I imagine that not very many people know the word “coprophagia,” but I have written a paper on the practice for humans, and now I’m writing a blog for dog practitioners.  The Latin “phagia” mean “eat” and “copro” means . . . . well . . . . poop.  Yes, my friends, “coprophagia” means “eating poop”.  Coprophagia can be your own poop or the poop of others.  I’m sorry, but I have to smile as I’m typing.  I mean, WHO DOES THIS?!!  Humans evidently do it as a sexual practice (??) or a mental illness, because normally people are raised that feces is nasty!  This is mainly because there is bacteria and illness that can be transmitted through solid elimination that can be very dangerous to human beings.  However, in the dog world, defecation means something completely different.  Let’s talk about why your dog eats poop.

You have to ask yourself, “Why does my dog eat poop?”  The main reasons for feces consumption of just about any animals are:

  • Heredity,
  • Medical reasons,
  • He’s not getting enough to eat, and
  • Behavior problems like boredom.

Reasons why your dog eats poop.

Heredity

According to George Dvorsky, here is evidence that wolves ate the turds of diseased pack members to keep contamination for spreading among the other wolves.  I can think of better ways to clean up, personally. I suppose the digestive tract crushed any problems that may have been transmitted by touch or inhalation. I don’t know what prehistoric dogs thought.

Medical reasons

The first reason may be based on some sort of medical problem.  Jessica Peralta, the author of Dogs Naturally Magazine, address some issues with your pooch that makes poop seem really yummy.

Enzyme Deficiency.  I learned a long time ago that animals are all vegetarians at heart. Lions and other carnivores will eat the stomach and intestines (where poop is made) of their prey first and that prey is almost always plant eaters.  This is the really gross way that carnivores get their veggies.  The dogs in homes today, though, rarely get the chance to eat the guts of their prey, so they may lack the digestive enzymes that naturally occur in herbivore victims because they eat dry and processed food. In the end (yes, I intended that pun), they may fall short in the digestive enzyme department and pass their needed nutrients out in their stool.  Dogs will eat their own poop and other dogs’ poop to get those nutrients back.  Now you will never get that picture out of your head . . .  

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency To all you non-medical types out there, it means your dog’s pancreas is falling down on the job.  We’re back to those enzymes that digest food again, because the pancreas is where the body makes digestive enzymes.  The result is, even though your dog is eating, he will lose weight with loose stools and poop eating because he is literally starving to death. Red alert! Red alert! Get to the vet!

Parasites. Your dog may also have picked up some nasty bugs somewhere and they’re living in his stomach and intestines and eating all his nutrition.  These can include tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and other cousins that Fido may just pick up off the ground; they can also get them eating the eggs laid on something else that seemed incredibly attractive, including the stools of infected animals.  This does not make you a bad pet

owner. On top of everything, roundworms can be transmitted to you!  Gaah! Same situation: weight loss, diarrhea, poop eating.  Go see your doggie doc. Medicine by mouth is usually all you need to do to get your pet back on track.

Overactive appetite. Some conditions will just make your dog always hungry. One of these is diabetes; another is thyroid problems. If your dog is on steroids for another condition, they can make him so ravenous he will even think poop is an entree. Once again, get thee to a vet.

Other deficiencies. Any time your fur baby has poor digestion, poops are going to be attractive. Dr. Roger DeHaan proposes this can happen with senior dogs or animals that have poor diets. If your pet is not making enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach or even has a shortage of minerals, they aren’t getting the nutrition they need even if you feed top of the line dog food.

Why does your dog eat cat poop? Along the same lines, dog poop eating shows he or she may not be absorbing what is needed from the food you give them, and even kitty poo looks really good. Where do you go? You got it. The vet.

Not getting enough to eat

You want your pet to be lean. Just like with people, carrying extra weight is hard on the joints and heart. But don’t go too far. If your dog is losing weight on a good type of diet and is looking to eating stool to get more nutrition, increase his portions.

Behavior Reasons

New mommies. It is very natural and necessary for a new mommy to clean up the stool of her puppies. This keeps the area clean and provides stimulation and comfort to babies. You will notice this will eventually stop as the pups become more active and moving around.

Puppies.  Everything is new and exciting. Just like human babies, unknown things go right in the mouth. Sampling poop usually stops as they get older. Usually.

What’s that? Dogs naturally check out their environment. Whether it’s fresh and smelly or dry and crunchy, your pet may just be curious. Just look the other way until it’s over. He’s just doing what comes naturally.

He’s bored.  If your dog is left alone all day with nothing to do, he may look for other sources of entertainment than his toys or tormenting the cat. Poop may be a substitute for the iPad he’s been wanting, and be a tasty treat besides.  If he’s in a kennel all day, he may also feel stressed. A little home-made snack helps him feel better about himself.

