WHY DOES MY DOG EAT POOP?
At markets we get a lot of questions about dog and their behaviors; one of the most common, why does my dog eat poop? Does your dog eat poop? Dogs eat poop out of boredom, for attention, to avoid punishment or due to health issues. Stool eating, known as coprophagy, is quite a normal behavior in puppies. Even though you may find it disgusting, it does have an underlying cause. And if it is not dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner, it has potential of becoming a recurring habit.
To begin, do not become immediately alarmed when you see your puppy eating poop. Reacting in a way that is alarming to your pooch may cause more harm than good; and may lead to more coprophagy or other behavioral problems.
Puppies begin to eat poop while they are still in the litter. At this stage, it is normal for the mother to eat the stool of her young. She does this to keep the den clean and to protect the puppies for predators that may be attracted to the scent. The mother does this from the time her pups are born until they are weaned; and since the puppies are in the process of learning to be dogs, they naturally follow her lead.
The mother generally stops eating her puppies feces around the time they start eating solid food; and are able to leave the den to defecate. However, the puppy may continue the behavior of eating poop until they are mature. It is learned behavior along with natural puppy curiosity that leads them to smell, taste, and even eat their own and even other dog's stool.
To begin to discourage this behavior; it is the breeder's responsibility to clean up after the puppies before they have the chance to eat it. Unfortunately, this may have not been the practice for your puppy in their first home.
OTHER REASONS FOR COPROPHAGY
As previously stated, it is not uncommon for puppies to eat their own stool. However, dogs who are receiving a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet should grow up of this behavior. If your puppy continues this activity, despite your attempts to correct it you will need to see a veterinarian and/or behaviorist to identify the issue.
Here are several reasons that may explain why your dog continues to eat their feces:
Poor Digestions. Your canine companion may not digest their food properly. This may be because the food is low is digestible nutrients; and it coming out basically the same way it went in, or because the dog has digestive issues. In these cases, the stool tastes similar to the original food. For the former, switching to a higher quality food may solve the issue. For the latter (and if switching foods doesn't help), consult with a veterinarian.
Boredom. If a dog is left alone for long periods of time, they may find relief from boredom by playing with and eating their own stool.
Stress. Stress will often drive puppies, and adult dogs, to eat their own feces. There are may causes of stress to a pup. Some notable causes of stress for a dog: 1) being brought into a new home, 2) having a new dog/baby in a home, 3) schedule changes, etc... For this reason, one should not further stress a dog by punishing them for this behavior.
Hunger. Intestinal parasites can leach nutrients from your canine's digestive system; causing them to try to supplement their diet with whatever they find edible. If this is the case, have your dog seen immediately by your veterinary professional. On the same note, your puppy may not be getting enough to eat during the day. Puppies are growing and need to be feed two to three times daily. If you have questions about how much and/or how often to feed your puppy, consult your veterinarian.
Attention. If you have responded several times to this behavior by getting upset or giving extra attention, your puppy may continue this game for the reaction. Even though this reaction maybe negative, the puppy sees it as getting extra attention. Conversely, your puppy may eat their stool to avoid negative attention. If you have responded angrily to accidents, then your puppy's response may be to hid the evidence.
Finally, some puppies and adult dogs eat their poop because they like to eat their poop. There is not always a satisfying explanation for the behavior. In this situation, the best solution is to distract the dog for eating their feces and cleaning up the stool as quickly as possible.
How to stop your puppy from eating poop:
Always feed your puppy a good quality puppy food to be sure they are getting all the protein, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients necessary for normal growth. Observe your dog for signs that they may be suffering from poor digestion; such as poor growth, insufficient weight gain, vomiting, watery stool or stools with undigested food. If you see any of these signs, consult your veterinarian.
Make sure your puppy is getting all the exercise, playtime, and attention that they need. Then when you leave them alone; they will sleep rather than trying to relieve their stress, boredom or loneliness via eating feces.
Be diligent in cleaning up after your pup. Do not give them the chance to play with or eat their feces. Try placing your dog on a leash when you take them out to relieve themselves; and do not allow them to inspect their stool after defecation. Distract them from the poop by calling them to you; and reward appropriate behavior immediately. Clean up the stool before the dog has a chance to return to the scene.
Some expert suggest adding a meat tenderizer, digestive enzyme or natural additive to puppy's food can make a big difference. Stool eating deterrents cause the feces to have an unappealing smell that will discourage the behavior. If your are unable to clean up your dogs stool immediately or your have old piles in your yard; spray them with hot pepper sauce or mouth wash. However, it is still more effective to clean up the feces as soon as possible each time your dog eliminates.
Keep your pup on a leash whenever you go on a walk. This will prevent your dog from eating other dog's feces that was not cleaned up by their human. If your pooch begins to smell a pile of poop, simply pull on the leash and lead them in another direction. Use immediate distraction techinques as soon as your dog shows interest in a pile and reward positive responses.
WHAT ABOUT ADULT DOGS?
First of all, if your canine has never been a poop eater and develops the habit in association with symptoms like weight loss, lethargy, discomfort, vomiting or diarrhea; then make an appointment with your veterinarian. Coprophagy can be associated with diseases of the digestive tract.
Once you know your dog is healthy, then all the above mentioned techniques can be used on your adult dog. Finally, some types of feces are simply too enticing (from a dog's point of view) to pass up. Most dogs will eat cat feces or horse stool when giving the opportunity. Humans simply have to prevent dogs from having access to treats like these.