Why do dogs eat poop?
Poop eating is one of the most annoying habits of dogs. Some dogs go really far in their poop cravings and will devour the feces of every living thing they come across.
We as people naturally find that a little less fun and fresh, which can cause a lot of frustrations. Eating poop is also called coprophagia, and it's not only gross to look at, it can also be dangerous for your dog.
The question is of course; why does your dog eat poop, and what can you do about it? We have looked for you at what can be found about eating poop in dogs, and the best way to get rid of it.
Why does your dog eat poop?
The most logical question, of course, is why your dog is so fond of the feces of every living creature on earth. Of course, even if he only eats his own poop or that of other dogs, it's definitely not normal behavior for us humans.
Strangely enough, there are only a few scientists who can come up with a good explanation. Some even suggest that it's some kind of retarded natural tendency of the dog to keep his immediate environment clean.
Dogs are not wolves, but occasionally there are similarities between wolf and dog behavior. For example, wolves eat their cubs' faeces to ensure that the cubs are not infected with parasites 1 .
Of course, it could be that this behavior is still present in dogs, and they tend to eat poop as a result. The question then is of course: why does one dog not look at it, and why does the other always have an appetite for a bit of faeces?
According to several dog experts and dog owners, there may be other reasons why your dog eats poop. These include, for example, vitamin deficiency, hunger, a behavioral disorder, a lack of social interaction and race sensitivity.
We will take a closer look at each of them, and see which causes can be supported by science and which cannot.
Eating poop due to vitamin deficiency
Why would a dog eat poop if he lacks vitamins you might think. This may also sound a bit strange, but it is one of the possible causes that you see most often when you search for this.
Eating strange things that a normal person would not consider edible is something that happens quite often. In humans, this behavior, which is also called Pica, is often caused by malnutrition or a lack of certain nutrients such as iron.
Coprophagia due to Vitamin B-1 deficiency
Our search in dogs only turned up a possible deficiency of Thiamine (Vitamin B-1). However, thiamine is fairly easy to obtain from all kinds of foods, and most ready-made dog foods on the market will make this vitamin abundantly available to your dog.
If you don't feed a ready-made diet, it might be a good idea to take a good look at your dog's diet. You can also have your dog's blood tested for vitamin deficiencies at the vet.
For example, a diet high in carbohydrates ensures that your dog needs more Thiamine to digest it properly. The amount of Thiamine in your dog's body will therefore decrease more quickly, but this is usually taken into account with, for example, dog food.
Also, feeding too much fish can lead to a lack of Vitamin B-1. Fish rich in Thiaminase can quickly deplete a dog's supply of Thiamine.
However, a lack of Thiamine will not go unnoticed, this is almost always accompanied by serious health problems in the dog. This will usually start as weight loss, but later clear neurological problems will be added.
Nevertheless, it can do little harm to your dog temporarily vitamin B-1 to see if he eats less poop as a result. An excess is simply excreted by the kidneys.
However, it's best to talk to your vet about how to be sure your dog is deficient in vitamins.
Poop Eating and Pancreatic Insufficiency
In some dogs, the pancreas does not work properly, and this can cause the dog to eat its own stool or that of other animals.
The pancreas is a gland that produces important digestive substances. When the pancreas produces too few enzymes, digestion will be difficult and your dog will suffer from this.
It often makes your dog hungry, loses weight and has problems with bowel movements. For example, this can be thin, lighter colored than normal and the dog has more stools than average. It also happens that your dog farts a lot due to gas accumulation.
Whether your dog suffers from this will be determined by a veterinarian with the help of a blood test. If it turns out that the pancreas is indeed not working properly, your dog will need a supplement with digestive enzymes for the rest of his life. You can do this one too order online , but it goes without saying that you can't just do this without a diagnosis from the vet.
Coprophagia from starvation
You're not yourself when you're hungry, says the famous Snickers commercial. A dog cannot tell you that he is hungry and would like an extra bowl of food, so he will try to find other ways to satisfy his hunger.
