Eating Poop: Why Does My Dog Do It?

Dogs have no shame; they will lay down and spread their legs in front of you, lick their nuts, fart in your face, and steal your food. And if caught, they will look you in the eye and dare you to call them for it, then sneak in one more lick. Yes, dogs are the best pets ever. Agree, 100%. But they can also develop some disgusting habits, notably eating poop (their own or other dogs).

Some pooches were even caught by their owners snacking on their kitty sibling’s litter! Talk about eww-tastic habits. But when they turn on the charm, boy we don’t have a chance but fall in love and drown in those puppy-dog eyes.

But out of curiosity, why do dogs eat poop? What drives them to do it?

Let it be known that it’s fairly common for dogs to eat poop. This can be worrisome as poop may contain harmful and dangerous organisms that causes illness. And of course, with such disgusting habits come really bad doggy breath, the kind that would stop you in its tracks.

Know some of the very reasons why your dog acquired this disgusting habit so that you can prevent your furry pal from doing it again in the future.

Why do dogs eat poop?

If you are wondering why most dogs make this disgusting habit, here are some of the reasons to look at:

  1. Instinct

Plenty of mother dogs have a habit of cleaning and grooming their puppies. When they do so, they may also ingest feces or poop that are on their puppies’ fur. At times, they may also eat poop in their puppies’ immediate environment because of how their maternal instinct is wired to tell them to keep the place clean and safe for their young. 

In some cases, puppies also develop a habit of eating poop at a young age out of curiosity or maybe because they come from a long line of dogs that have the habit of eating poop. There are also cases when your dog loves the taste of cat poop and will often hang out close to your cat’s litter box.

There are no simple ways of explaining this, but the dog’s instinct is perhaps the biggest reason why it eats poop.

  1. Parasites

If your dog has parasites, there is a good chance that it will eat its poop for the very reason that it does not get adequate nutrients from the regular food that it eats. The parasites inside the dog will most likely take a lot of nutrients from the animal. As such, in an attempt to try to fill itself up, your canine pet might eat its poop.

  1. It is deficient in calories

Similar to when the dog has parasites, your pet canine will try to eat its poop if it feels like it does not get enough nutrients and calories from the food it eats. You may be underfeeding it, or it may be eating food that is insufficient in terms of the nutrients that it requires to stay healthy.

  1. Increased appetite or obsession with eating

Even when the dog is well-nourished and fed well with the best kinds of food, there is still a chance that it will try to eat its food because of its increased appetite or because of how it is obsessed with eating. This may be a sign that it is suffering from some sort of illness that is triggering its appetite. However, it may simply just be the dog’s personality. There are plenty of dogs that are easily obsessed with eating and will eat anything they think is edible enough.

  1. Stress or fear

Dogs that are under a lot of stress may eat their own stool. The reason for this is unclear, but many experts believe that dogs do this as a way of trying to ease themselves or to make them feel relaxed. In some cases, dogs eat their feces out of fear, especially when they are punished for defecating in an undesignated place. Because dogs easily associate experiences with objects, they may end up associating their feces with punishment and will eat their own stool to hide the evidence and to avoid getting punished.

  1. Isolation

While there are no exact reasons why this is so, it has been observed that dogs that are kept in isolation are more prone to eating poop than those who are often with humans and other dogs. This is observed mostly in dogs that are kept in cages far away from humans for a long period of time.

  1. Association

As mentioned, dogs easily associate things with events or other things. If you are feeding your dog close to where it usually poops, there is a chance that it will also associate its poop with food. Because of that, it will think that fecal matter is also food and will eat it whenever it gets hungry.

Will it harm your dog it is eats poop?

As mentioned, poop eaters can be quite normal in the dog world as many dogs have experienced eating their own poop at one point in time. Generally speaking, a dog eating its own poop is not at risk of a lot of dangers because of how dogs have evolved over the years to have immune systems that can withstand feces. However, there are still possible risks.

One such risk you should be wary of when you have two or more dogs or pets in the household is the transmission of parasites. If you have one other pet that has parasites, your dog might get infected if it eats the stool of the other pet. Other than that, there are also plenty of other bacteria that live in feces. Your dog will be open to such risks if you simply allow it to eat poop.

Another risk you should highly consider is a dog to human transmission of bacteria and diseases. As mentioned, there are plenty of parasites, bacteria, and other harmful organisms living in poop. If your dog eats its own poop and then licks you or your children, later on, there is a good chance that it will transmit the harmful organisms from the poop over to you or your kids. This can leave the entire family vulnerable to illnesses that can be traced back to the dog’s poop.

How to stop the dog from eating poop

We have mentioned that there are possible risks and dangers when it comes to a dog eating poop, even though they’re really are not a lot of things too serious to worry about. Nevertheless, because there are still risks involved here not only for the dog but also for the other animals and the people around it, it might be best to make sure that the dog stops eating its food.

Here are some of the tips you may want to consider when you want your dog to stop eating poop:

  • Has it checked by a vet? Some dogs eat poop because of an illness or a condition or because of the presence of parasites in its body. If such are the cases, then you have to take it to a vet to have it checked and for it to get the appropriate treatment.
  • Make sure that you are giving it the right kind of food and that you are feeding it well enough. Dogs that eat poop may only be doing so because they are hungry or because they are getting inadequate nutrients. But if you are feeding your dog well, it might stop eating poop.
  • Supplement the dog with vitamins because of how some dogs eat poop mainly due to how they lack certain types of vitamins.
  • Make the poop “less appealing” to the dog by spraying it with scents that the dog cannot stand. Pepper, garlic, and parsley are some of the scents that dogs do not like. And if they associate these scents with poop, they will stop eating fecal matter.
  • Keep the dog’s feeding and living area as clean as possible. This is to prevent it from associating poop with the regular type of food that it is eating. And for puppies that are naturally curious, keeping their area clean minimizes the risk of them exploring and eating their own poop.
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Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

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