Poop Gourmet

Gross, right? Your dog may not think so.



Poop Eating (A.K.A. Coprophagia)

Coprophagia is the natural (albeit gross) behavior of a dog consuming feces. Not every dog does it, but it's not uncommon if your dog is ...ahem.. partaking.


Why, you ask?

Welp. Unfortunately there is no good reason, but there are many theories. Some studies suggest it is a result of stress, and eating their own feces is a comfort mechanism. Others say coprophagia comes about do to malnourishment of certain nutrients or just hunger. After whelping, a mother dog will eat her puppies' feces to keep her den clean and free from attracting "predators." What it comes down to is this: dogs just don't care about crap (pun intended) the same way humans do. We have a natural aversion to feces because our lizard brain tells us we could catch some horrible disease and die if we get too close to feces, vomit, or deceased things. Dogs, not so much.


Risk Factors for Increased Likelihood of Eating Poop

  • Neutered males are more likely to partake, this is thought to be due to lower levels of testosterone increasing their anxiety

  • New puppy mothers do so to protect their young, puppies may copy her behavior

  • Dogs with higher stress or anxiety levels may develop coprophagia as a coping mechanism

  • Dogs who will put anything in their mouths (grass, rocks, etc) are more likely to eat feces



Well, What Can I Do About It?


The easiest solution is to make sure you pick up feces daily, or as soon as they go in some cases. Training a solid "Leave It" is great for when you are out in parks or on walks, but it only works if you are there to observe your dog before they grab the poo. Some companies offer food additives that make their poo taste gross, but the effect is completely dependent on the dog in question.


My dachshund Murphy has been eating poop since the day I brought him home at 12 weeks old. It's not surprising given his genetic and behavioral fear/anxiety issues. I remember witnessing for the first time as he tried to turn around and eat his poop while he was still going! Luckily (or maybe it's worse...) for me, he is only interested in fresh poop, and he only eats his own. The only thing that works for us is to be diligent about picking it up. We know we've missed some when he comes inside licking his lips and burping farts at us that you can smell across the room.


If you think your dog may be eating poop due to anxiety, consider anxiety medication to help him out. If your dog is just compulsive about grabbing anything and everything, train a really great "leave it." Regardless, you'll need to be diligent for awhile until your dog stops eating poop. Just know that while yes it is disgusting, it's natural to your dog. C'est la vie, right?




Sources:

  1. Journal of Applied Companion Animal Behavior Vol. 4, No. 1. 2010, Correlates of Coprophagy in the Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris) as Assessed by Owner Reports, Broox G. V. Boze, MS

  2. The paradox of canine conspecific coprophagy, Benjamin L. Hart, Lynette A. Hart, Abigail P. Thigpen, Alisha Tran, Melissa J. Bain, first published: 12 January 2018 https://doi.org/10.1002/vms3.92