why do dogs eat poop
why do dogs eat poop

Dogs are known for their playful and loving nature, but some behaviors can perplex and even disgust their human companions. One such behavior is coprophagia, the technical term for the act of eating feces. While this behavior might seem revolting to us, it’s relatively common in dogs. Understanding why dogs eat poop involves examining a range of potential causes, from nutritional deficiencies to behavioral issues. This article delves into the reasons behind this behavior and offers solutions for dog owners.

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Common Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop

Nutritional Deficiencies:

  • Malabsorption: Dogs may eat feces if their diet lacks essential nutrients or if they have a condition that prevents them from absorbing nutrients properly. This could be due to poor-quality dog food, digestive disorders, or a lack of certain enzymes.
  • Pancreatic Insufficiency: This condition results in insufficient production of digestive enzymes, leading dogs to seek out nutrients in feces.

Behavioral Causes:

  • Attention-Seeking: Some dogs learn that eating feces results in immediate attention from their owners, even if it’s negative. They may repeat the behavior to get more attention.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Dogs under stress or suffering from anxiety may engage in coprophagia as a coping mechanism. Changes in the household, separation anxiety, or a lack of physical and mental stimulation can contribute to this behavior.
  • Imitation: Puppies often mimic the behavior of their mothers and other dogs. If they see another dog eating feces, they might start doing it too.

Environmental Factors:

  1. Cleanliness: Dogs may eat feces to keep their living area clean, especially in confined spaces like kennels or crates. This behavior is more common in puppies raised in less hygienic conditions.
  2. Scavenging Instinct: Dogs are natural scavengers. In the wild, they might eat feces to prevent predators from tracking them or simply as a means of survival when food is scarce.

Medical Conditions:

  1. Parasites: Intestinal parasites can lead to malnutrition, prompting dogs to eat feces in an attempt to gain nutrients.
  2. Diabetes and Thyroid Issues: Certain metabolic disorders can increase appetite or cause malabsorption, leading to coprophagia.

Solutions to Prevent Coprophagia

Nutritional Adjustments:

  • High-Quality Diet: Ensure your dog is eating a balanced, high-quality diet appropriate for their age, size, and health status. Consult with a veterinarian to select the best food.
  • Supplements: If a nutritional deficiency is suspected, your vet may recommend supplements such as vitamins, minerals, or digestive enzymes.

Behavioral Training:

  • Positive Reinforcement: Reward your dog for ignoring feces and responding to commands. Use treats, praise, and play to reinforce good behavior.
  • Training Commands: Teach commands like “leave it” or “come” to redirect your dog’s attention away from feces. Consistency is key in training.
  • Supervision and Management: Monitor your dog closely when outside. Keep your yard clean and promptly pick up feces to reduce temptation.

Environmental Enrichment:

  • Mental and Physical Stimulation: Provide plenty of exercise, interactive toys, and puzzles to keep your dog engaged and reduce boredom.
  • Safe Space: Create a stress-free environment with a designated safe space where your dog can retreat and feel secure.

Medical Intervention:

  • Veterinary Check-Up: Regular veterinary check-ups can identify underlying medical issues contributing to coprophagia. Treatment of conditions like parasites, diabetes, or thyroid problems can reduce the behavior.
  • Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to address anxiety or other underlying issues.

Product Solutions:

  • Taste Deterrents: Products are available that can be added to your dog’s food to make their feces taste unpleasant. These deterrents are not foolproof but can be part of a comprehensive strategy.


    While coprophagia can be an alarming and unpleasant behavior, understanding its underlying causes is the first step toward addressing it. By ensuring your dog has a balanced diet, providing adequate mental and physical stimulation, and seeking veterinary advice when necessary, you can help curb this behavior. Patience and consistency are essential in modifying any undesirable behavior in dogs. With the right approach, you can discourage your dog from eating feces and ensure their health and well-being.


    1. Is it normal for dogs to eat poop?

    Yes, while it may seem unusual or disgusting to us, coprophagia (eating feces) is relatively common in dogs. Many puppies go through a phase of eating poop, and some adult dogs may exhibit this behavior for various reasons.

    2. What are the main reasons dogs eat poop?

    Dogs may eat poop due to nutritional deficiencies, behavioral issues, stress and anxiety, environmental factors, or medical conditions. Some dogs may also engage in coprophagia due to boredom or to seek attention.

    3. Can eating poop be harmful to my dog?

    Yes, eating feces can expose your dog to harmful bacteria, parasites, and diseases. It can also lead to gastrointestinal issues and other health problems. It’s important to address this behavior to ensure your dog’s health.

    4. How can I stop my dog from eating poop?

    You can discourage coprophagia by ensuring your dog has a balanced diet, providing mental and physical stimulation, using positive reinforcement training, and keeping their living environment clean. Consulting with a veterinarian for potential medical issues and using taste deterrents can also help.

    5. Are there any medical conditions that cause dogs to eat poop?

    Yes, conditions such as pancreatic insufficiency, intestinal parasites, diabetes, and thyroid issues can lead to coprophagia. These conditions may cause malabsorption or increased appetite, prompting dogs to eat feces.

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