Definitive Guide To Understanding Why Dogs Eat Poop
Pets can have many disgusting habits such as rolling around in the dirt or sniffing each other’s rears but eating their excreta has to be the one that tops the list of repulsive behaviors adopted by animals. It is one of the most common reasons why a dog may be returned to the shelter or euthanized because the owners just could not stand the habit or were not able to put an end to it.
If your dog has the same habit, then you have arrived at the right place because this article provides a complete guide to every question that you may have. There is no need for a dog to be returned because of this habit, as it is relatively common and can be easily stopped with training and changes to their environment.
Many behavioral factors go into explaining the question: Why does my dog eat poop?
We delve deeper into each factor:
A lot of answers can be found while looking at how a particular species has evolved. While consuming our waste sounds downright unacceptable to us, dogs do not share the same opinion. Long before they were domesticated, canines were scavengers living off of anything that they could find on the ground or in the trash. Researchers have long since speculated the fact that this habit developed to combat periodic starvation.
The scientific term coined for eating one’s poop is – coprophagy. Eating feces has been observed in the animal kingdom for a long time. For species like rabbits, it is crucial for their survival to consume their poop as they derive key nutrients from it. Other mammals that exhibit this behavior include rodents, non-human primates, and beavers. The primary reason for the habit is, if an animal’s diet is rich, the digestive tract sometimes fails to derive all the vital components, and eating their own or other animals’ dropping helps in getting a second chance at consuming those missed nutrients.
It is interesting to note that coprophagic dogs discriminate between what type of poop they prefer. About 80% of the coprophagic dogs will eat stool that is fresh and less than two days old. This seemingly random fact led to investigators to research more in-depth, and a reason was hypothesized. Dogs descended from wolves, and wolves defecate at a distance from their dens because the feces contain parasites’ eggs. However, since the eggs take some time to develop and hatch, the dung is safe to be eaten right away, therefore enabling the wolves to remain and keep their den parasite-free.
In a household where there is more than one dog, there seems to be more probability for the canine to develop coprophagy for the simple reason – the poop is readily available in a greater quantity. The personality factor that has emerged is that coprophagic dogs are ‘greedy eaters.’
Sometimes, breeds also play a part. When analyzed by breed groupings, Terriers and Hounds are most likely to develop coprophagy. When looking at individual breeds, Shetland Sheepdogs was found to be quite susceptible to eating poop, while poodles were found to be less interested in consuming their poop.
Bored or anxious
If a puppy is alone and has not gotten used to having the house to themselves, they can play and eat the poop to pass the time. Also, if a dog has been left in a crate or confined space for too long, it can lead to the development of coprophagy.
Anxiety or stress is also a factor that drives dogs to eat their stool. They can be anxious for a variety of reasons, and as a pet owner, make sure that they are not stressed out further due to punishments. Canines may be fearful of strict attitudes that can cause them to eliminate waste and get rid of the evidence, which brings on more punishment. It triggers a disturbing chain reaction.
Developing a wrong association with food
If a dog is being fed in very close quarters where it also defecates, then there is a possibility of making a wrong connection between odors of actual food and poop.
Your pets may have equated poop-eating situations with you giving them attention and talking to them. It may not matter to dogs, whether the attention is negative or positive.
Sometimes, when a dog starts eating its stool, there is a possibility of underlying health issues that need to be identified, and for that, the owner needs to know which signs to look for.
Sometimes, owners are ill-advised on the correct amount of food to feed their puppies. As they are growing, they need to be fed at least two to three times a day. When they are hungry, they will resort to chomping down on anything. If you have any questions regarding the quantity of dog food that needs to be fed, contact your veterinarian.
The presence of intestinal parasites and worms can also result in essential nutrients being leached out of a puppy’s stomach. This inevitably results in scavenging for the next edible option.
This condition occurs when the digested food is unable to get absorbed through the bowel, and into the body, which results in imperfect absorption or malabsorption of nutrients. The distinctive symptoms include – chronic diarrhea and normal or increased appetite with unexplained weight loss.
If you witness signs of Coprophagia coupled with excessive vomiting, thirst, fluctuation of energy levels, diarrhea, and weight loss, visit your veterinarian immediately. Other concerning conditions that dogs might develop are diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, thyroid, or bacterial infection.
Is consuming poop normal for my dog?
The short answer is – yes. A survey showed that 62% of the dogs tend to eat feces daily, and about 38% do it weekly. Fortunately, unlike rabbits, dogs do not derive any nutrition from eating dung. In ordinary cases, this habit is gone by the time the puppy turns nine months old. Puppies naturally show signs of being coprophagic as they will run around, not only eating their poop but also of other animals.
