Help! My Dog Eats Poop!
Coprohaegia. It's a thing.
by Lisa Lafferty
If you're reading this article
it's probably because you're horrified at what your dog is doing. I don't
blame you. It's disgusting. Nobody wants to cuddle with a dog that
has just ingested excrement. Some people that call me are so horrified
when their dog does this that they can't even imagine having a good relationship
anymore...their world has been so rocked by this nastiness, they can't even look
at their dog the same way. I can totally relate, as I own a dog who will
occasionally eat poop. She also also happens to be a dog that loves to
Before you continue to think
that your dog is mentally ill for eating poop, let me assure you...MANY dogs eat
their own or the feces of other dogs. MOST dogs will eat cat poop. MOST
dogs will eat horse, cow, sheep, goat, duck, chicken or pig poop.
Poop-eating is a pretty normal occurrence. You haven't heard about it
before because it's not a topic most folks will discuss...it's been my
experience that people WHISPER their problem to me on the phone. They call
me aside at obedience class, cup their hand around my mouth and
hesitantly blurt out the HORROR of what they witnessed their dog doing.
Let's go through some facts
about this total gross-out of a subject, and then let's talk about how to
prevent it and/or fix it.
Poop eating has a scientific
name--coprophaegia; the eating of feces. Believe it or not, poop
eating is an extremely common occurrence in the animal world. Rabbits and
other rodents routinely eat their own feces and MUST do so in order to properly
digest and absorb nutrients from their food. Mother animals often
eat the feces of their young until after the young are weaned. Predators
quite routinely eat and roll in the dung of prey animals (horses, cows, zebras,
buffalo, etc). Humans are, in fact, one of the few species that don't
sample a little poop appetizer now and then.
So let's look it factually and deal with
Dogs who eat the feces of dogs,
other animals, and humans (yes, human feces) is a concern in regards to disease
and the transmission of parasites. A dog that eats the feces of another
animal (or even his own) can contract an illness or pick up worms and other
bacterial stuff. He can even re-infect himself with worms, if he has been
recently de-wormed and is shedding worms and eggs into his own feces. A
dog that has eaten feces, and then has contact with humans, can transmit
parasites and other stuff. PREVENT.
When it comes to dogs, there
are many ways a dog can eat feces. I told you this was a gross-out of a
subject. But it's my job, I gotta do it, here's a list of the
Dog eats his own feces or the feces of
other dogs: Approximately 50% of the dogs I encounter
have this habit, so don't feel like you're the only one! Very common in
Labradors and other retriever breeds but can and does occur in every breed.
Usually starts in wintertime when feces is "crunchy," and often continues after
that. Some dogs will only ever eat frozen poop.
Some dogs only eat their own poop. Some dogs
only eat other dog's poop. Some dogs eat any poop they can find.
As you can see, a dog has an eclectic taste for poop eating.
many theories about why dogs eat poop, but in the end (pun intended) none of
them have really been proven. The first thing people tend to think is that
the dog is somehow missing something in its diet. Who knows? Studies
have been done, and they have been inconclusive.
two theories, and they are just theories, are:
commercial dog food is preserved and prepared in such a way that it is difficult
for a dog to digest. It is also laden with flavor enhancers to entice even
the most picky dog to want to eat it. Although dogs are omnivores, and not strictly
predators, they have a relatively short digestive tract and food passes through
pretty quickly. I think it's quite possible that the feces that comes out
of the dog's poop chute could be pretty attractive and
still contain quite a bit of nutritious material.
Don't know. I can't exactly ask a dog about it,
now can I?
It is known that dogs have a lot of
the same instincts as wolves, but that many of the
instincts are just a little mixed-up. Hunting
instincts, defensive instincts, flight instincts, infant
care, mating behavior, pack behavior--they are all still
there, but just a little different.
practiced by wild canine mothers and babysitters when
they have litters, to keep the den/nest clean, but the
instinct naturally turns off after the litter reaches a
certain age. I think it's possible, just as with
other instinctual behaviors, that coprophaegia has
gotten "mixed up" in domestic dogs. Great.
"We're not wild anymore, let's all eat poop all our
lives for no reason at all other than it's there!
Our own, stranger dogs, everybody's poop! Yes sir!
We're domesticated now!!"
But you probably don't care
why...you probably just want it to stop, right? Here are some methods.
your dog to a home-made raw diet, or buy a ready-made raw diet available at
most pet stores. This might stop the poop-eating, and animal will enjoy health benefits and you will pick up a lot less poop
in the backyard. Please do your research. There are many great
books available on the subject and it is worth your while to get a couple
and try this out. Please do try it for at least 6 weeks before
deciding whether or not it works out for you. Some raw-fed dogs still
eat poop. Your mileage may vary.
Sprinkle meat tenderizer on
the food of the dog whose feces is being eaten. This method is not all
that successful, but some dogs do respond to it. The MSG in meat
tenderizer apparently makes the feces smell like not-food. Of course,
if your dog is eating feces in dog parks, not a useful method, as you can't
feed meat tenderizer to every dog who comes to the dog park. If you
have a multiple-dog household the tenderizer needs to be added to the food
of each dog of course. Please research this prior to trying it.
I have had quite a few horrified emails telling me that meat tenderizer is
very bad for dogs. I do not know what to make of it, as it has been
used for years for this purpose. Do your own investigation please.