But my dog is fine on weight, and if I fed him more he would be too fat, I hear you thinking now. That is indeed an important reason not to feed more than you already did.
However, some dogs always seem to be hungry (or hungry?). This could simply be your dog's character, but it could also be an underlying health problem.
There are several anomalies and illnesses that can make your dog feel extra hungry, so a trip to the vet may be worthwhile.
Besides, there are races such as the Labrador, where a deviation in a certain gene ensures that fewer substances are produced that satisfy the feeling of hunger.
A study by Wageningen University also showed that eating poop is more common in Retriever breeds. Eating poop to satisfy a feeling of hunger is therefore certainly a possibility.
Once you've ruled out an underlying hunger problem with your vet, there are several things you can do to reduce your dog's hunger pangs.
This way you can add extra fibers to the food, which is not only good for intestinal function, but it also gives the dog a fuller feeling. Pro fiber from Protexin is a useful supplement to try, for example. Choosing a dog food with more fiber is of course also an option.
You can also choose to give your dog diet food. This food contains fewer calories, so you can give more of it.
Behavioral problems, boredom, and learned behavior
Of course, we all want a simple and quick solution for eating dog poop. If a supplement, other food or medication makes the behavior disappear like snow in the sun, that is of course ideal.
Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many dogs and their owners. Usually your dog will turn out to be perfectly healthy at the vet, and all the supplements and food you try are often ineffective.
What now? Why is the dog still eating poop and will you ever get rid of it? Unfortunately, fecal eating has become a persistent behavioral problem in many dogs.
Behavioral problems can have many different causes. For example, your dog can start eating poop due to stress, due to too little interaction with other dogs, due to boredom, due to insufficient physical and mental activities and often just because it apparently tastes good.
For example, researchers at Colorado State University found that anxious and jittery dogs eat poop more often than their calm counterparts. So it may be a good idea to see if for some reason your dog is experiencing more stress than average and how you can reduce this.
However, even if you address any underlying problem with your dog, he will often continue to eat poop because it has become a habit.
Compare it to biting nails in humans. Often you start it as a reaction to stress, but you can't easily untrain yourself from biting nails because you've made it a habit. Even without stress, your nails will continue to bite.
This means that in most cases you will have to teach your dog not to eat stool. This can be very difficult and take a lot of time.
How can you stop your dog from eating stool?
Getting rid of eating poop can be difficult and take a lot of time. This is because eating poop is a self-rewarding behavior, meaning that the dog has taught itself to do it and it brings pleasure or satisfaction to the dog. You can learn more about self-rewarding behaviour here read.
Learned behavior is difficult to unlearn, but you can teach your dog behavior that replaces eating poop. Especially for dogs that don't care for toys or little treats, it's difficult to find a big enough reward instead of eating poop.
Below we give you a few different ways of training and why this way is or is not a good idea.
Correct or punish for poo eating
This is one of the most obvious ways to handle poop eating for most dog owners.
Logical too, because the behavior makes you frustrated and you want to clearly indicate to your dog that it is undesirable behavior.
It may work if your dog picks up a poop for the first time, but usually your dog will already be used to the behavior and no correction will convince your dog that eating poop is a bad idea.
Broox Boze, the Colorado State University researcher, also compared different treatments for fecal-eating dogs. In doing so, he found that correcting dogs is one of the least effective methods of solving the problem .
If you have a dog of your own that eats feces, you will probably also find that it mainly causes your dog to be even more focused on eating poop, and now tries to eat the feces at the speed of light to get a better result. avoid correction.
In other words, it only causes your dog more stress.
Ignore coprophagy behavior
Some people think the behavior will go away on its own if they just ignore it. If you don't give the dog attention for certain behavior, he won't be rewarded for it, right?
This method is included with Boze's results 5 known as the least effective. Logical too, if you know that eating stool is a self-rewarding behavior. The dog does not need your attention to reinforce the behavior, because eating the poop itself is already a reward.
