Most of us have been there. Strolling through the fields with our dog and BAM, they have a mouthful of poop. Horse, cow, and sheep aren’t so bad – it’s all grass. It’s when they pick up the dog poop that really gets the stomach-churning as you chase them screaming “WHY!?”
So this leads us to the question….Why do dogs eat poop?
Dogs eat poop because they are not being fed enough, they are looking for attention, are scavengers by nature, or for a whole host of possible medical reasons. Whether it’s health or behaviour, there is a reason for their madness.
If you’d like to know more about why your pup might be gorging themselves on faeces every time you head out for a walk, this is the place for you to be.
It is possible that a medical condition is causing your dog’s love for all things poop. Here are some of the most common causes of faecal munching in your canine companion.
This is a genetic condition that is most prevalent in younger dogs but can also develop later in life as well. It also goes by the name pancreatic insufficiency and means your dog cannot create many, sometimes any, digestive enzymes in the pancreas.
If these enzymes are not supplemented in their diet, they will slowly starve to death because they are unable to digest food properly and so cannot absorb the nutrients from their meals. Some of the most common EPI symptoms are:
- Weight loss
- Eating poop
Worms are a common cause of eating poop because of the competition between your dog and the worms for nutrients. This is especially true if your dog is infested with worms, and you may notice that your dog is eating a lot yet losing weight or putting on none at all.
Ensuring you worm your dog regularly is the best way to avoid this and take them to the vet if you feel they are losing a lot of weight or not putting any on. A worm infestation can be nasty. Read our guide here to learn more about deworming your dog.
#3 Enzyme Deficiency
While dogs are domesticated, their bodies are still built to handle the consumption of whole prey. For your dog, this means eating the digestive tract of whatever they kill as well – providing them with the digestive enzymes they need to process food.
If your dog is fed a highly-processed diet, it could mean that they are not getting the digestive enzymes they need in order to thrive. Since dogs cannot create enough of their own enzymes, some food will pass through undigested and they will seek out poop to make up the rest.
Both diabetes and thyroid issues can make your dog feel incredibly hungry, even if they are not actually hungry at all. This can lead to them chowing down on poop that they find in the garden or on their walks.
Interestingly, if your dog is on any medication that contains steroids, this can also make them ravenously hungry and they may just start eating whatever they can find, poo included.
Mineral and vitamin deficiencies are also common causes of poop consumption. If you feel that this could be the cause, speak to your vet about mixing up their diet and seeing if you can find a food that provides a better nutritional balance for them.
It could also be caused by a hydrochloric acid deficiency. This can be caused by ageing as well as a poor diet, leading your pup to look to poop for what they need. This is because hydrochloric acid is used for breaking down proteins.
If your dog does not have enough in their body, the food will just pass through them without being digested properly. This means that they are not absorbing nutrients properly, including protein which is essential for healthy muscles and joints.
It really can be as simple as not feeding your dog enough food. If they are looking a little skinny or seem hungry all the time, consider giving them more to eat at mealtimes. A dog that is hungry is going to start looking for snacks to fill their bellies in places you would rather they didn’t.
Take a look at the best food to help gain weight, so if you feel like your dog needs a little push gaining weight take a look at which food I have suggested.
There are several conditions that can cause poor absorption in the digestive tract. This can lead to your dog eating poo, even their own, to try and regain the nutrients that they have lost. Watch which stools they are eating as well.
This is because the poop they are eating could indicate a deficiency or illness in that pet as well – whether it is another dog in the home or a cat.
Sometimes, eating poop is just part of who your dog is. It’s not a great trait to have, but it’s there, and there are a few reasons why it might be happening.
It’s pretty normal for puppies to eat poop. They are incredibly curious creatures and want to explore the world with every single one of their senses – this includes eating everything they can get their mouth around, like poop. Most of them grow out of this stage though.
Sometimes, it’s just your dog being clean. In the wild, dogs would keep their territory tidy just as a female dog will clear up after puppies to avoid them being detected by rival packs or other predators. It keeps the nest clean, and some dogs are just really into that.
Dogs are also natural scavengers, it is part of their genetic makeup. This means that they rely strongly on their sense of smell which is far more refined to them than us. So, while poop smells awful to us, it actually smells pretty darn good to your dog.
#4 Attention Seeking
All attention is good attention to dogs, and if you make a big fuss over them eating poo then it becomes a great game to them – especially if you run at them shouting. Your dog might just be looking for a little more attention from you, so put extra time aside for you and them.
If your dog is home alone and bored, they are going to look for things to do to occupy their time. Even if you are home with them, if they aren’t getting enough physical and mental exercise they are likely to resort to other forms of entertainment – including eating any poop they find.
If your dog is feeling really stressed out, they may relieve that by eating things they normally wouldn’t, like poop. It can be a way for them to relieve the stress they are feeling, and in cases like this, it is best to speak with a vet about what might be stressing them out.
You can also get a pheromone plug-in for the wall that releases calming pheromones to help your dog feel more relaxed. This can be a great cure for stress.
How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop
Fear not, it is possible to deter your dog from this, quite frankly, filthy habit. Here are a few tips and tricks you can try to stop them from eating poop all the time:
- Keep the garden clean at all times, pick it up every time they go
- If your dog is not house trained yet, the same applies to inside too
- Don’t make a big deal out of it when they do it, they just see it as attention
- Practice excellent recall so you can call them back when you spot poo
- Work on “leave it” and give them a reward that is more valuable than poo
- If it’s the litter box causing issues, keep this in a place the dog cannot get to
- Try putting a stair gate in front of the litter box, it really works (I have one)
- If it gets really bad, speak to an animal behaviourist for some one-on-one training
Why do dogs eat cat poop?
Your dog might be eating cat poo because, to them, it smells a lot like cat food – a really tasty treat for dogs to try and steal. However, it could also be a sign of a vitamin deficiency so make sure your dog is getting a healthy and balanced diet.
What to put in dog food to stop eating poop?
There are a few things you can put in dog food to stop them from eating poop, such as canine multivitamins to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need. You can also add meat tenderisers to make their poop taste awful, and pineapple does the same thing.
It’s gross, no one likes to see their dog eating poop. It’s also strangely common, and enough to make you gag when you are out on a walk. I know a couple of dogs who are so bad with it they have to be muzzled on walks. Our guide should help you smooth things over with your pooch.
Did you find this guide interesting, learn something new about your dog’s eating habits? We have a whole series of canine care guides we would love for you to check out. Behaviour, diet, and health are just some of the topics we cover to help you care for your dog.
For over a decade, Adrienne has been a freelance content writer and blogger who’s passion lies in anything related to dogs. Growing up, dogs were a very important part of family life in the Hardwick household. Now, Adrienne is the proud parent to two Swedish Vallhunds called Moose and Pumpkin.