This behavior has been repeatedly observed in female dogs, as they will lick their offspring to induce the process of eliminating waste, and then clean up after them by consuming the fecal matter, till three weeks after giving birth. The female dogs are twice as likely to be coprophagic compared to their male counterparts, which is a massive difference from a statistical point of view.
Despite being so common, the scientific facts available on this issue are far and few in between. However, a conclusive study was conducted in 2012, by researchers from the University of California that produced the following results:
- Only one in six (about 16%) dogs are categorized as serious ‘dung eaters,’ meaning that they were at least caught five times in the live act.
- One in four (About 24%) dogs that took part in the study were observed eating poop at least once.
The data also elaborated on assumptions of how a dog’s age or other compulsive behavior contributes to the habit of chomping down on poop. It was found that none of the assumptions could be substantiated by hard evidence. Furthermore, the results also revealed that feces-eating dogs could just as easily be house trained as normal dogs.
The study consisted of conducting surveys of around 3,000 dog owners, and the doctors’ final observation was that if the canine has a habit of eating stools, then the simple reason is that it is in their DNA.
How can dogs be stopped?
All hope is not lost, dogs can be trained to not eat their poop, and there are other ways in which the owners can prevent coprophagy from developing such as:
- Vitamin supplements: It is believed that dogs eat their stools to make up for any nutritional deficiency in their diets. Proven studies have shown that Vitamin-B is the prime factor that should be given in appropriate quantities to dogs to prevent them from turning to eat their poop. Other vitamins necessary for dogs should always be given in monitored amounts.
- Enzymes: Digestive enzymes are present in three types – 1) proteases that digest proteins, 2) lipases that digest fats, and 3) amylases that digest carbohydrates. As an owner, ensure that your pet’s diet is rich in fat, protein, and carbohydrates. By incorporating fruits and vegetables into their diet, dogs can derive additional enzymes. Again to reiterate, consult your veterinarian if you are in any doubt with regards to what to feed your dog.
- Certain smells and tastes that may seem repulsive to humans can be irresistible to dogs and vice versa. Some taste-aversion products which contain chamomile, parsley, monosodium glutamate, pepper derivatives, and parsley can make their poop less appealing to dogs.
- Keep your house and lawn clean so that the animals are unable to snoop around.
- Ensure that pets stay busy when they are not in the house and teach them not to be anxious when alone.
The importance of enough exercise in dogs is understated. A lot of problems automatically get solved when your pup is too tired for shenanigans; a tired dog is a happy dog. Following training exercises can be undertaken to train your dog to leave the dung alone:
- Always walk your dogs on a leash; that way, you have more control over preventing unwanted episodes. Parasites ridden poop should not be consumed by pets, and a gentle tug on the least will steer them away.
- “Leave it” and “come” are two most effective commands that go a long way in disposing of many behavioral problems that can develop over the life of a dog. Remember the power of positive reinforcements; punishments will only work to worsen the situation.
- Train your dog to immediately come inside after having just pooped and reward them with a treat every time. Dogs are highly food motivated, and if you establish this routine from puppyhood, they will have no reason to stick around and dip their noses in feces.
- As soon as your dog starts emitting the behavior of coprophagy, start using distraction techniques to direct their focus onto better things. Reward them with their favorite treats and verbal praise only when they listen.
- If you do not have time to work on training your dogs or seem to be failing, consider hiring a professional trainer or a behaviorist that will yield better results and put in the needed time and effort.
- Muzzling the dog’s mutt to discourage it from eating anything when they are outside. Be cautious as a muzzled dog should not be left alone unobserved.
Another useful and simple way is to immediately pick up your dog’s droppings and dispose them in a place that they do not have access to. If you have a cat and your canine cleans its litter box, scoop out the non-traditional “snacks” multiple times a day. With time, dogs give up the habit as there will be nothing to eat except for things that they should be eating.
With any luck, puppies outgrow the annoying habit of eating their or other animals’ poop. But, there have been situations in adult dogs where coprophagy surfaces out of the blue.
If the canine is showing signs of weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, watery stool, and increased appetite with coprophagy, then a veterinarian should be consulted immediately as other medical problems could be involved. If everything seems normal except for the poop-eating habit, follow our comprehensive ways to help your pet kick the habit.
Yes, this habit is considered normal for animals, but it can have long-reaching harmful effects on domesticated dogs, and it is also not good for the hygiene of your household. With patience and responsible owners, dogs can transform.
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