin, being underweight or overweight, skin problems such as itching, inflammation and wounds, frequent infections.


Thyroid disease, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease (a disease resulting from excessive production of stress hormones in the body) are conditions that can increase hunger in dogs and cause them to eat their feces.

Medications such as steroids, benzodiazepines, and some antihistamines can also cause increased hunger as a side effect.


Although not scientifically proven, some experts believe that coprophagia in dogs can be triggered by chronic stress, anxiety, and boredom. Isolated dogs, those that spend a lot of time in a confined space, are more likely to eat poop. Anxiety caused by harsh training methods or punishment can also trigger the behavior, according to the AKC.


“In terms of risks, aside from the obvious ‘repellent’ factor, eating feces can infect your dog with parasites,” says Richter. If your dog shows signs of illness such as diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy, you should visit the vet.

Common parasites that a dog can get from eating the poop of other dogs or animals; It includes parasites such as hookworms (hookworm disease), roundworms (roundworm disease), giardia, whipworms (whipworm, tricurosis), coccidia.


If your puppy is scratching his poop, the good news is that he’ll probably stop scratching at 9 months of age.

If your puppy continues to do this, or if you have an adult dog that does, the following tips may help you break the habit:

Provide toilet training: “Teach your dog to defecate and urinate voluntarily. That’s one of the goals of potty training, and if your dog poops at the right time, it will make your job a whole lot easier,” says Hartstein.

Make sure your dog has a balanced diet: Your veterinarian can offer you more helpful advice on the best diet for your dog’s nutritional needs. As a general rule, however, if you feed your dog the correct portion of a brand of dog food, he should already be getting the necessary nutrients.

Attention to cleaning: “Coprophagia is a crime of opportunity,” says Richter. If they don’t have poop to eat, it can break the habit.

Always keep your dog on a leash: “A dog on a leash is much less likely to eat feces,” says Hartstein. Having your dog on a leash on walks helps you control where he goes and what he gets into.

Exercise and strengthen your dog regularly: Regular exercise and reinforcement can help a dog burn off energy and fight boredom that can lead to pooping and other unpleasant behaviors. Keep the walks interesting with different routes, play fetch and try enrichment games like puzzles.

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