What Is Coprophagia?
One of the most common issues for dogs is stool-eating, technically known as coprophagia. There are several reasons why a dog may eat poop, and they can all lead to this challenging habit. However, most reasons can be narrowed down to two categories: behavior and nutrition.
"There are several reasons why a dog may eat poop, and they can all lead to this challenging habit. However, most reasons can be narrowed down to two categories: behavior and nutrition.”
Why Do Puppies Eat Poop?
As puppies, it's very common for dogs to investigate and play with strong smelling objects in their environment and feces, both theirs and others, fits the bill. This behavior should be curbed as soon as possible and the opportunity to engage in it should be reduced. It’s especially important to be vigilant in cleaning up after all your pets when you have a puppy around. This behavior often fades away as the dog gets older, but for some dogs it becomes a habit that can be extremely difficult to stop.
Behavioral Reasons for Coprophagia
Behavioral possibilities include something as simple as your dog trying to maintain their space. Dogs want clean spaces to play and live in as much as you do and their most obvious way to rid the environment of waste is by eating it. Some dogs can be pickier about this than others, so constant vigilance is needed when you have a dog who eats stool. The best defense is to remove the opportunity.
Stress can also be a factor. When dogs are stressed about their environment, they may react in inappropriate ways. If your dog has just begun eating stool, take a moment to think if there have been any recent changes in your dog’s life. Has a new dog been added to the household? A new family member? Has their space been reduced or changed in a significant way? Incorporate some natural anxiety and stress relief for dogs or flower essences for dogs.
Nutritional Reasons for Coprophagia
Once behavioral issues have been ruled out, nutrition is most likely the reason your dog is eating their poop, specifically inadequate nutrition or nutrient absorption. If your dog is seeking out alternate sources of nutrition, there might be some nutrient missing from their diet. Take a look at your dog’s food: is it full of fillers and grains? Sometimes switching to a healthier dog food diet is the best way to fix a stool eating problem.
If your dog is eating nutritious food, they may not be absorbing all of the nutrients properly. The old saying “you are what you eat” should really be “you are what you digest.” If food isn’t digested and absorbed properly, it leaves the body as nutrient-dense feces. To your dog, this means it is still a viable food source, even the second time around.
Some dogs may eat stool because of a condition or a medication that increases appetite, like diabetes or thyroid disease, or medications like prednisone. If your dog is constantly hungry, available stool will definitely seem like a food source.
Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?
If your dog is eating the feces of other pets in the household, then those pets digestion should also be considered. If the cat’s stool still smells like food to your dog, it only makes sense your dog will want to eat it. The better your cat's digestion, the less their stool will smell like food because more of the real food will stay in their body.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop in the Winter?
Another common issue for pet parents whose dogs eat poop is this habit starts or increases in the winter. Although there’s no documented reason for this, pet parents have several explanations, most of them centering on snow.
With snow on the ground, dog poop contrasts better, making it easier to see and quickly eat. Snow also releases moisture, which prevents dog feces from drying out and releasing less odor.
How Do You Stop Dogs Eating Poop?
Natural Poop Eating Deterrents
Natural stool eating deterrents can be very helpful in breaking your dog’s coprophagia habit. These supplements work twofold, first by helping your dog better digest and assimilate their food, and second with ingredients that reduce stool odor and create a more bitter or unappealing flavor. These supplements can be very useful, but, they should be used as part of an over-all strategy.
"Natural stool eating deterrents can be very helpful in breaking your dog’s coprophagia habit. These supplements work twofold, first by helping your dog better digest and assimilate their food, and second with ingredients that reduce stool odor and create a more bitter or unappealing flavor."
Behavior and Positive Reinforcement
Since behavior can be such a strong component of coprophagia, changing that behavior can go a long way in ending this bad habit. If you notice your dog eating stool outside, take them out on leash. This will allow you some more control over where your dog goes so you can steer around existing stool and help navigate away from new stool.
Positive reinforcement and natural dog treats are helpful for distracting your dog and will prove to be more enticing than poop. Once your dog shows interest in stool, quickly offer a treat to pull their attention away and then speak encouragingly while giving them the treat. Just make sure you use healthy, natural dog treats, since diet is also a component of stool eating.
Healthy Dog Food and Natural Supplements
Feeding a natural diet that is species appropriate for your dog will help with better digestion and assimilation. As with most specific health conditions in your pet, this can do wonders. Transition your dog according to the instructions and consider rotating proteins to prevent allergies.
Adding a natural supplement, especially a digestive enzyme, probiotic, or a complete gut product will support proper nutrition absorption and assimilation.
Finally, proper clean-up can be essential to curb your dog’s stool eating habit, especially in the winter time. Always make sure you carry dog waste bags with you and clean up after your dog before they have the opportunity to examine it. If there’s nothing to eat, they can’t eat it.