OMG! My dog eats poop! How do I stop it?
Not an uncommon problem
Believe it or not this is not an uncommon phenomenon among dogs. According to the AKC there is a scientific name for it – coprophagia and there is both behavioral and physiologic reasons why they do it.
Also according to the AKC, Dr. Benjamin Hart, from the University of California conducted a study in 2012. He found that:
- 16 percent (1 in 6) dogs are classified as “serious” stool eaters. That means they were caught in the act 5 times.
- 24 percent of the dogs in the study (1 in 4) were observed eating feces at least once.
His study consisted of two separate surveys sent to about 3,000 dog owners. In his study Dr. Hart made some other observations about why dogs eat poop:
- It was more common in multi-dog households.
- Poop eaters are no harder to house train than other dogs
- Females are more likely to eat poop, and intact males were least likely.
- 92 percent want fresh stuff, only one or two days old.
- 85 percent of poop eaters will not eat their own feces, only that of other dogs.
- Greedy eaters – dogs who steal food off tables – tend to also be poop eaters.
That’s all well and good, you may say, but WHY, and HOW do I stop it is what I want to know! I feel your pain. I am dealing with this problem right now and that is why I did this research. I’m not going to tell you which one of my sweet babies it is. Because I want to protect their identity. I have friends who may read this. Ha Ha
Well okay, here is what I’ve found. Why do they do it? There are various reasons why they may do this disgusting thing. Such as:
- They simply may be hungry and there is no access to food.
- The food they are being fed may be lacking in sufficient nutrients and/or may not be appropriate for your particular dog. (It’s not true that any dog food is good for any dog.)
- If they eat feces from other animals, they may be seeking minerals that are lacking in their regular dog food.
- It may simply be that they are bored, lonely, stressed or anxious.
- If a dog is kept in a kennel or confined to a small space, they may just be occupying themselves or attempting to clean his personal space.
- If stools are allowed to pile up in the yard the dog may be prompted to “clean up” his stools.
- It may be a medical problem. Internal parasites may cause a dog to consume feces.
- If a dog is punished for “pooping” in the house they eat it to try to hide it. It is a myth that they will poop indoors out of spite. Spite is a human emotion, not a canine emotion.
- If it is a mother dog, it may be their instinct to hide evidence of her babies from predators.
- Sometimes it is just self-rewarding. It may be satisfying to them. Poop eating is not the disgusting thing to them that it is to us.
- Change their diet. Be sure that the food they are getting is formulated for the dog’s age, breed and any medical issues.
- If you suspect that the dog is hungry, try feeding him a little more and see if that helps.
- Have him seen by a veterinarian to look for any underlying medical and health problems, checking for parasites or other problems.
- Clean up after your dog. Preventing access, may be the best remedy.
- Teach your dog the “leave it” command. Remember to always praise him when he listens to you.
- As soon as they start approaching “poop”, tell them “leave it” and then distract them with something that is equally or more appealing to him. This will convey the idea that it is more rewarding to attend to you than to attend to the “poop”.
- If they are defecating in the house, make sure they are fed and walked on a schedule. And make sure they have the opportunity to potty before you leave them alone in the house.
- If you suspect boredom to be the cause, make sure he gets more exercise.
- There are products that can be applied to the stools that will discourage your dog from consuming them.
Some natural things that also may help are:
Add two to four tablespoons of canned pumpkin to the food bowl each day. Apparently pumpkin tastes good in food, but not when it’s expelled in excrement.
Add a spoon (teaspoon for a Chihuahua, a tablespoon for a bigger dog) of canned pineapple juice or spinach to the dog’s food.
According to PAW, Partnership For Animal Welfare, add MSG or meat tenderizer to their food. Personally I wouldn’t do this, just because in my personal opinion, I don’t think that could be very good for them.
Again, according to Paw Partnership For Animal Welfare, coat stools with hot sauce or lemon juice. Personally, I might try lemon juice, but not hot sauce.
If it’s kitty poop that they prefer, keep the litter box in a room the cat has access to, but not the dog. Or place a lid over the box that only the cat can access. Or place a baby gate around the box that has openings too small for the dog.
“Poop” eating can be a hard habit to break, but don’t be discouraged. Follow any of these tips and give them time to work.
My conclusion to this is that I’m going to:
- Change my dog’s food. I feed all three the same food, however after doing this research, I think my “poop eater” may need nutrients or minerals that are not found in their food or may not be necessary for my other two.
- I’m going to try the pumpkin and a few other tips mentioned until I find one that works.
Of all the “nasty” little habits that dogs can have, drinking toilet water, rolling in yucky stuff, licking their butts, etc. I think eating “poop” is the nastiest and one I intend to break! I’ll keep you posted.
Some excerpts in this article were taken from:
Nixit Stool-Eating Preventative (10.5 oz)
Vet Classics Stop Stool Eating (90 soft chews)