We love our dogs. They keep us company and provide endless hours of entertainment. But let’s face it. They can be pretty nasty too. Poop eating, called coprophagia by science-types, may be the most repulsive thing dogs do. Worse than rolling in whatever stinky thing they find in the back yard, drinking toilet water and licking their butts combined. For some dogs, poop eating is behavioral, for others there are physiological reasons.

For dogs, eating poop is just be a part of being a good pack member. Mother dogs eat their pups’ feces as a part of good housekeeping; they also clean their babies’ bottoms. Puppies begin mimicking this behavior, eating their own feces and cleaning their littermates’ bottoms fairly early on. Although puppies can grow out of this behavior, not all do. Dogs that live with other elderly or sick dogs will often eat poop as a way to “clean up” after their older pack member. In this case, it is believed the younger dog is protecting the older dog from potential predators; they are getting rid of “evidence” that there is a sick dog in the pack. This evidence hiding behavior can extend to single dog households if they have negative associatiations with potty training, they may eat their own poop to hide an accident.

In addition to that, in nature, dogs are scavengers, eating what they have to, including other animals’ waste to survive. Your dog’s taste for cat poop maybe a throw back to his ancestors who didn’t have a their meals served to them in a bowl.

Before you attribute your dogs poop eating to dogs being dogs, take them for a check up to make sure they don’t have any parasites, malabsorption syndromes or any diseases that increase appetite. If your dog is unusually hungry because of diabetes or a thyroid condition they might be eating poop because they need a snack.

There is some science to suggest that poop eating is linked to nutritional deficiencies. A domesticated dog’s diet is quiet different from their wild counter parts. It seems that a Vitamin-B deficiency might be a trigger, and that microbes found in feces make thiamine (B-1). It makes perfect sense that your dog would eat something that supplies an important missing nutrient. There are also enzymes present in a wild dog’s diet, high in fresh, raw meat that your pup probably doesn’t get. Some dog owners find that enzyme supplementation will curtail coprophagia.

If your dog is healthy and getting everything they need from their diet, work with a dog trainer on basic commands, like “no” and “leave it” that way when you catch your dog in the act, they will stop. Finally, some dogs eat poop if they are bored and lonely, a dog walker, or puppy pet sitter are good solutions if that is what is going on with your dog.

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