Why do dogs eat poop? Have you ever noticed your little fur baby nibbling at their poop? You might have been horrified — a normal human response to such a sight. But if you’re wondering about your dog eating poop, you’ve come to the right place.
Since I first wrote about poop eating in dogs several years ago, I have received many emails from other dog owners. They’ve complained about their dogs eating their own poop, or the poop of other animals. But why does this happen?
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- Coprophagia in dogs
- Why do dogs eat their poop – known causes
- My dog is suddenly eating poop — Why?
- Why do female dogs eat poop?
- Why do puppies eat poop?
- Coprophagia and diet
- Why do dogs eat cat poop?
- Why does my dog eat rabbit poop?
- My friend’s dog doesn’t eat poop. Why is MY dog a poop eater?
- Why do dogs eat their poop – conclusions
- Can dogs get sick from eating poop?
- How does poop eating harm dogs?
- The distress caused by poop eating in dogs
- How to stop a dog from eating poop
- Adding pineapple or other flavors to your dog’s food
- Adding chilli or hot flavors to your dog’s poop
- Punishing your dog for poop eating
- Training your dog to leave poop alone
- How to clean your dog’s mouth after he’s eaten poop
Dogs Eating Poop — Coprophagia
The scientific term for poop eating is coprophagia. Most of those writing to me about a dog with coprophagia are understandably very upset. The chances are, if your dog has this problem, you are upset too. But I hope by the end of this article, you will feel a lot better.
People want to know “why is my dog eating his own poop” and “will my dog get sick from eating his poop?” But they also need to be supported through the horrible feelings that owning a poop-eating dog can cause.
Try to Understand Your Dog
Many owners of a dog eating poop are often revolted by their dog’s behavior. Some of them even report that their feelings towards their dog have changed since the problem started. So, these feelings need to be addressed, not ignored or dismissed.
For one, it really helps to know that you are not alone and that many other dog owners have this problem too. And, knowing why this happens also helps us to understand our dogs a little better. We’ll be looking at the causes and solutions to poop eating. We want to make sure that this problem doesn’t cause a breakdown in your friendship with your dog.
Coprophagia in Dogs
Poop eating is often swept under the carpet. But eating feces can be a serious problem for some dogs who do it. Unfortunately, it is a frequently reported problem in Labradors and other sporting dogs.
What’s more, owning a dog that eats poop, especially a dog that eats his own poop, is often a hugely distressing problem for many dog owners. But before we answer your questions, including “why do dogs eat poop,” let’s find out just how common this problem is. Then, we’ll look at the various techniques you can use to stop a dog eating poop.
Which Dogs Eat Their Own Poop?
According to the late Sophia Yin, who reports on a study published in 2012, 16% of dogs eat poop. A previous study published in 2008 on dogs eating poop confirms this. The study showed that nearly half of all dogs had eaten feces at some point and 28% were confirmed poop eaters
The Hart study also showed that there were some breed differences. There weren’t enough dogs in the study for a definite list, but none of the Poodles in the study ate their own poop, for example. Whereas, more than a third of Border Collies did. Judging from my inbox, coprophagia is common in Labradors too. But, what are some other factors affecting coprophagia?
A study published in Colorado in 2010 showed that sporting dogs were generally more likely to be coprophagic. Body weight is a factor in this behavior, but only in the sense of being related to natural size. Obese dogs, for example, although heavier were no more likely to be affected. Age is also often considered to be a factor in poop eating. However, the 2010 Colorado study did not support the theory that poop eating is more common in puppies.
Coprophagia Is Linked with Neutering
The current evidence points to neutering as a major factor in the development of coprophagia.
Dogs that had been spayed or castrated were more likely to be reported as eating poop than dogs left in possession of their sex hormones. In the Hart study, the biggest culprits were spayed females. But in the 2010 Colorado University study, neutering drastically increased the incidence of coprophagy in male dogs. However, it had no effect on females.
Regardless, though, both studies agree that neutering is a major cause of coprophagia. They prove that it seems to be more significant than any environmental factor
More Common Than We Think
Interestingly, the true figure for the percentage of dogs that eat poop may be even higher than these studies suggest. Data from the studies was based on owner reports and the results of another published 2014 study. The 2014 study identified coprophagic dogs and compared that data with owner reports. The study’s results suggest that under-reporting by owners is an often overlooked factor.
So the point is this: it isn’t just your dog eating poop. There are lots of them.
But why do they do it? It may depend partly on the type of poop being consumed.
Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
There are plenty of facts and theories around why dogs eat poop. And plenty of guesswork too.
Why Is My Dog Suddenly Eating Poop?
But first, note this: if your adult dog suddenly begins eating poop when they never used to, it might be wise to see your vet. Especially if your dog has recently shown other concerning symptoms.
Poop-eating is typically normal for dogs as you will see. However, in some rare cases, it may be a hint that something bigger is happening. Health issues like Cushing’s disease, intestinal malabsorption/maldigestion disorders, or diabetes mellitus can be to blame. These conditions can make dogs super hungry. They will try to eat literally anything within their reach if it only slightly resembles food. So, if you think something’s up with your doggie, check it out.
But now, let’s look at why female dogs seem to eat poop more often.We’ll look at what we know first and then build on that.
Why Female Dogs Eat Poop?
All mother dogs have an instinctive urge to eat their puppies’ poop. After giving birth and for the next three weeks, female dogs lick each puppy’s bottom until he poops and or pees. Then, they swallow the results.
They do this for two reasons. First, the licking helps to stimulate the puppy’s natural digestive process. And second, consuming the results helps to keep the nest area clean. A clean nest in wild dogs is important both from a hygiene point of view and to avoid attracting predators.
So from this, we can see that nature has provided female dogs with a poop eating instinct. This instinct is always triggered by the process of giving birth and suckling puppies. And it’s not a great stretch to see that this maternal instinct could easily last longer than it should or arise inappropriately when it isn’t needed.
We can also see that keeping a nest area clean may well be a trigger that could apply to male dogs too. And it could explain why some male dogs eat poop that they find in their own backyard.
