Why dogs eat their own fecal matter?
I am always asked, “Why do dogs eat their own fecal matter (poop)?”
Well, let’s answer this in steps. Dogs that eat their own poop are called Coproghagia. It is a natural process that has been passed down in the DNA from generation to generation through the bloodline, dating back to the wolf pack days. As of now, I am training some puppies from the same parents. When the father eats his food, he always lay down or sat when he eats or drinks. Two of the three puppies did the same thing.
Poop eating by definition means:
Coprophagia /kɒp.rə.ˈfeɪ.dʒi.ə/ or coprophagy is the consumption of feces, from the Greek κόπρος copros, "feces" and φαγεῖν phagein, "to eat".
Research has determined the likelihood is different dogs eat different kinds of feces for different reasons. First, some coprophagy is probably completely normal. As everybody knows, dogs evolved from wolves – probably, current thinking goes, from wolves that spooked less easily than average. Those not-so-spooky wolves got closer than others did to human bands and, later, human settlements. Finding human garbage and human excrement, the wolves chowed down. Eventually, their evolved an animal like the wolf, except that it was smaller, it hung around people, and it mostly scavenged instead of mostly hunted. Hey presto! The domestic dog, for whom, it is normal to eat anything lying around that might have some nutritional value, including human poop.
For those that also have cat and dogs
Cat feces probably attract dogs because cat food is higher in fat and protein than dog food, and consequently cat feces is too. So place your kitty litter box in an area like on top of the washer and dryer so your dog can go sand sifting for treasure. As for why dogs like horse and cow manure and goose droppings, your guess is as good as mine. Dogs like plenty of things we humans don’t – when was the last time you rolled in a dead lizard, grinning your fool head off the whole time? My best guess is that dogs just plain find feces tasty due to the DNA process.
Dogs that eat their own poop are ill
Not all coprophagy is normal or harmless. Dogs who suffer from malabsorption syndromes, such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, sometimes eat stool, including their own. They may be trying to recover the nutrients they can’t absorb in normal digestion.
So why do dogs eat poop? And how can I help prevent it?
Again, this is my personal opinion. Is it “THE ANSWER”? No! But I think it is a good reason why your dog is doing it. So, please read on for what I have read on what I have put together, and what I believe is one of the main reasons to why dogs eat poop other than it being passed on from generation to generation. One of the top reasons, I believe is because the dog food that you are using is not good enough or do not have the proper nutrients your dog needs. The food may lack the protein and nutrients, therefore they eat the poop again to get the nutrients and protein that they desire. (Look for my tips on selecting the right dog food). Basically, do not skimp on the dog food. Instead, read the ingredients. Food fillers like corn and corn meal act the same way it does in humans. It does not digest and passes right through the digestive system. I have a 4 months old puppy that is making bigger land mines in the sand box, than my 2 ½ year old German Shepard that gets 4 cups a day of healthier food. If you have never been taught how to read the ingredients on a bag of dog food, it always starts off with its most added ingredient or what the bag contains most of inside. So, if your dog ingredients start off reading corn, corn meal, chicken meal, chicken lips and a bunch of other words you cannot pronounce. It is JUNK FOOD! It is full of fillers ingredients. If you cannot figure that out, then look at it this way. The cheaper the price, the cheaper the food ingredients are. Basically folks “She/He is eating a low-quality diet” is often thrown around as an explanation for a pet dog’s coprophagy, and maybe these studies are the ultimate source of that idea. All the same, if your dog eats her/his own and other dogs’ poop and you are buying the 50-pound sacks of whatever chow is the cheapest at your local warehouse store, food of better quality might be worth a try.
If you just cannot afford good food, you can try a few tricks that may or may not work. Here is a few myths or ideas that may or may not work for your dog to help prevent the poo poo buffet. Please keep reading, because I am going to help you with a fair price selection and how to read “The ingredients” and what some of them mean.
1. Add pineapple to the dog’s food and when it is extracted. It produces an odor so the dog does not seem to be interested in eating this. Um, my concern is this. Does processed pineapple really smell worst than poop? I have yet seen this actually work on a dog and doubt it works.
2. Add hot sauce or cayenne pepper. Nope, it does not work especially if your dog is like a Chihuahua. Chalupa and Tabasco just made everything taste better. That’s a joke!
3. Pour Accent spice on the food. This I have personally tried and had some success on the matter, but here is the split hair problem. I do not see the point! If I am willing to go out to season and marinate my poop because my dog did not eat it, then why season it, the dog did not eat it. Yippee! The flip side to the coin is, if I am willing to go hunting in my backyard to again season and marinate my poop like fillet mignon, why not just pick it up instead and take the dogs temptation away by cleaning up after your dog? Control the environment! Tidy the yard diligently and prevent access to poop. You should always have poop bags or a pooper-scooper handy. Too much poop in the area brings insects, and insects bring bad things into the yard such as bacteria or other diseases. It is just an all around bad habit. Do you leave 4-5 poops in the toilet in your own home? NO! Normally, we flush every time. So, since dogs do not have thumbs to flush, it is up to us, as a good dog owner to clean up after out little Fee-Fee. So, do not even bother going there and leaving it behind. It is disgusting and embarrassing. This is addressed to people that have normal homes. If you have 25 acres of land in the country and let your dogs run free with the cows and deer, then disregard. This is why I love my sand box poop area (also in my tips website). The dog poops into the sand. I got my scooper right there after giving him/her a praise. I kick a little sand over it and scoop it up and drop it into a lid proof bucket. I do not have to smear it out of the grass or sift it out of the rocks or bushes, etc. K.I.S.S.! Keep it simple and stupid!
OK OK OK! I know what question is coming next! “Dave? You told us in order to help with puppy lessons and bathroom breaks to always leave one poop behind so the dog knows where to go the next time.” YES, this is true. I did say that. If this is one of you, then I would suggest reading the following. If you are at this stage of bathroom breaks for your puppy and are suppose to be there to help reward the bathroom breaks, then you are suppose to be nearby to be able to monitor your dog around that left poop from before. If you are not paying attention to your dog/puppy 6 feet away from you and gets his mouth on a poop left over before, then that is on you and recommend to pay more attention as you are allowing your dog to act out this behavior. So, stop texting or playing candy crush while waiting! If he/she goes sniffing it, tell him/her “NO!” or a cue means “Leave it” and they will move on to break in the general area.
There are pretty well accepted behavioral explanations for dogs eating their own stool – not that I know of any research to back them up other then what I read. Pet store puppies seem to eat their own poop more than the average dog. The reason would be the same one that makes crate training so successful: dogs avoid soiling their nests. Dogs forced to eliminate in their cages will often try to clean up. Let this happen a few times, and a habit is born. Finally, eating feces – whether or not it is the dog’s own – may succeed in getting attention for an animal that is lonely or bored.
Is it bad for dog’s to eat poop?
Disgusting as it is to us, coprophagy seems to do most healthy, vaccinated dogs no harm, apart from occasional digestive upset and sometimes a parasite or two. I did round up a news story about a Pug who developed pancreatitis after way overdoing it at the all-you-can-eat dog poop buffet.
Last word on poop eating? Almost no behavior makes it clearer that dogs are different from us. Feces disgust us. Not so for dogs. Eating feces is dangerous to humans, mostly not to dogs. They have a different digestive system. Prevent access as much as you can, teach your dog a strong “Leave it” cue, use a shake can, squirt a water bottle, etc. and bear in mind that dogs are dogs and sometimes we have to shrug and say “Oh well.” And do the best we can to help prevent this from re-occurring.