Why do dogs eat poo?

Author picture Jessica

At some stage, a dog might eat either their own or another animal's poop. Not so pleasant of course, but is it actually a problem to be concerned about? And can you stop your dog from eating poop?

We might cringe about it, but at some point when out on a dog walk, many pooches will eat excrement from the ground (the behaviour is called 'coprophagia'). A distinction can be made between eating their own, that of other dogs and poop from other animals like cows, cats, horses etc, which tends to be the preference of most dogs.

In most cases, it's very normal behaviour. Female dogs instinctively clean their puppies by licking them and eating their stools. And young dogs, in turn, discover the world through their mouths, so can end up eating all sorts of things! Even dogs with extra appetites, such as desexed males and females, can display this behaviour. 

Causes of eating poo

  • Hunger, cravings
  • Learned behaviour in puppies
  • Stress or boredom
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Medical problems like diabetes, parasites or other ailments that affect appetite 
  • They just like the taste of it

picking up dog pooh
It is really important to clean up your dog's poo during a dog walk

Is eating poo bad for your dog?

Eating poo is normal, but it can be unhealthy for your dog. Stools may contain parasites or remnants of other animal's medication. Be especially aware if you walk your dog in inner-city areas, as humans waste can contain traces of medication or drugs.  Horse manure can also contain dangerous vaccine residues and livestock poop can contain the dangerous neospora parasite. 

To make sure your dog stops eating poo, it is first important to eliminate medical causes and nutritional deficiencies. Consult your veterinarian for this.

Break the habit: stop your dog from eating poop

If nothing else is wrong with your dog's health, you can try the following:

  • Don't feed them canned food. Waste from pets that eat a canned food diet is extra attractive because of the flavour enhancers
  • Choose high-quality food. Discuss the right selection for your pet with your veterinarian 
  • Make sure your dog gets enough playtime, exercise, training and rest. A happy, stress-free dog is less inclined to eat poo 
  • Don't punish, but distract: When you walk your dog, bring treats to distract them from any surprises on the ground and praise good behaviour. 
  • Don't fight it: if eating poop is forbidden, it will be more tempting. 
  • Clean up poo immediately: scoop out the cat litter box and clear away messes from puppies
  • Always clean up outside your dog's poop! Don't forget to bring the poop bags on your walks.

Give your dog plenty of opportunities to snuffle, play, move, interact and rest. If you are pressed for time, you can of course always hire a dog walker from Pawshake. Always discuss with your dog walker your agreements regarding this topic. Make sure your dog walker brings poop bags with them and ask your dog walker to play close attention in order to prevent your dog from doing this.

Do you have any tips for stopping your dog from this habit? Let us know in the comments!