Our dogs are always surprising us, but when you catch your dog eating poop, it can throw you off! Better known as coprophagia, dogs eating poop happens all the time. Here are some important things to know about it.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Coprophagia in dogs can be due to various reasons, ranging from medical issues to behavioral tendencies. Understanding these can help you address the root of the problem more effectively.
In a 2012 AKC study, it was revealed that:
- One in four dogs were observed eating their feces at least once
- One in six dogs were classified as serious feces eaters because they were caught eating feces five or more times
Some dogs have a natural instinct to eat their feces so they’ll feel full. Sometimes it’s an internal need to consume vitamins and minerals that can be found in their poop. This is actually somewhat common for dogs in the wild to do, but when a domesticated dog eats their own poop, it can be jarring. Coprophagia is something that veterinarians are often consulted about, and there are some additional reasons dogs eat poop.
When a dog eats poop, it could be an attempt to make up for a nutritional deficiency. If their diet lacks certain nutrients, vitamins, or minerals, they might eat poop to fulfill their nutritional needs. Stool eating can help a dog feel like its fulfilling that need. Vitamin B deficiency is sometimes considered to be an issue to address when treating coprophagy and vets may also even suspect Cushing’s Disease.
Hunger or Increased Appetite
Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, or malabsorption syndromes, can cause an increased appetite in dogs, leading them to eat anything available, including their own feces, cat feces or the feces of other dogs.
For some dogs, eating feces may be a sign of behavior problems. Dogs who feel bored or anxious may eat poop as a way to relieve stress or occupy themselves. Some dogs think the litter box is a treat box and enjoy ‘taking’ the prize. Poop eating could be a sign of stress in a dog–separation anxiety is often a reason many vets believe dogs eat poop. Behavior problems other than poop eating often are the residual effect of this anxiety as well. Sometimes they may even associate poop eating with when they were puppies, as coprophagia is often common in puppies.
Coprophagia in Puppies
In puppies, coprophagia can be a part of exploring their environment. Young dogs eating non food items is common occurrence, particularly as potty areas are being learned. However, this behavior usually diminishes as they grow older and get properly trained. Sometimes adult dogs, particularly intact males may continue, and that’s when their poop eating habit can become a serious issue.
The Risks of Coprophagia
Although eating feces is a fairly common behavior in dogs, it doesn’t come without risks. The act of eating poop can introduce intestinal parasites and harmful bacteria into your dog’s system, leading to health issues like diarrhea, vomiting, and other serious illnesses.
The Impact on Your Dog’s Gut
The act of eating feces can have a significant impact on a dog’s gut health. When dogs eat poop, they ingest bacteria and parasites that can disrupt the balance of their gut microbiome—the community of beneficial bacteria residing in the gut that plays a vital role in digestion and immune function.
An imbalanced gut microbiome, also known as dysbiosis, can lead to a wide range of health problems. These can include diarrhea, excessive gas, poor nutrient absorption, and even changes in behavior. The influx of harmful bacteria can trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation and damage to the gut lining. Over time, this can compromise your dog’s overall health, affecting their well-being and quality of life.
Moreover, if a dog continues to consume feces, whether their own poop or the poop of other dogs or other animals, the unhealthy cycle can perpetuate, leading to repeated dysbiosis and associated health problems.
Symptoms of Coprophagia
The most obvious sign of coprophagia in dogs is obviously watching them eat poop . However, if you’ve never seen your dog in the act, other symptoms may suggest they’re engaging in this behavior. These include:
- Unusually bad breath
- Diarrhea or loose stools
- Presence of parasites in their feces
- Recurrent gastrointestinal infections
- Strategies to Curb Coprophagia In Dogs
Addressing coprophagia can be challenging for dog owners, but there are things you can do to help if your dog seems bent on consuming poop:
Address Dietary Needs
If your dog is eating feces due to nutritional deficiencies, ensuring they are on a balanced, high-quality diet can help. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your pet’s age, size, and health status.
Regular Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Boredom and anxiety can lead to coprophagia. Regular exercise and mental stimulation can alleviate these feelings and reduce the likelihood of your dog eating feces. Interactive toys, puzzle feeders, regular walks, and playtime can help keep your dog mentally and physically engaged.
Prompt Poop Pickup
Picking up your dog’s poop promptly can help deter coprophagia. If the poop’s scooped, your dog can’t eat it.
There are products available on the market that can make feces taste unpleasant to your dog. These are usually added to your dog’s food and pass through the system, making the feces unpalatable. The jury is out as to their efficacy, though.
The Role of Good Gut Health
When it comes to helping a poop eating problem, start from the inside out. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, effective digestion, and even the regulation of your dog’s behavior.
Coprophagia can disrupt the gut microbiome, so as a dog owner, it’s important to take steps to improve and maintain your dog’s gut health. A balanced gut microbiome can help strengthen your dog’s immune system, improving their ability to ward off the bacteria and parasites present in feces. This, in turn, can make your dog less prone to the health issues associated with coprophagia.
Bernie’s Perfect Poop was specially designed to support your dog’s gut health. It is a unique blend of high-quality fibers, prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes that work together to optimize digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall gut health.
The high fiber content in Bernie’s Perfect Poop helps support healthy digestion and can assist in meeting any nutritional deficits that might be causing your dog to eat feces. It provides both soluble and insoluble fibers that help solidify loose stools and act as a source of nutrition for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. This is especially crucial in cases where coprophagia has resulted in an imbalanced gut microbiome.
Additionally, we added pre- and probiotics that work synergistically to replenish and maintain the healthy bacteria in your dog’s gut. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for strong immunity, which may help protect against the harmful bacteria and parasites that might be ingested if your dog eats fresh stools.
Maybe most importantly, the digestive enzymes in Bernie’s Perfect Poop contribute to the optimal breakdown of food, promoting efficient nutrient absorption. This might be beneficial for dogs who resort to coprophagia due to malabsorption issues or increased hunger.
While Bernie’s Perfect Poop may not directly stop your dog from eating poop immediately, it may help address some of the root causes and potential side effects of coprophagia. It may even play a key role in a comprehensive approach to managing this behavior by supporting optimal gut health and digestion.
While maintaining good gut health may not necessarily stop your dog from eating poop, it may make them more resilient to the potential health risks associated with this behavior. Additionally, as a balanced gut microbiome can contribute to overall well-being and behavior regulation, it might indirectly help reduce instances of coprophagia, especially if it is linked to behavioral issues.