So we can be very brief about ignoring coprophagy in dogs; it doesn't help and will certainly not improve your dog's behavior.
Distract and reward good behavior
Distracting the dog and then rewarding good behavior has been shown to be one of the most successful methods of training away faecal eating 5 .
You have to take into account that you have to have a lot of time and patience for this. You don't change self-rewarding behavior overnight, you really have to put in the effort for a long time.
Many people see no change after a few days and then give up. Perseverance and patience is therefore really a requirement if you want to make the training successful.
It is also important that you distract the dog before he sinks his teeth into a turd. If you start interfering with it after that, it's already too late. You can even make the behavior worse.
Try to distract your dog as much as possible on every walk, for example, take toys or biscuits with you. For example, have the dog follow you and reward him when he keeps his attention on you and ignores other dogs' droppings.
For now, only let your dog sniff around areas you know are clean, and clean up after your dog's feces. Otherwise, walk the dog on a leash and keep it away from other dogs' stools.
It is believed that a dog takes 6 to 8 weeks to 'unlearn' behavior. After 8 weeks without eating poop, your dog would theoretically be cured of its behavioral problem.
However, it is important to continue to reward good behavior and to remain attentive. Your dog only needs one poop to be reminded how delicious they were.
Restrict access to poop
Sometimes all methods fail and your dog continues to eat other dogs' feces. This is very annoying and can cause your dog to keep infecting itself with parasites, for example.
A final step you can take is to stop your dog from eating poop. This way you can not only clean up your dog's faeces neatly, but you can also put a muzzle on him.
Many people think this is pathetic, but a well-fitting muzzle does not have to bother your dog. Then choose a muzzle where the dog can still open its mouth properly to pant or drink.
Because dogs that eat poop often also fall under the category of dogs that like to eat other rubbish from the street, a muzzle has the added advantage that they can no longer do this either.
In addition, the muzzle must be protected at the front, otherwise your dog will simply press it into the stool and then eat it.
The best muzzles are those for greyhounds , there are variants with a plate on the front so that your dog can no longer reach the poop.
Be careful when you let a frightened dog run loose with a muzzle. Do not do this, or make sure that you can find the dog quickly with the help of GPS.
A dog that gets lost with a muzzle on will of course not be able to survive that long because it cannot provide itself with food.
Step-by-step plan to treat poo eating in dogs
To get your dog to stop eating feces, you will first need to find out the underlying cause, if there is one. To make it easier for you, we have made a step-by-step plan that you can follow to arrive at a solution.
- Have the dog checked at the vet. Have the blood tested for vitamin deficiencies and organ failure. Also consider what possible health issues could be causing hunger in your dog. For example, a dog with Cushing's disease is often more hungry.
- Deworm your dog well, parasites can also cause your dog to suffer from his stomach and intestines, causing him to eat faeces. Conversely, deworming dogs that eat faeces is important because they are more likely to contract infections from all kinds of parasites.
- Give your dog plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Try to avoid stress as much as possible, and immerse yourself in possible ones sedatives for your dog when your dog shows signs of stress or anxiety.
- Try a multivitamin supplement or other supplement, such as Protexin Pro Fiber Pellets , Peat drench , or Vagostop-C
- When supplements do not work, or in combination with a supplement, you can also change the dog's food. If your dog is fed a diet high in carbohydrates, it may be worth trying foods with more protein instead of carbohydrates. The lack of carbohydrates can make your dog's stool less appetizing.
- If the above does not help, you clearly have a behavioral problem. However, it can also happen that a previous health problem has become a behavioral problem. Use distraction and rewarding good behavior to correct your dog's behavior.
- Make sure that your dog cannot eat its own faeces by always cleaning it up. Restrict access to all other feces using a muzzle.
For successful treatment it is often necessary to tackle several things at the same time. Usually, for example, you will still have to unlearn the learned behavior after you have addressed the cause of the behavior.
This BLOG has been posted on our website as a guest blog with the author's approval.