Why Do Puppies Eat Poop?
Like babies, puppies explore the world with their mouths. Everything and anything goes into it. If what goes into the mouth tastes like food, then puppies may swallow it. In theory, some poop-eating puppies will grow out of it, whereas for others it becomes a habit.
Though as we have seen, there is some disagreement as to whether this is even a puppy issue, and whether poop eating is actually more common in puppies than in adult dogs “But, but..!” you cry “wait a moment, what is this ‘tastes like food’ you speak of?” Surely, poop doesn’t taste like food? Well it would seem that some dogs would disagree with you. And that might be partly to do with the way we feed our dogs these days.
Coprophagia and Diet
In times gone by, dogs were fed a largely natural diet of mainly meat, bones and a few scraps. As carnivorous scavengers, dogs could typically digest this diet in its entirety. So, what came out the other end was fairly boring. Nowadays, however, most dogs are largely fed a pelleted cereal-based food known as kibble.
This kibble contains all the nutrients a dog needs. But it also contains a number of additives to make the food taste palatable. After all, no food manufacturer wants your dog to turn his nose up at their product. So tasty is the key. And very tasty they are too.
Does Kibble Feeding Make Dogs More Likely to Eat Poop?
In addition to strong flavourings, kibble contains quite a lot of “fillers.” Fillers are substances which bulk up the nutrients and give the food structure. Your dog often doesn’t need much of this “filler.” And as a result, they tend to pass it out in their feces. This is why kibble-fed dogs produce larger quantities of feces than raw-fed dogs. But remember those flavourings we just talked about? Well the faeces of the kibble-fed dog are not only bulky, but also highly flavoured.
Now we can see why, as the popularity of kibble feeding grows, it is possible that more dogs may be turning to poop eating as a means of grabbing that extra snack during the day. Essentially, poop is getting tastier — that’s our theory anyway!
Can Changing Diet Influence Coprophagia?
Some studies into why dogs eat poop, have shown that dogs with deficient diets are more likely to eat poop. For example, a study on Beagles in 1981 showed that feeding a deliberately deficient diet triggered coprophagia (among other problems). Therefore, in theory, if an undernourished coprophagic dog is switched to a nutrient-rich nourishing diet, that change may stop the poop eating behavior. But the modern dog eating poop is not nutritionally deficient. Most dogs nowadays are fed a balanced diet with all the nutrients they need.
Should You Change Your Dog’s Diet?
So, switching brands, for example, is unlikely to stop your dog eating poop. In fact, I have not found any strong evidence for dietary changes reducing coprophagia in well-fed dogs. Still, there is something you might want to consider which has some anecdotal evidence.
Sophia Yin, when discussing the Ben Hart study pointed out that the study, based on questioning dog owners, noted that diet did not play a part. However, the vast majority of dogs are fed kibble, and there is no indication what diets were compared or how. The comparison could have been between different types of kibble, or between kibble and household scraps. Also, the 2010 study showed no link between diet and poop eating, but 89% of the dogs in the study were kibble-fed.
To add to that, a paper called “Coprophagia – Food for Thought” proved interesting. Published in a Canadian Veterinary journal in 1988, it states that diets high in carbohydrates tend to “enhance the drive to eat stool.” Unfortunately, they don’t state how they came to this conclusion.
My personal experience, however, is that changing my dogs from a diet of kibble (carbohydrate based pellets of commercial dog food) to a natural raw diet of meaty bones has been accompanied by the disappearance of most poop-eating in my adult dogs. So, with some exceptions, as you will see, it seems that the jury is still out on whether raw feeding is a reliable way to stop dogs eating poop.
Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?
The second most common question I get about poop eating, is “why does my dog eat cat poop?” This is followed closely by “how to stop my dog eating cat poop.”
If you think your dog is a bit of a freak for eating the contents of your cat’s litter tray, think again. It may be of some comfort to know that Blackwell’s veterinary handbook classifies eating cat poop as completely normal in dogs of all ages. That’s right, it’s official — your dog is not disturbed or depraved. He is normal. Virtually all dogs will eat cat poop if given the opportunity.
I have had the chance to rediscover this for myself first hand recently, as I am currently raising a kitten. Two of my labs, one of which has never eaten poop in her life, plus my spaniel, have all attempted dawn raids on the litter tray.
Solving the Problem
I have now secured the litter tray behind a baby gate which the cat can slide through and the dogs cannot. And this is likely to be the best solution to the problem. If your dog is a pretty good jumper, though, you’ll need a taller gate. My thirteen-year-old spaniel, for instance, can clear a standard baby gate with consummate ease. So I’ve bought one with a cat flat.
Mine is the Bettercare Pet Gate with Cat Flap – it’s available in the UK*, but expensive to have shipped to the USA. The one in the photo is the Carlson* and is available in America.
My gate was meant to go across the bathroom door. But the bathroom doorway is extra narrow, so we have fitted it across the hallway instead.
Why Is My Dog Eating Rabbit Poop?
Blackwells comes to the rescue again with the answer to “why do dogs eat rabbit poop?” It has to do with undigested vegetable matter — which is very attractive to dogs. This fecal matter may even be an important source of nutrients in wild dogs. The same applies to ungulate feces. An ungulate is an animal with a hoof.
So it is completely natural for a dog to enjoy eating horse poop, sheep poop, and deer poop too. And almost all dogs will enjoy the feces of these animals — not just your dog. However, you may have a friend whose dog never eats poop, of any kind. So why is your dog different?
Why Does MY Dog Eat Poop (When My Friend’s Dog Never Does)?
Eating poop often starts by accident — perhaps beginning as a puppyish habit. But from this opportunistic behavior, poop eating sometimes develops into a habit. If your friend’s dog is male and yours is female, you are more likely to have a problem. For the reasons we have looked at above, coprophagia is more common in female dogs, but some male dogs do still eat poop.
Also for the reasons above, dogs are more likely to eat poop from animals if they have a lot of digested vegetable matter in their feces. Again, remember, experts consider this normal. But some dogs do eat carnivore poop, such as the poop from wild foxes or the poop of other dogs, or even their own. And this tends to be the behavior that most upsets us humans.
