Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?: Coprophagia in Dogs

Dogs may eat poop for many reasons.

Some dogs love to eat poop. They crave cat poop, horse poop, or the poop of unseen backyard creatures. Some enjoy the feces of fellow canines. Many prefer their own. Some hunger for a certain frozen wintertime treat fondly known as poopsicles.

The technical term for poop-eating is coprophagia, from the Greek for feces, copros, and eat, phagein. But in any language, it's just plain gross! And if your dog is a connoisseur of this un-delectable treat, you may be struggling to understand the exasperating habit.

The Scoop on Canine Poop-Eating

Feces-eating is actually a healthy and natural practice for canine moms (dams) with young pups. Puppies are born with an immature digestive system. The dam must lick the perineal area (anus and genitals) of each puppy after feeding to stimulate urination and defecation. Consuming the puppies' excrement serves the additional purpose of keeping the den clean and removing odors that could attract a predator. Some pups seem to learn this routine from their mothers. They may begin to stimulate elimination themselves and then consume the feces. This behavior tends to decrease and disappear as the pup is weaned. It's also not uncommon for a curious older puppy to sample his own poop. This is usually self-limiting.

But why would a self-respecting grown dog engage in such a filthy habit? To a human, it's disgusting. Not to mention the possible health risks of parasites or other vile infections. Here are some possible reasons:

Treatment Strategies for Coprophagia in Dogs

These measures can help, but none are failsafe. Remember that, while it's repugnant to humans, poop-eating has deep instinctual roots for dogs. It's important to keep this in perspective. Dogs can be gross, but we love them!

Deterrents for Poop-Eating Dogs

There are two categories of coprophagia deterrents: repellents that can be put directly on the feces and dietary additives that can alter the taste of the feces. Always check with your veterinarian before instituting any of these measures.

Substances added to the feces itself (NON-TOXIC but repulsive to the dog):

These must be applied consistently to the feces for a sufficient period of time that your dog expects poop to taste terrible.

Dietary additives (Added to the dog's food):

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