Ask the Vet: Why Is My Dog Eating Poop?

Dog Outside Near Fence
Dog owners frequently want to know why their dogs are consuming either their own or other pets’ feces. And it’s a good question!

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for dogs to consume fecal matter (poop), and this odd behavior even has a name: Coprophagia. Practically speaking, coprophagia or the canine consumption of fecal matter isn’t a commonly-discussed habit, mostly because we as humans find it rather disgusting. But why does it happen?

Let’s dive right in.

Why Is My Dog Consuming Feces?

One of the reasons female dogs may consume the feces of their pups is to keep their den clean. Puppies, by contrast, may consume their own feces early in puppyhood in order to establish bacterial flora in their intestinal tract.

These are the most “normal” coprophagia-related habits. But there are some other reasons why dogs may continue the trend — namely, behavioral-related causes. For one, dogs that lack enrichment may consume feces basically because they seek attention and/or lack stimulation of other kinds. This behavior can also be provoked by anxiety, or it may be learned from another canine member of the household.

In some cases, dogs may be starving or desperately hungry, they may lack necessary nutrition, or all of these reasons might cause them to start consuming fecal matter. For dogs in good homes where a quality diet is available, however, these causes are unlikely.

Finally, certain medical problems may be provoking this response. These are largely metabolic or gastro-intestinal problems that mean the dog is not getting enough key nutrients absorbed into their bodies from their food. Pet owners would notice other symptoms were this the case, however: diarrhea and/or vomiting, weight loss, and changes in appetite.

Is It Okay That My Dog Is Eating Feces?

If any co-occurring symptoms have been noted along with coprophagia, dog owners should take their pets into the vet at once for a checkup.

Other than this, risks of coprophagia could possibly include gastro-intestinal upset, passing intestinal parasites, or contracting other contagious conditions. It is also possible that a dog may end up ingesting the medications that another dog is taking. These effects, however, are fairly low risk.

Therefore, to answer the question, “Is it okay that my dog is eating feces?” the answer would have be, “It’s not ideal.” In other words, if you can change their behavior, try to do so.

For the most part, only teaching behavior-changes will help to redirect your pet and assist them in avoiding eating feces. Try keeping them on a leash more often, for example, or help them redirect their desire for feces by offering a better treat instead. When they begin to sniff for fecal matter, teach them to make eye contact or sit with commands.

The veterinarians at Sunset Veterinarian Clinic can help you teach your dog these commands, and they can also give your pet a checkup to ensure they are healthy despite possibly consuming fecal matter in the past. Contact us today to learn more about our services and ensure the safety and well-being of your precious canine friend.

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