Note also that your dog is also more likely (much more likely) to eat poop, of any kind, if he or she is neutered. Unfortunately, no-one seems to know why that is.
Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop?
Poop eating can start in puppyhood and may become a habit if it persists in adult dogs. Dogs who eat their own poop may be attracted to the flavor (switching to a raw diet may help in this case).
The same applies to dogs that eat other dogs’ poop. In this case, though, a change of diet is unlikely to help. Dogs who eat poop in their yard may also be trying to “keep their den clean.” Then, some other dogs may eat poop due to boredom or an inappropriate diet.
There is also evidence that poop eating is more likely in dogs that already have behavioral problems such as anxiety or pica (eating plants, stones, and other inedible items).
But it doesn’t always mean other problems!
However, we also know that well-balanced, well-fed, physically and emotionally healthy dogs can also be poop eaters. In fact, most poop eating dogs probably fall into this category. The simple truth is, that poop eating, while thoroughly objectionable to us, is so common as to be normal in the domestic dog. And we will probably never find out exactly why dogs eat poop on a case by case basis.
In a moment we’ll come to what you can do about it, but let’s first find out what poop eating does to your dog.
Can Dogs Get Sick from Eating Poop?
There is definitely a risk that your dog could get parasites from eating the poop of other dogs. However, worming your dog regularly should prevent this causing him any serious health problems. There is also a risk that your dog could transmit or spread parasites that don’t actually affect dogs. The potential for parasites sometimes found in cat poop fall into this category.
But in broad terms, coprophagia doesn’t normally cause illness in dogs. Most dogs have a digestion that is simply unaffected by common pathogens that could make you or me very ill.
How Does Poop Eating Harm Dogs?
So, if eating poop doesn’t usually make dogs sick, how is it harmful? The answer lies in the breakdown of the bond between the dog and his family. This happens because humans are often shocked and disgusted by the behavior, and if they fail to address it swiftly, may abandon their dog.
Most dogs come to no harm directly, from poop eating. But, indirectly, it can lead to dogs being re-homed or abandoned. Many owners find poop eating upsetting and embarrassing. I hear quite a lot of dog owners issue ultimatums on this one. “This has to stop or he’ll have to go.” “I can’t put up with this, we have children to consider.”
This isn’t a Minor Issue
The implication in such cases is that the dog will no longer be welcome in their home if this horrible habit cannot be cured. So this is no “minor problem.” It is an issue that can lead to disaster for the dog. Very often, the reasons given for abandoning the dog are to do with hygiene. The families often claim to be worried that the dog will infect a family member with pathogens from the poop he has eaten.
But the underlying cause may be more fundamental than that. After all, most people are happy to share an ice-cream with a dog that licked his bottom a few minutes earlier. The truth is then is that, whether we like it or not, persistent poop eating may seriously reduce the love a person feels for their dog. This is an issue that is not often raised, but is a significant one.
How to Handle the Fact That Your Dog Eats Poop
I think it is important that we don’t underplay the distress that poop eating causes in some families. For those of us who’ve had dogs for many years, some of their finer habits are pretty familiar. But for many people with a first dog, poop eating is a terrible shock and a serious concern.
The important thing to tell you is that most of us more seasoned dog owners once felt the same way. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed to say “my dog eats poop,” but most of us are, or at least were at one time! You might feel, right now, that you will never truly love your dog again, it’s likely that you are wrong. I know that I felt terribly disappointed when I caught my first poop-eating dog “in the act.”
It was over thirteen years ago, just after I had switched from keeping mostly male dogs, to mostly females. And I was appalled and disgusted — even tempted to re-home her. But I can tell you that she is still with me today. My girl is thirteen years old, rarely eats poop these days (never say never), and is one of my dearest friends. So these things can be worked through.
How to Stop a Dog from Eating Poop
There are lots of things you can try to prevent a dog eating his own poop at home. The first step is to remove the source of poop wherever possible. This means being scrupulous about picking up after your dog, whenever he has emptied himself. It’s not always easy when you have a large yard or garden, but it’s well worth the effort.
You may also find it helpful, for a while at least, to go with your dog when you let him out for bathroom purposes. That way, you can clear up immediately, and dispose of his feces securely, before he is tempted to settle down for a snack.
One more thing is something to avoid. Some dogs may continue to eat poop if they feel like it gets your attention. Unfortunately, dogs do love attention. So, if your furry friend notices that eating poop makes you pay more attention to him, he may just continue. So, while you certainly do not want to ignore this habit, it may be worth it to be careful the kind of attention you do give it. Later in this article, we’ll consider the value of positive reinforcement. But for now, does flavoring your dog’s food stop him from eating poop?
Flavoring Your Dog’s Food
If your dog eats his own poop there are a number of theories about substances you can add to your dog’s meals. What these do is counteract the nice flavors and make his poop taste less appealing. Pineapple is a popular one, pepper powder another.
However, sadly, in most cases, these kinds of remedies do not work. And when they do, some find that they only work for a short while. A few seem to have had some success, so you may think it’s worth a try.
Adding Aversive Flavors to Poop
Another tactic often recommended is to sprinkle your dog’s poop with a substance that tastes horrid. Some people also use substances that create a burning sensation when swallowed. A good example is chilli powder. Before you do this, note that studies so far suggest that these two methods have a less than 2% success rate. A bit dismal, to be honest.
Will Changing Your Dog’s Diet Stop Him From Eating Poop?
Some people find raw feeding eliminates poop eating. But these reports (including mine) are anecdotal. They are not reliable evidence that such a switch will work for you. Plus, moving over to a raw diet is a major change you need to consider from various perspectives. Don’t just change diets to stop your dog eating poop.
You could also consider changing your dog to an alternative brand of dog kibble*, which uses a far higher ratio of protein.
If I can’t feed my dogs raw for any reason, I use Orijen food. But when I do this, I have to be very careful to pick up poops quickly, or my spaniel will revert to her old ways. But, not everyone has the time or resources to drastically change the method of feeding their dog. So what other options are available?
