You're not the only one who has ever questioned why their adult dog eats their own or other dogs' feces. Many pet parents are left puzzled as to why their dog would do this. It may seem odd, but there are many reasons that can explain this behavior, especially if it's something they've been doing since they were a puppy. The reasons for this behavior range from boredom to underlying illnesses, so it's important to determine the cause of your dog's gross habit as soon as possible.
Why Your Dog Eats Poop
Even though this behavior is unpleasant, disgusting, and frankly, gross, it's important to understand for your dog's health. This behavior is very common. About 60% of dogs have been known to consume the waste products of other animals at some point in their lives. If you find that your dog has suddenly begun eating feces, don't worry too much. You can take steps toward stopping this behavior. First, let's discuss some of the reasons your dog may be acting this way.
Gaps in Nutrition
The most common reason for this behavior is a nutritional deficiency. Nutritional deficiencies in dogs can be caused by a poor diet, inadequate or unbalanced nutrition, and even too much of certain nutrients.
Nutritional deficiencies may also be caused by the stress of change in diet or environment, as well as from disease or injury. Dogs who don't get enough nutrients may be looking for a quick fix by eating their own poop or the poop of another dog.
If your dog is hungry, they may look for food wherever they can find it, including the poop hiding in the back corner of your lawn. It's common for dogs to eat their own poop if they are not fed on a regular schedule. Eating poop is also an instinctive behavior as the dogs' wild ancestors learned to eat whatever they could find to survive when they were hungry.
Some dogs may eat their own feces in an attempt to relieve anxiety or stress. Your dog may be stressed when you are gone, when there are visitors in the house, during thunderstorms, during fireworks or other loud noises, or when there is a change in their routine. If you're not sure what's causing the stress in your dog, it could be a combination of factors.
Dogs who don't get enough exercise or mental stimulation may resort to destructive behaviors like chewing on furniture or eating poop as a way of relieving boredom. You can't blame them, really. When they're not having fun and being stimulated, they'll do anything to pass the time.
Dogs are natural foragers, so when they see something that looks interesting, they want to investigate it. Unfortunately for us, the things that look interesting to dogs are often things like poop and dead birds.
There are several medical conditions that may cause a dog to start eating poop. Some of these include:
- Parasites: Intestinal parasites such as hookworms or tapeworms can cause nausea and loss of appetite in dogs, which may lead them to eat feces as a source of nutrients.
- Intestinal infections: Bacterial infections such as salmonellosis can cause diarrhea in dogs, leading them to eat feces out of hunger.
- Diarrhea: Diarrhea can be caused by dietary indiscretion or simply eating too fast, which can lead a dog to ingest feces in addition to other vomit and regurgitated food. Diarrhea in dogs can also lead to dehydration if it's not treated, so it's important to see a vet if your dog has had diarrhea for more than 48 hours.
Stop Your Dog From Eating Feces
Regardless of the reason behind your dog's behavior, there are some things you can do to discourage them from eating poop and encourage them to find healthier alternatives instead.
Offer Variety in the Diet
If your dog is eating the poop of other dogs simply because of a nutritional deficiency, it could be due to a lack of variety in their diet. There are two options for this. Switch to a homemade diet like raw, or add a supplement once you determine what the deficiency is.
To determine what your dog is deficient in, you can obtain tests from AnimalBiome and Parsley Pet. AnimalBiome tests your dog's gut health using a stool sample. Then, provide you with a veterinary consult and a detailed look at your dog's test results. They also recommend supplements based on the deficiency.
Adding a test from Parsley Pet is also helpful in determining if there are any deficiencies. This one is also fairly simple. All they need is a fur sample. They conduct testing to determine what vitamins and minerals are missing from your pet's diet, if any. They also test for heavy metals and can inform you of any dangerous levels.
Here are some tips for adding variety to your dog's diet:
- Add fruits and vegetables to your dog's diet. This helps add nutrients that he might not be getting from kibble or canned food.
- Mix up the proteins in your dog's diet. If your dog eats only dry kibble, try mixing in some raw or lightly cooked meat including chicken, duck, or beef.
- Add a small amount of organ meat. Add an amount that equals about 3% of your dog's portion. Raw organ meat, such as pancreas, spleen, or kidney, contains high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that could fill nutritional gaps.
Try Separating or Adding Food Portions
If your dog is hungry, you can try providing a little extra in each of their portions. If their portion size is already as it should be, try feeding smaller portions more frequently. For example, if they are currently eating 2 cups of food twice per day, divide the 2 cups per day into four smaller meals.
If you aren't sure how much you should feed your dog, you can look at the general guidelines. However, keep in mind these are just guidelines and each dog is different. The amount of food you should feed your dog depends on many factors, including the type of food you choose and the size, age, and activity level of your dog.
For example, a large-breed puppy would require more calories per pound than a small-breed adult. Generally speaking, dogs that are very active need more calories per pound than those who are less active. Dogs with shorthair coats will also need more calories per pound than those with long coats because they have less insulation against heat loss in the winter months.
You want to give your dog just enough food that they can finish it in 10 to 15 minutes. If there are any leftovers, take them away so your dog doesn't become accustomed to having more than they need at each feeding. Don't free-feed your dog, as this could lead to obesity and further health concerns.
Physical and Mental Stimulation
Your dog may also be eating poop simply because they're bored, stressed, or anxious. Provide your dog with added mental and physical activity if they seem bored. To remain happy and healthy, your dog needs exercise for both their brain and body.
You don't have to run marathons with your dog every day to keep your dog entertained. Just make sure they get enough exercise to promote good health and fitness. As long as you're not overdoing it, there's no such thing as too much exercise for a healthy adult dog. The key is finding a balance between too much and too little activity that will keep your pet happy and healthy throughout their life.
Mental exercise for dogs is just as important as physical exercise. Your dog's brain needs to work, too! The best way to stimulate your dog's mind is by providing them with mental challenges. The more you challenge your dog's brain, the more it will develop and grow.
When you provide your dog with challenging puzzles and games, you are exercising their mind just like you would exercise their body. When your dog figures out how to solve a puzzle or follow a command, they will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that will motivate them to keep trying even more difficult puzzles in the future.
Visit the Vet
Before you make any decisions about how to stop your dog from eating poop, take a trip to your veterinarian's office to rule out any underlying health conditions. Once your vet has cleared your dog, you can begin managing this behavior by implementing variety, added mealtimes, and providing exercise. Take it step by step and see what works for your individual dog. Soon you'll have your dog's mind off of bad habits and onto healthy ones.