Dogs Eating Poop: Why They Do It And How To Prevent It

dogs eating poopLet’s face it, dogs eating poop is gross.  Besides being gross, there are medical consequences from dogs eating poop that include; intestinal parasites, gastrointestinal upset, and transmission of infectious diseases.  This week, Dr. Anna Coffin will discuss reasons dogs do this and what you can do to prevent it.

Coprophagia is the medical term used to describe feces eating.  Dogs eating poop is more commonly a learned habit and rarely due to a nutritional deficit.  Coprophagia is a normal behavior in pregnant dogs to keep the area clean for their puppies.  Puppies may briefly eat poop to help establish normal gastrointestinal flora.

Reasons For Dogs Eating Poop

  • Learned behavior from other dogs in the house
  • Attention-seeking behavior
  • Boredom/Lack of environmental enrichment
  • Hunger
  • Attraction to the smell and taste (This is especially true for dogs eating cat poop due to their high protein diet)
  • Stress & anxiety
  • Diet deficiency (rare for dog’s fed a commercial diet)
  • Pancreatic insufficiency

Never punish your dog for having accidents in the house, unless you catch them in the act because punishment can cause them to eat their poop in order to hide the evidence and prevent punishment.  When dogs are eating poop, never yell or approach them quickly as they interpret this as a form of reward and will reinforce this bad behavior. 

Treatment for dogs eating poop:

Dr. Anna Coffin recommends seeing your veterinarian before attempting any treatment to determine if your dog has a medical condition, such as a dietary deficiency, hunger or pancreatic insufficiency.  Treatment of any medical conditions should stop dogs eating poop. 

Adolph’s meat tenderizer and Forbid are two products that cause dogs eating poop to dislike like the taste of the poop they are eating.  For this treatment to work, it is imperative to determine which dog’s poop is being eaten and treat that dog’s food with these products for every meal.  For taste aversion to work you must be consistent and continue with this treatment until the behavior has been completely stopped for at least one month.

For behavioral treatment of dogs eating poop there are three steps that must be followed to be successful:

  1. Avoidance:  Do not allow the dog access to poop.  You must pick up all your dog’s poop immediately after they eliminate or walking your dog on a leash to go potty.
  2. Redirect:  Use a toy or treat to redirect your dog’s attention when they start sniffing in the area where poop is located.  It’s important to do this step prior to the dogs eating poop.
  3. Behavior modification:  Teach your dog an alternative behavior, like sitting or making eye contact, when they discover poop.  For this behavior modification to work, you must reward with a highly desirable treat or toy every time. [Tweet “Dog’s that frequently eat poop should be dewormed for intestinal parasites at least once a year.”]

Dogs eating poop is a common problem.  Dog’s that frequently eat poop should be dewormed for intestinal parasites at least once a year.  Enriching your dog’s environment, especially with food toys, can also help eliminate dogs eating poop.  You can eliminate this unwanted behavior with determination and consistency. Contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns, make an appointment to see us today. 

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