Can Punishment Stop Dogs Eating Poop?
The studies we have looked at showed that punishment — even harsh punishment — didn’t work at all. It even caused further problems in some dogs.
In “Coprophagia – Food for Thought,” for instance, the authors relate the story of Freddie. Freddie was a neutered male poodle whose owners tried many different approaches to stop poop-eating. Eventually, though, they resorted to punishment. But this final step failed to cure Freddie and caused him to develop submissive urination. You can imagine that this only added to their problems.
Can Training Reduce Poop Eating in Dogs?
Of course, the methods above only work to prevent your dog eating his own poo. But, if he has developed a taste for other dogs’ poop, you have a much more challenging problem on your hands. This is because you cannot control what goes into or comes out of, other people’s dogs.
The issue now becomes one of training your dog to “leave” or to “recall” away from the object of their desires, on command. A reward-based programme of recall training may be helpful. In this case, you deliberately seek out dog poop in public places, and recall your dog from it. Then, you reward them with a tasty treat from you. This will help you to prevent your dog eating other dogs’ poop in your vicinity. I personally use the magic word system which I find very effective.
Using a Magic Word to Stop Dogs Eating Poop
How this system works is fairly simple. I associate a powerful reward with a special word that I reserve just for the purpose of distracting the dog from poop. Several times a day, for several days, I will say this “magic word” while the dog is in the vicinity. Then, I’ll throw a fabulous reward on the ground for the dog. And when I say fabulous, I’m not talking about a bit of biscuit or some doggy treats from the pet shop. I’m talking “seriously tasty treats” here. For example, roast chicken is ideal.
At some point thereafter, when I see the dog approach some poop with a gleam in her eye, I will use my magic word and chuck the fabulous treat on the ground. Sometimes, to begin with, the dog will eat the poop, then come for the reward. You just have to accept this with good grace.
Other times (often a bit further on in the process), she will bring the poo with her (eek!!). Accept this too. It’s tough, but you can do it.
Trust Your Reward!
If your reward is good enough, your dog will soon abandon all thoughts of poop eating when she hears that word. She’ll start to drop the poop as she approaches you for her treat, and eventually won’t even bother to pick it up. This will only work if your treat is truly fabulous! Also, it is vital that you are persistent. Keep your Magic Word strong with great rewards, and mostly no requirement from the dog to get it.
General Training to Reduce Poo Eating in Dogs
Joining in a training programme for an activity such as “agility” or “gundog training” will help to provide your dog with exercise and mental stimulation in different poop-free locations. This will in turn help to keep his mind occupied. These measures might just reduce your dog’s enthusiasm for poop eating generally. But there are no guarantees.
Ultimately, you may have to accept that when your dog is out of your sight, or some distance away, there is little you can do to prevent prevent him from indulging in this distasteful habit. You will need to manage your poop eater’s free time and supervise him adequately in busy dog walking areas.
How to Clean Your Dog’s Mouth After Eating Poop
While you train your puppy or adult dog to stop eating poop, there will be setbacks. So, how do you clean up their mouths and reduce that gross smell so you can still cuddle them in the meantime? We’ve got a few quick tips:
- Brush his teeth: If you’ve got the time and energy, this would be your best and cleanest bet. Remember to use a doggie-appropriate toothpaste and brush.
- Feed him: Giving food and water will produce saliva. This will clean your doggie’s mouth and refresh their breath. It’ll also save you using the toothbrush.
- Dental chew: This also works like food and water; it produces saliva which cleans their mouths.
- Use a doggie mouthwash: Mix the mouthwash (not human mouthwash!) with water. Then wipe their teeth and inside their mouths with a cloth soaked in mouthwash.
- Wipe their mouths with a cloth: You can also soak the cloth in coconut oil or salt water. Keep in mind that dogs shouldn’t drink the salt water. Too much can cause dehydration and vomiting.
Hopefully, you can go back to being cuddly with your furchild.
Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop and How to Stop Them? — Summary
Don’t let poop eating destroy your friendship with your dog. We know why dogs eat poop, and that it’s common! Around half of all dogs do it. It is also more likely to happen if your dog is a gun dog breed like a Labrador. Here are the factors that predispose a dog to poop eating:
- Being female
- Being neutered
- Belonging to the sporting or gun dog group of dogs
You can’t Change These Things!
None of these things can be changed now, so there’s no point fretting over them. We know poop eating can be embarrassing and distressing — been there! But remember that your smug friend’s dog is quite likely poop eating too, even if your friend doesn’t know it!
Remember also that eating poop most probably won’t do your dog any harm. Neither will it harm your family. There are a few things you can do to greatly reduce poop eating. And you will get over your horror and revulsion and feel good about your dog again.
What does NOT work to prevent coprophagia
Don’t waste time with punishment, and don’t ignore the problem. Neither will make it go away. Here are the things that have been shown NOT to work in the fight against poop eating:
- Dietary additives (pineapple etc)
- Aversive flavors (pepper, chilli etc)
- Punishment (e-collars, rattle bottles, smacking etc)
Adding things to diet or poop have had less than two percent success rate. Plus, if you are close enough to poop to sprinkle chilli on it, then you’re better off picking it up!
What Does Work to Prevent Coprophagia?
Studies show conclusively that prevention and positive reinforcement training using tasty rewards are the key to success. The two most important steps you can take are as follows:
- Preventing dogs from having access to fresh poop wherever possible
- Training a strong “leave” response (my magic word cue is a good example)
So, start with a rigorous process of prevention. Clear up all poop immediately they are produced. Accompany your dog to the yard after meals, take a shovel, and remove all poop as soon as they appear!
Finally, dispose of them securely.
You may consider using a muzzle in some situations. Or use a leash if you are forced to exercise your dog in an area where there is poop lying around. Get a stock of high value treats in pots in your fridge and make sure you don’t run out. Then you can take some with you when you take your dog for a walk. Teach the magic word cue and use it!
