Eating poop is a disgusting idea to us humans. Unfortunately, our fur kids don’t always feel the same way! Some dogs seem to enjoy it more than others. What can you do to stop this habit?
As dog owners, we know that dogs are A-OK with getting up close and personal with the butts of other animals. They definitely aren’t easily grossed out. However, poop eating (or coprophagia) is a way less socially acceptable habit.
There are two main reasons why dogs habitually eat poop – it’s either a medical or behavioral issue. Read on to find out what might be the cause of the poop eating, and what you can do about it.
Let’s start with the possible medical reasons for doggy coprophagia.
1. Enzyme Deficiencies in the Diet
Predators in the wild will eat an entire animal when they catch it – skin, bone and organs, including stomach and intestinal contents. This means that they’re getting a nutrient-rich diet complete with all the digestive enzymes they need to stay healthy.
Modern dog foods often don’t contain the full spectrum of vitamins and enzymes, so your domestic pet might not be getting everything he or she needs in their diet.
When human bodies feel depleted, we often get cravings – usually for things that aren’t too good for us, but act as a “quick fix”. Fatty and sugary foods are the main culprits!
When doggy bodies feel depleted, they can’t just grab some leftover chicken parm or a cookie. But they might eat anything laying around with nutrients in it, even if it seems disgusting to us. These nutrients could be in road kill, garbage – or poop.
To prevent dietary deficiencies, make sure your pets have a balanced diet that’s appropriate for their species. Remember – your cats don’t need vegetables, but your dogs do! Just be sure to avoid the vegetables that are bad for your dogs.
2. Intestinal Parasites
Parasites can leech nutrients out of your dog’s body, making her or him more likely to eat poop and other gross things.
Dogs can pick up parasitic worms in any of the following ways: from the placenta or milk of their litter mom, licking the ground, drinking contaminated water, eating caught animals like rats or insects, or eating uncooked contaminated meat.
Make sure your pups and adult pets take deworming medication every 3-4 months, and give them clean fresh water daily. If you give your dogs raw meat or bones, get them from a trusted butcher. Keep your environment as clean as you can – put garbage in unreachable bins, and disinfect cooking areas regularly.
3. Chronic Disease
Diseases like diabetes and thyroid issues affect appetite, and can make dogs hungry enough to turn to poop for dessert. If your dog is on medication like corticosteroids for inflammation or arthritis, this can also affect their appetite.
For these conditions, you’ll need to monitor your pet’s diet and activity levels carefully. So what’s the best way to feed a dog with diabetes?
Quite simply, the same principles for keeping humans healthy apply to pets as well. Regular healthy meals, no picking at leftovers or snacks, and lots of exercise will make sure everyone stays in shape.
Your dog doesn’t need any salt, sugar, sauce, mayonnaise or gravy – these can affect metabolism and organ function, and may contain toxic additives. Vegetables on the “safe list” will help your dogs stay full, and less likely to sniff around things they shouldn’t eat.
If you have a senior dog, help them to live their best life at their own pace. A gentle walk or game of “fetch”, and a comfortable bed will keep an older dog happy and satisfied, and less likely to crave things like garbage or poop!
4. Underfeeding Your Pet
Healthy humans understand that moderation is key. Eating high-calorie, low-nutrition foods all day is going to hurt us, and so is going without any nutrients for long periods of time.
It’s the same for your pets. Your dog needs healthy amounts of food at regular intervals. If you think your guy or gal might be underweight, feel gently along the ribcage. If you can feel the ribs under a light covering of muscle, that’s completely normal. Too much flesh over the ribcage or visible ribs are a cause for concern, and you should consult your vet for more info.
If your animal is generally healthy but you’re unsure if he or she is getting enough to eat, check out our handy doggy calorie counter.
If your dog has a clean bill of health from the vet, here are the main behavioral reasons he could decide that poop is what’s for dinner!
5. Curious Puppies
Human kids can get into some stomach-churning stuff the moment our backs are turned. They dig things out of the trash, they eat insects, and they’re REALLY curious about bodily functions.
Puppies are no different. They learn by exploring their surroundings, and they don’t know enough to stay away from gross things. They usually grow out of this habit before too long, just like people do.
Many species of wild animals have an instinct to scavenge. They’re naturally attracted to the scent of dead animals and poop, because of the possibility of easy nutrients. You know how you sometimes walk past a fast-food outlet and suddenly want a burger and fries, even though you’ve got the fixings for a healthier tastier meal waiting in the fridge at home? That’s the modern human version of scavenging.
Wild animals who hunt prey often instinctively roll in animal carcasses and poop to mask their own scent when on the prowl. Huskies don’t commonly do this, but they might learn the behaviour from other dogs in the family, especially terriers.
If the possibility of poop rolling or poop eating presents itself, they might just go for it. You can prevent this by keeping a poop-free yard, and distracting your Husky from anything “interesting” when you’re walking in the street or park.
Boredom is a big issue for pet dogs. If your dog is home alone all day without much to do, he or she may just find poop a little more appealing. You can help prevent boredom in a number of ways – dog sitters, dog walkers, doggy daycare, chew toys, and lots of attention and exercise when you get home.
Final thoughts: it’s natural for dogs to eat poop occasionally. They’re not being naughty Huskies by doing it, so don’t punish them as this can lead to other behavioral issues. The keys to keeping poop coming out of one end of your dog, but not going in the other end: Prevention, distraction and regular health checks!