Coprophagia: What Causes a Dog to Eat Poop?

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Everyone loves a good poop! OK, it’s not a subject that everyone likes to discuss but nevertheless, we all enjoy a good bowel movement. The same goes for dogs. But, unlike us humans, sometimes a dog does the unthinkable and eats its own poop!

You are probably wondering why a dog would eat its own poop, or whether it’s even safe for them to do such a thing. Does it have any health ramifications? Furthermore, how do you get a dog to stop eating said poop?

It actually has a term, Coprophagia. We are going to cover all that you need to know about why dogs eat their own poop, other poop, and what you can do about it.

Is Coprophagia Bad for Dogs?

Coprophagia

Even though it sounds disgusting, and many would think that a dog eating poop is a harmful thing, scientific studies have shown that there is no real harm done to a dog that eats its own poop. Yes, it’s’ a strange thing to do, but it won’t hurt them.

With that in mind, eating poop can have a negative impact on your dog if they overdo it on the poop eating, much like we do when we over-indulge. It can cause an upset stomach, problems with digestion can allow parasites to develop in the body and can lead to Pancreatitis.

What Makes A Dog Eat Its Own Poop?

It’s actually more common than you think, and dogs may eat their own poop for a number of reasons.

A Means of Cleaning

We can see this behavior in dogs who have just given birth. The mother cleans her pups and eats their feces in the process. Another reason a mother dog does this is to keep her pups safe by getting rid of any odors caused by the poop that could attract predators.

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It’s not just mothers of young puppies who do this though. A dog will eat its own poop as a means of cleaning up after themselves in order to leave the area they relieved themselves in clean.

Poor Nutrition

Another reason a dog eats its own poop is down to having a diet that is poor in nutrients. Because of this, they will resort to eating their poop, where they will find food they have already digested. They do this because they think they can get the nutrients they need this way.

This is one of the reasons why giving your dog the healthiest and most nutritious diet is so very important.

Hunger

Just like poor nutrition, a starving or very hungry dog who can’t easily get access to food will resort to eating its own poop. This is why it’s very important to make sure you are giving your dog enough food throughout the day.

Boredom

You wouldn’t even consider eating poop just because you are bored. However, a dog will do this out of pure boredom.

Stress

Dogs that are anxious or stressed about something may use eating their own poop as a means to release stress.

Smell

Sometimes a dog will eat its own poop just because it smells good! It smells like the food they have eaten, making them attracted to it.

Bad Learning Habits

In some instances, a dog may see something their owner has done but ends up interpreting this the wrong way. An example of this would be when a dog has pooped in a place other than where their owners want them to go. The owner will clean up the poop in front of the dog, sending the signal to the dog that the owner does not want poop in that area.

Or, they may react in a negative way by rubbing the dogs face in the mess, thinking it will teach the dog not to do this again. Again, this tells the dog that pooping in that area angers their owner and they choose to get rid of the poop before the owner finds out. How do they do this? By eating the poop.

Attention

Some dogs will eat their own poop just to get some attention from their owners. It’s like a child acting out to get your attention, even if its bad attention. The dog knows that when it poops where it shouldn’t, their owner will yell at them. So, they are getting the attention they crave.

How Do You Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop?

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So now we know why a dog eats its own poop, but how do we get them to stop doing it? There are several things that you can try.

Make Poop Unappetizing

One way to get your dog to stop eating poop is by making the poop taste offensive to the dog. There are products that you can use that will give the poop a bitter taste, such as meat tenderizers, which you can include in your dog’s diets.

Another option is adding canned pumpkin to your dog’s food. It tastes great going in but gives their poop a bad taste, which will put them off from eating it.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Adding a bit of MSG to your dog’s daily diet can also help a lot getting your dog to stop eating its own poop. You should ask your veterinarian about this before you make any dietary changes in order to get the right dosages and instructions for using this method.

High-Quality Diet

An important step in getting your dog to kick the poop eating habit is to make sure you are giving them a high-quality diet. By doing so you will be ensuring that your dog is getting the nutrients, minerals, proteins, and vitamins it needs, rather than looking for those in his poop.

Cleaning

This step is especially important with puppies. When the puppy poops it’s important to remove them from the area before cleaning up. This is so they don’t see you cleaning up the poop themselves and begin a bad habit of eating their poop to keep the area clean and not get you upset with them.

Stimulation and Exercise

It’s important that your dog gets daily mental stimulation and exercise, not just as a means to keep them from eating their poop. Remember, some dogs eat their poop because they are just bored.

Interaction and Attention

Dogs also need a good dose of daily interaction from humans. This way they won’t try to gain your attention in negative ways. Dogs who spend a lot of time on their own and aren’t getting that much-needed interaction are at a higher risk of suffering from emotional trauma, causing them to eat their own poop out of anxiety.

Don’t Over React

It’s never a good idea to overreact when you see your dog eating its own poop. By getting upset and yelling at them, you are training them to use this bad habit in order to gain your attention.

Veterinarian

There are some instances when your dog may be suffering from a medical condition that causes them to eat their own poop, such as having parasites. In these instances, you should take your dog to see your veterinarian, so they can run a few tests to see if there is a medical problem causing this behavior.

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