How About You?
Now you know why dogs eat poop, have you cured your dog of poop eating? Got any tips to share with our readers? Share your thoughts in the comments box below. If you have enjoyed this article, you may also find this one helpful:
Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt And Other Rubbish?
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
Further Reading and References
- Nijsse R, Mughini-Gras L, Wagenaar J, Ploeger H “Coprophagy in dogs interferes in the diagnosis of parasitic infections by faecal examination” Veterinary Parasitology 2014
- Hassan A, Emmanuel E, Awasum C, Remi-Adewunmi B, Hassan F, Mohammed A, Mustapha R, Olusa T “Behavioral conditions in dogs – a review: Part 1 – Disagreeable Normal Behaviors” Nigerian Veterinary Journal 2009
- Broox G, Boze M “ Correlates of Coprophagy in the Domestic Dog (Canis Familialris) As Assessed By Owner Reports” Journal of Applied Companion Animal Behavior 2010
- Tilley L, Smith F “Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult” Canine and Feline
Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline
- Frenkel J, Parker B “An Apparent Role of Dogs in the Transmission of Toxoplasma gondii: The Probable Importance of Xenosmophilia” 1996
- Read D, Harrington D, “Experimentally induced thiamine deficiency in beagle dogs: clinical observations.” American Journal of Veterinary Research 1981
- McKeown D, Luescher A, Machum M “Coprophagia – food for thought” Can Vet J Volume 29, October 1988
- Broox, Boze “A Comparison of Common Treatments for Coprophagy in Canis familiaris” Journal of Applied Companion Animal Behavior Vol. 2, No. 1. 2008
- PetMD. What to Do When a Dog Eats Poop. Dr. Coates, J.
- AKC. Is It Dangerous for Dogs to Drink Saltwater? Burke, A.
This article was first published in 2014 and has been extensively revised and updated for 2019.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website
My 5month old Lab x retriever has been eating her poo during the night and vomiting it up. She is not interested in her poo throughout the day nor other dogs poo. She obeys ‘leave’ cue when we are out of our home.
I only hope that she will stop this behaviour, it makes me feel so ill cleaning it up in the mornings.
Does anyone else’s dog vomit after eating there poo?
I have a 4 year old Chihuahua, she was tiny tiny when we got her as a baby and it was winter so we trained her on potty pads. To this day we have to keep pads down or she will go every where I could leave the door open 24/7 and she will still go in the house. But she picks thru her poop and eats it and will like carry it up on the furniture and eat it… I need help I take her outside with our lab all the time I don’t know how to stop it .
If anyone can help, I would be grateful. Not one person, and this includes the writer of this article, has ever addressed how to stop a puppy/dog eating poo in the night. My Puppy is 6 months old. Completely ignores his poo in the day, absolutely shows no interest at all. However in the morning, there are always remnants of poo that he has eaten during the night. Obviously, I am not around at night, so is there a suggested answer for this one. I have gone through so many sites, and not one person has addressed this.
Hi Carol, sorry to hear you’re having this problem. One solution would be to take your puppy out to the toilet throughout the night. This is covered in a little more detail in our article on ‘How to Potty Train a Puppy‘. If you haven’t been taking your puppy out at night before now, it may be a case of trial and error finding the time when they need the toilet, but it would guarantee that there is no poo where your puppy is sleeping for them to eat.
I’m happy to say, my chocolate Lab is 3 years old. And is happy go luck spoiled baby. I really didn’t work with him very much, I just include him in things I do in the house and in the yard. i tell him what we’re doing and in a very simple way explain things to him.
i simply say to him, Abraham, no eat poo poo when he goes out to do his business. Unless, my nose is failing me, he comes back in with fresh breath.
My chocolate lab is 3yr old, I did not raise or train her initially and got her when she was about 1yr. She eats other dogs poop, cat poop, and even human poop once while camping when our friend went in the middle of the night in the woods and didn’t burry it!!! (Not that her nose wouldn’t have found it anyway). BUT she does not eat her own poop and has never done so since I got her (unsure of those habits prior to me). As soon as I got her I transitioned her to a raw meat only diet as provided by a local company here that bases the meat off of her breed/age/gender etc. and mixes in other necessary additions (garlic, some greens etc). Her food is large raw meaty bones, ground meat, necks etc and she eats the bones and all as they are uncooked. I suspect this is why she has never eaten her own poop, it is often hard, white and turns to powder eventually as her body absorbs the nutrients as it’s her proper diet. Though this does not solve our problem of her eating any other poop she finds (though she doesn’t always eat any poop she sees, just some she deems eatable haha), it might support/help others like you said.
Thankfully myself and her human dad are not emotionally affected by her poop eating, it’s gross but that’s life and she’s a dog. I wish she would stop and we will work on it but thankfully we love our poop eating monster in all her stinky glory ahhaa
My Bassett Hound does eat other dogs poo I have to keep him on the lead I do find it very unpleasant
and the walk we have together is not enjoyable or relaxing I find I to take him to a public park to walk where responsible owners do clean up after their dogs but in my village they do not
I have tried the magic word which for me is No followed by GOOD BOY and give him a treat but this is repeated many times during our walk !! (he will eat poo at every opportunity if he can)
May I add that I have complete sucess on stoppping him eating his own poo by grating cougette in to all his meals after 1 month he is cured
We have a Parson Russell terrier who eats dog, horse, geese and wild animal (coyote) poop every chance he gets while on walks. This is disgusting because he’s always trying to lick us when we’re back in the car, and because I have zero doubt that the wild animals have worms and possibly other parasites!
We are thinking that since nothing else has helped, we are unfortunately going to have to muzzle him.
I have a 7yr old Border Terrier we love her to bits but occasionally in the night she will do a poop and that’s when she eats it,always looks like she has been playing with it what can I do.
Ugh, this has recently become an issue for our lab mix who is about 1.5 years old. He was having some chronic digestion issues whilst on a Wellness kibble brand which is a pretty good food as far as kibble is concerned. We switched him to Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal food, and he all of a sudden became a RAVENOUS poop eater. We are in the process of switching him to Orijen, however I do fear now that it has become a bad habit. He really hates the muzzle, but I fear that is our next step if the new food doesn’t make a difference.