Gets your attention.  Oh, yeah. If Fifi feels like you aren’t giving her the attention she deserves, she may accidently stumble on your devoting your full attention to her eating her stool. And she gets yums at the same time! Interestingly, if you punish your dog for turd eating, she may associate it as a bad thing and eat the evidence as soon as possible so you don’t see it. Negative reinforcement is confusing to your pup.

Studies on dogs eating poop.  No, reallyDr. Benjamin Hart published “The paradox of canine conspecific coprophagy” in Veterinary Science and Medicine after obtaining results from 1457 pet owners with poop-eating dogs.  He found that eating stool is not related to either age or diet of the animal, but rather that it’s just something he inherits from his ancestors.  Dogs that eat poop eat too much of regular food, too.  Of special note, dogs that eat poo ingest it when it is less than two days old.  At least that’s something.  There was no indication breed had an influence, and it didn’t matter if the dog was neutered.  Dr. Hart concluded that 23% of all dogs eat doo doo at least once, while about 16% will chow down regularly.

How to I stop my dog from eating poop? Most of the ways to stop corpophagia (oh, no!  Did you know what that means?) in your dog is mainly being a good pet owner.

Don’t let your dog be tempted.  Clean up the messes by your best boy or girl as soon as possible so your yard doesn’t look like a buffet table.  That goes for the kitty box, too.

Keep your pooch stimulated.  Give him enough attention that he doesn’t feel neglected.  I’ve developed the habit of every time I walk by one of my four animals that’s awake, I pet him or her.  Play games with your dogs and take them on walks.  This is “me time” for your buddy when you are focusing completely on him.

Consider diet.  If you have subscribed to my doggiebowwowblog.com, you received a free eBook on dog diets.  Dr. Karen Becker states that eating turds is often seen in dogs with biologically short nutrition.  It seems to be the general consensus that the best food for your dog is raw.  It has those very important enzymes that let her digest her food.  Dana Scott in Dogs Naturally Magazine says to add raw green tripe if you can’t afford raw or kibble is necessary for a variety of reasons.  It had lots of digestive enzymes as well as probiotics.  It will completely replace any of the same products in a bottle. Tripe is the stomach of grazing animals and you definitely want to feed this to you puppy outside because it stinks!  Make sure it’s not only raw, but green. This makes it kind of hard to find.  You may have to go to a small guy that butchers locally and even then they may make you bring your own container because this stuff ranks way up in the “eyewateringly” bad smells department. Adding a little kelp to his dinner helps with mineral deficiencies and Dr. DeHaan suggests putting in a little apple cider vinegar, just 1 teaspoon for 25 pounds of food, which promotes the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

And just to prove how much you love your dog, check his poops for parasites.  They will look like worms or rice and they move!  Oh, my gosh.  The things I do for my fur buddies.  Dr. Karen Becker recommends taking a stool sample to your vet at least every six month for a parasite check and every time your dog is in the office.

Training.  Dr. Hart stated at the end of his study that there is really no training method that is effective in breaking the poo-eating habit.  Another study by Dr. Gary Landsberg that was presented at the Western Veterinary Conference in 2013 stated that punishment such as yelling, electronic collars, positive reinforcement with clickers, or chasing the dog away from the delicacy are not effective at all.  So don’t waste you money on books, videos, or pills.

Why does eating pineapple stop my dog from eating turds? You may see this in many recommendations to stop the feces-eating practice of doggie pets, but I haven’t found any studies or documentation about this working. It’s true that pineapple contains a type of enzyme that encourages digestion by breaking down proteins. Who knows? It may work! Pineapple won’t hurt your pooch and it may do the trick. Just a note: The pineapple enzyme that is needed, bromelain, is destroyed in canned pineapple.  You’ll need to try it with the fruit fresh.

Conclusion

Your dog eating turds makes some owners nuts.  They may think it will make the dog sick or she’s already sick or she’s gone mental.  And it completely gags them.  Dr. Hart states that the worst thing about your dog eating poop is that it grosses you out.

Related Questions

How do I stop my dog from eating poop?  Dr. Benjamin Hart stated at the end of his study that there is really no training method that is effective in breaking the poop-eating habit.  Another study by Dr. Gary Landsberg that was presented at the Western Veterinary Conference in 2013 stated that punishment such as yelling, electronic collars, positive reinforcement with clickers, or chasing the dog away from the delicacy are not effective at all.  So don’t waste your money on books, videos, or pills.  

Why does eating pineapple stop my dog from eating turds? You may see this in many recommendations to stop the feces-eating practice of doggie pets, but I haven’t found any studies or documentation about this working. It’s true that pineapple contains a type of enzyme that encourages digestion by breaking down proteins. Who knows? It may work! Pineapple won’t hurt your pooch and it may do the trick. Just a note: The pineapple enzyme that is needed, bromelain, is destroyed in canned pineapple.  You’ll need to try it with the fruit fresh.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I personally use and love, or think my readers will find useful.