I would hate to delete this known working method unless I know for
sure it harms dogs. It has been my experience that it does
There are two commercially
prepared food additives that I know of that are made specifically for
poop-eating dogs. One is called FORBID and the other DETER. They
are products that can be bought at the pet store or vet, and applied in the
same way as the meat tenderizer. It has been my experience that, like
the meat tenderizer, success is about 50/50. This might be because
these products are essentially MSG tricked out in a bottle designed
to attract pet owners, and with a substantially larger price tag
than the 99 cent bottle of MSG at the grocery store. Please
The only really reliable
fix for this problem is prevention through active supervision and keeping
the backyard clean. If you have a dog that will immediately turn and
eat the feces as he is in the poop position, you will have to toilet him
on-lead. Please read
Training to Potty On Cue. It is a very effective and easy
way to get rid of your problem forever.
Dog eats cat feces:
your dog is hungry and cat poop is available, he will eat it. Cats
excrete poop filled with protein and all the other stuff in modern-day cat food
that has nutritious value to dogs. Cat poop is basically a slightly
distilled version of the stuff that is in the cat food bag and very attractive
to dogs. If your dog is eating cat poop, there is no point to trying to
train him not to do it. You will not be successful. My suggestions?
Move the litterbox to the
top of your washer/dryer.
Buy a large Rubbermaid bin
with a lid. Place your litterbox inside it. Cut a hole in either
the lid or the side that is large enough for your cat to enter, but small
enough so the dog can't get his head into the crunchies.
Move the litterbox to the
basement or to a room that has a door that can be kept shut. Install a
cat door in the closed door, so that your cat can get through but your dog
Total prevention is the
only way to go with cat poop. A dog that likes to eat cat poop will
not usually respond to training attempts. The cat poop is just as nice
to him as any treat you might offer, and if you try to punish him, he'll
just wait until you aren't around to eat it.
I like to call this problem the Kitty Tootsie
Dog eats feces of
horses/cows: The feces of farm animals like horses, cows and
pigs is naturally attractive to dogs. Some really love it, some aren't attracted
to it. Most dogs enjoy eating and/or rolling in the feces of large
animals. It is the least dangerous health-wise of all the coprophaegic
habits a dog can have in regards to disease transmission and parasites.
your dog does this, you have a few of options.
You can put up with it once
in a while. Horse and cow poop actually contains many natural
pro-biotics that are extremely beneficial to a dog's digestive system.
The occasional ingestion of feces from a horse or a cow is actually GOOD for
your dog. (I would avoid deep kissing him for a few hours afterwards).
You can teach your dog the
"off" command, and supervise him when he's around the feces. Then tell
him "off" when you see him going for it.
You can keep your dog
on-leash to totally prevent him getting into it.
HEALTH NOTICE: Some breeds of dogs
have a sensitivity to certain drugs that are routinely used to de-worm and
medicate horses and cows. This is called MDR1 drug sensitivity and it is a
genetically inherited issue. Your dog could die if he ingests the feces of
an animal recently dosed. Please look at this link
http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/depts-vcpl/ for more information on this issue.
If you own a breed or mix of the breeds listed please do not ever allow your pet
to ingest large animal feces of any kind.
Dog eats human feces:
I told you this was a gross-out of a topic, and it truly is! Dogs find
human feces irresistible. They will dig diapers out of the trash, raid the
bottoms of outhouses, and find your "private toilet" in the woods on a hiking
trip. Please totally and completely prevent all of this from happening.
Predict these occurrences and prevent them.
***If a dog
eats the contents of a modern paper diaper, plus ingests the paper/stuffing
part, there is major potential that your dog is in real danger of a
life-threatening intestinal blockage. The bead-like stuffing inside the
new high-tech diapers swells when it becomes wet inside their digestive tract
just like it does when your baby pees,
effectively blocking their entire system and quickly putting them in great
danger. If your dog has done this, please preserve the rest of the diaper
so that you can know how much diaper is possibly inside them, and take your dog
to the vet.
The bottom line is (pun
intended!) that dogs eat a lot of stuff that we don't want them to eat...bugs,
dead animals, remote controls, used tampons, rocks, and yes, even poop of all
sorts. You can't stop them from wanting to eat it...but you CAN stop them
from doing it.
An anecdote...do not read if you have
a weak stomach...
Since all the boundaries of
good taste have already been crossed with this article, let me tell you the
worst case of coprophaegia that I ever saw. It was a yellow Labrador bitch
and I won't name names! She was on the Puppywalking program when I worked
for Guide Dogs. She would "turn and surf" while pooping...actually let one
turd drop, then immediately turn and eat it while letting another one drop.
If she saw another dog "in the position" she would run over and eat it as it was
coming out. Her caretakers were completely preventing the poop-eating by
toileting her and their pet dog on leash and immediately scooping the results
into a large plastic bin with a lockable cover.
I had to board her overnight at
one point. When I arrived to pick her up, the puppywalker informed me that
she had unlocked the bin lid somehow and had eaten approximately 1/4 of the
contents of the bin. We are talking about a bin the size of a laundry
basket. A LOT of poop.
Later that evening while inside
her crate, she projectile-vomited the contents of her stomach all over the
crate, herself, and my living room.
I have a strong stomach, but
the clean-up process for that particular mess caused me to have to run outside
several times and vomit in the backyard. To this day I can hardly even
think about it without becoming nauseous...I had to take several breaks from
even writing this down to take some deep breaths. I could never look at
that dog in quite the same way again.
Comet, wherever you are, you happy little
girl, I hope nobody is letting you kiss them on the mouth.