I have a sixteen month old boarder terrier who is very partial to white poo. I find it difficult to stop him when we are walking in the forest as he certainly finds it amongst the ferns concealed from the human eye. It has made him quite poorly on a couple of occasions. If someone can think of a plan? I believe white poo is from dogs fed a fresh meat diet
hi is there anything for my 4 yr old lab who is frightened of loud noises after being sudenly terrified of fireworks iv tried tablets from vet no change I was thinking of buying a thundershirt does it work .
I have a wonderfully quirky 5 month old female Frenchie. She is NOT spayed, NOT malnourished or fed filler-food…she eats high protein food without fillers and I spend more time picking up poo than most people spend interacting with their children daily! I have 2 Frenchie’s and am not always able to immediately pick up he poo (dark outside, raining hard, etc.)…just not always able to see it. The puppies will not potty on a leash so that is out.
I feel badly because I do harshly scold Fannie when she eats poo. The worst thing is that her breathe smells so bad…I can smell it across the room. It does upset me and impacts my closeness with her because the smell is so repulsive.
I love her so much but here are times I simply won’t cuddle or play with her because the smell is so disgusting.
I don’t know what more to do…I have tried all kinds of things listed here, with consistent work; nothing works.
I’ll never rehome her but would be so happy if I was able to stop this behavior.
I know I am late to the party here on this thread, but I have to say the article was fabulous. My standard poodle has never eaten dog poo but finds cat and deer poo delectable. As he is not my “baby” but truly a dog in every way, I have never had an emotional response to his snacking (other than finding it a bit amusing at times) but was curious about it because he is my first dog. We live in a very rural area and take long daily walks so he has plenty of opportunity; I simply limit his snacking with a “leave it” to hopefully prevent any adverse (or costly) health effects. If he gets ahead of me and sniffs out a treat, so be it. He’s a dog.
My 8 month old puppy is obsessed with looking for poo when we’re out. My magic word is biscuit and he leaves it when I tell him to and then reward him. But now he actually stops and refuses to carry on walking because he wants to go in search of poop. Will try another magic word and a much tastier treat. Thank you for this article.
I have had very good luck with assuming the dog has a potassium deficiency and adding some banana to the diet for a couple of days. My dog does not eat the cat poop anymore. This is an old fashioned veterinarian trick according to my father in law.
I have an obsessed Lhasa that only eats her own poop, often saving it by holding it until she gets into her crate so she can eat it, because we trained her to “leave it”. We have resorted to a muzzle to stop her and it worked. I have noticed now that she has stopped eating her poop she is eating less food. She is insane about scarfing down up to four cups of food a day when eating poop, but is down to a mere cup, she will just walk away from the dish. She has never done this in her life, and she’s always been a poop eater. Does dog poop eating increase their appetite?
Try courgette cut it up and out in there food , do that for a couple of months as it does work a treat.
Did you cook the courgettes and how much please?
Try cut up pieces of courgette, we found that worked a treat.
My 2 months old Black Labrador eats his own poop 🙁 Maybe a face muzzle will help him stop and dog food may be one of the reason that make his poop more attractive to eat because of the smell. My mom wants him out of the house, she feels disgusted and embarrassed every time she catches my lab eats its own poop.
My lab eats poop through his muzzle. He can’t pick up anything else which is the purpose of the muzzle but he goes swish swash into poop and smacks his tongue inside the muzzle.
I’ve been reading the artcles in the Labrador Site since before we brought our handsome black lab boy home, and am currently enjoying Total Recall and the Labrador Handbook. Thanks for all the great information!
The poo eating issue is one of the biggest problems we have with our boy. The actual fact that he eats poo itself doesn’t bother me, however he is obsessed with eating the business left by his friends at daycare. Sadly as a result we’ve had to treat him for Giardia several times in the last 12 months.
We’re currently using Traditional Chinese Medicinal Herbs to try and curb his poo appetite, after a recommendation from his vet, but we’re not quite there yet. In the meantime, we’re keeping his de-parasite treatment up to date. ?
We have a 6 month old Labrador puppy, called Bella, she likes apple,but loves banana and pears – is this OK ?
My sister has three dogs. She’s not at home for at least another three months. All three of them will eat poop out in our backyard-only one of the three has a muzzle. Inside this one of two male dogs been getting into bathroom trash-he hadn’t been interested in the trash before-it was normally was another dog-the only female-but with this male we have gotten to the point where we have to keep the bathroom door closed. The only female when outside has taken an interested in the winter green plants that we have and there’s no way to stop her from trying to eat them (even though they are in soil high above her-she can just be on her hind two feet to try to eat the stuff).
Our puppy is 3 months old and still poos at night in her crate, for the last 2 nights we have come down to a dirty bed but no poo so assume she is eating it. Am going to try pineapple to see if this stops her. We go to bed at round 10.30pm and wake in the night to take her into the garden at around 2.30/3am. Are there any other suggestions to help with this as we are keen that it doesn’t become a habit.
Our male lab suddenly developed a passion for dog poo at about 5 months old, he never ate his own poo or that of our other dog but he loved to sniff out poo on his walks. I could call him away with a tasty treat but it became stressful trying to keep an eye on him all of the time, and as I have discovered there is poo EVERYWHERE! We would end up walking him on a lead and trying to think up more and more places where there wouldn’t be much dog poo – the beach is a good place if you live near the coast. Our dog ended up with a very nasty case of diarrhoea & vomiting and had to spend a day at the vets on a drip, so something had to be done. I really didn’t want to use a muzzle so I contacted a dog trainer. She was great and reassured me that lots of dogs partake in this delightful activity. She recommended a spray collar which you can activate by remote control. When my dog was about to eat poo she pressed the button and the collar released a quick squirt of compressed air, which surprised my dog and he moved away from the poo. He only had to wear the collar for a few weeks before he stopped eating poo completely. I think it is good to get the advice of a trainer as these collars need to be used correctly. We are now 3 months down the line and walks are once again enjoyable.
When your dog poops, pick it up. I have a spayed female who sometimes eats a little poo. I go out with my dogs and follow them with poop scoop in hand so that none is left in the yard, I guess it would be called a garden. She is not terribly interested in other dogs’ leavings when hiking on mountain trails. The hikes are so much fun that she doesn’t even notice the poo. But the most important thing is keeping all the poo picked up in the yard or garden.
My 8yr old black female rescue lab knows eating poo is naughty, and won’t eat poo if im near or watching her but will eat it if im not looking at her or in the distance. Is eating poo bad for her? I always put her on the lead afterwards and she always looks at me guiltily afterwards and I tell her off. She will leave it if I say” no ” but not if I’m a few metres away. We give her seaweed to give her the vitamins in poo. She eats any poo. Do you think she will ever stop it
? We have only had her for a year and she might have been doing it all her life.
Any advice on POO BREATH?
Our 8 month old lab has gotten in the habit of eating his poop if he eliminates in his crate during the day. He doesn’t eat his own poop outside, although he is obsessed with the rabbit poop in our yard. His stool is very soft and sometimes is even diarrhea in the evenings after he has eaten his poop. His stool returns to normal after a weekend of not eating his own poop. How can we get him to try and hold it and/or stop eating it if he can’t hold it until we get home?
Hi Kristina, no dog should ever be left in a crate so long that he is forced to eliminate in it.
my labrador is 11months old and only eat cat poo
mines 6 month does the same what did you do to stop it
Hi Pippa. My elderly springer has always eaten poo (other doge’s). I tried very hard to train this out of her. My word was ‘no’ leave, then treat, which worked for a while. She then began to learn that if she left it, she got a tasty treat from me. I watched her actually look at me, put her head down to eat the poo, but actually wait for my word knowing a treat would come, THEN we would walk on and she would run back for it. She was far to clever! My Labrador gobbles poo down so quickly so there is no time for a command. Actually, I have 5 Gundogs who snack on poo from time to time. I have given up to a point. I try and keep them occupied with hunting or retrieving which is more interesting to them than eating poo!!
How do we know when our labs are ready to leave the crate for sleeping elsewhere in the house at night? Is there something to look for that will convince us that the house training has worked and she is ready to be on her own at night? Also, how do we train her to tell us that she wants to go out to do her “chores”? If we are in the same room, her uneasiness and going to the door is a good clue. But, what about when she is not with us?
Your help to others has been very useful to us and I hope you have some answers for us on these topics too.
Most of our labs stop being crated at night around 2 years of age. But they sleep in dog beds in our bedroom so they are not on their own. I still keep our 2 year old lab in a crate during the day if I am out.
we have a 7month choc lab who in the past month has decided to eat his own poo and now on walks eats other dogs hes fed on kibble walked everyday hes neverleft home alone for vast lengths of time what do i do next or will he grow out of it ??
Hi Lizzie, I don’t have any more to add to the article above right now. Good luck with your dog.
I have had the misfortune to walk with someone who both dogs eat each others poop! I found it revolting and sickening.J have had seven dogs over thirty years or so and only one Lab tried it.We trained her out of it and she was fine.None of our other dogs bothered.Some were fed Kibble,some meat and mixer.Our boy now is fed Kibble with a little wet meat mixed in.He is in good health and condition.I think anxiety is a issue and it must be rotten for them to be left all day and if they do have an accident that would be bad for them .They hate poking and weeing in their own space.I am allways angry when people take a dog or puppy and leave them to go to work.What is the point in having a dog if your going to abandon it ..Come on people show a little sense and figure it out!
Hi, I am at the end of my tether. I have two springer spaniels, one is 3 the other is 6 months old. The 6 month old is weeing and pooing in the house even when the back door is open, the other day he did it whilst I was in the room but I had my back to him. He is constantly eating poo as well, and will even bring it inside the house. The 3 year old is a dream and very well behaved and we are doing exactly the same with the puppy. I feel like I can go on with this much longer as I have 4 children and its simply unhygienic. Can anybody help?
Hi Joanne, your pup obviously hasn’t really grasped the concept of housetraining yet. He is not too old to learn, but you need to get cracking on a really structured house training programme. You’ll need to start over, just like you would with a new puppy, though it should be easier because your puppy will have much better bladder control. Don’t leave the door open, as you won’t know whether or not he has emptied himself. The key rules are to go out with the puppy, reward any successful toilet outings, and to confine or restrict the pup after any unsuccessful trips to the garden. This means you will need a crate small enough that he won’t sleep at one end and use the other as a toilet. Picking up and even eating poo is very normal puppy behaviour. He will probably grow out of carrying poo around. It is just a game to him. In the meantime, pick up his poops as soon as he has done them, and distract him with food or games if manages to pick one up. Check out the housetraining and crate training articles in the puppies section for more information. Pippa
Thank you so much for clearing my mind. I was getting worried….I will be more aware and clean right away every time I can, to give any chance for him to eat this unpleasent snack. Thank you also for this amazing website that gives the most helpful information.
hey Pippa, my 6 m.o. lab is not eating his food. i have tried ma best to make him eat. i have added pedigree’s gravy, biscuits and some other things also. what should i do to make him eat?? and plz also tell that how do i get to know that my lab is havin’ some prblm…
Hi Varun, I hope you find this article helpful. Also this one on dogs that won’t eat. Best wishes, Pippa
We have a 10year old chocolate lab who ate her own poo as a puppy but nothing else until she has now obsesive co
mpulsion to eat fox poo. She gets the smell and shes of and no amount of calling will stop her. Any tips?
I am at a loss for what to do. Our 18 m.o. lab spends all his walk time (off lead) eating other dog’s poo – and there is a lot of it lying around. We try to distract him with toys, and have tried a citronella spray collar, which doesn’t bother him in the least. He also eats other (full)poo bags which have been discarded, and if I’m not quick enough to get him on the lead, will run up to other dog walkers and snatch their poo bags from their hands and eat both bag and poo. This, much more than the general poo scavenging is unacceptable behaviour – how do I stop it?
Hi, our 14 week old Labrador puppy eats his own poos when we’re out at work. We both work full time but manage to get back home at 3 hourly intervals. We walk, feed and toilet him before leaving for work, but every time we come home there are wees and poo “smudges” on our kitchen floor. We really hoped to be making some progress with the toilet training by now, our vet thinks it may be a habit that Arnold has got into so we’re trying to mix up the routine a bit to see if that helps. Any tips / advice greatly appreciated. Cheers Tanya & Phil
Hi Tanya, many 14 week old puppies cannot last 3 hours without a wee or poo. Most small puppies need letting out more often than this. And as your vet has pointed out, a habit has now been established, which can be tricky to break. Crate training is the best answer, to resolving house training problems but it is not very kind to leave a puppy in a crate for three hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. Many puppies will eat their poop if left alone with it for very long.
It sounds as though you need to find someone to help with your puppy during the day, at least until he is house trained, and a little more mature.
I have a 2 year old black neutered male who is obsessed with eating other dog’s poo. He finds it hard to walk past a pile without eating it. The only poo he wont eat is that which is obviously derived from bones and is very white in colour. I have recently taken on a retired guide dog aged 6 and a lab/golden retriever cross. She has spent 6 years not “scavenging” but now eats poo by the bucket load. I can only conclude that it must taste nice which is why the new dog does it. My advice – now being resigned to accepting it is: Worm, treat for parasites and vaccinate regularly. Don’t make a big issue of it – my experience is that if I do, it turns it into a game and it’s very hard for me to win if they are off the lead. I keep my dogs on a lead for the first part of a walk where most of the poo will be. This problem seems to be increasingly common amongst not only the labradors I meet but other gun dogs – particularly, spaniels.
My 3 year old failed guide dog is obsessed! I’ve tried everything. EVERYTHING! Nothing works so I let him get on with it but try to walk in areas where poo is minimal.
My young collie doesn’t eat his own but he will eat my older dogs, whilst leaving the middle dogs alone (for the mostpart). I wondered if it was a pack thing as the older dog is in charge and the middle one just a plaything. I have tried pineapple, banana, kelp. I even at one point left some in the garden covered in tobasco but he seemed to like that too. I had hoped he might grow out of it but he is now 18 months old so doesn’t look likely.
This is one of the most useful blogs I have read on this subject. My 18 month old lab, Ruby, has taken a liking to particular types of poo. I have found the best approach is training to ‘leave’ but as you say, it only works when you are nearby. As a novice dog owner it is reassuring that Ruby is not showing unusual behaviour.
Please call by my website http://www.walkingalabrador.com to see how a novice dog owner is coping with raising a Labrador.
My worry is that our 1 year old is insistent on eating our cats po! I am guessing that it isn’t going any harm as she is not ill, she eats well (probably to well) but have to now keep mint chews to kill the smelly breath when she has eaten it. She even waits until the cat goes out and follows her. Roll on winter when she hasn’t got such easy access to the garden! (Back door closed)
So many dogs eat poo (their own, the cat’s, other dog’s) and seem to come to no harm. All we can do is our best and hope they will be ok 🙂 There are some more ideas in this article
My 2-month old pup has started eating his own poop because i get to leave him during the day because of my job. Would he get sick or something? I’m kinda worried about it.. 🙁
My 6 month old pup has just started the revolting habit of eating other dog’s poo. He has sampled horse and cow poo also but dog poo is his all time favourite.
He is fed on kibble and certainly gets enough to eat. His weight is spot on for his age and he has plenty of exercise. He has been trained by reward but his training recall and ‘leave command goes out of his brain every afternoon on his hour long walk, run and play with other dogs. I find it embarrassing and certainly his breath is vile. How to stop this revolting habit apart from restricting his freedom and keeping him on a lead so that he cannot run but can be stopped eating poo, there seems to be no happy medium
Sounds familiar, my 1 and half year old yellow lab is the same. Weekdays Millie is walked on the lead around the streets and a local field, weekends we take her to a nearby forest.
She is lead walked until we pass the majority of poop and then let off, almost immediately she is on the trail for poop not interested in sticks or balls to retrieve.
The recall is an obvious route and should work, Millie responds well to recall but not when she has sniffed some choice poop.
When this happens there is nothing I can do to distract from devouring the lot, even despite me calling her name and saying leave.
Today we had one of our worse days when she devoured 8 sets of poop and each time completely ignoring me until after she had her fill.
There is remorse and resentment to being put on the lead as a kind of punishment, but there is no connection between what she has done.
What makes the whole experience such a disappointment is the retching on the way home and at home where the poop eaten doesn’t agree with her.
Recall has been suggested which I favour and eventually I believe will work, but I would like to know what others think about a muzzle and a collar spray.
I am not convinced about the muzzle as some owners I have met say it make the dog just walk close to the owner as they can defend themselves.
The collar spray does boast good results but I am just wondering what the down side might be.
Any further advice would be appreciated.
I doubt very much that there is any “remorse & resentment” from your dog for being put on the lead after eating poo. You say yourself your dog doesn’t associate the two acts. This is humanising your dog, they just don’t think like humans. Being put on a lead is never, in my opinion, a “punishment” from the dog’s perspective. It’s just something that “is”.
My rescue cocker spaniel is very interested in sheep & horse poo rather than other dog’s poo. I have worked hard at “leave it” training to good effect.
A muzzle will not redirect your dog’s attention & spray collars may only have a temporary effect if any, depending on the strength of your dog’s poo eating drive!
My yellow lab started this the same day she came home as a puppy. I thought with time I would be able to stop her. Arwen is 8 and I have to put muzzle on as she eats everything she sees. It’s quite a task if she is sick on carpet. Sick is bad enough but with poo in it. It’s hard to stop being sick with her. I love her with all my heart I just accept she won’t change.
have to tried a face muzzle it worked well for a friend of mine and ideed I think I may have to do this to.