Poop breath sucks!
There's nothing worse than your pooch coming in for a doggy kiss and their breath stinks to high heaven.
And seeing their teeth caked with fresh, smelly poop is enough to make anyone want to puke.
But you already know that.
And I know it well too because my boy was a big fan of eating poop at one stage of his life. But more on that in a moment…
If you're like me who repeated the phrase “My dog is eating poop how do I stop it” to everyone and their mother. You've come to the right place.
And if you're also like me, you've tried every trick in the book. And you're either pulling your hair out, or you're about to.
There's so much information out there and it can be confusing to find something that works.
Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has some weirdo solution. And some of those solutions are freaking dangerous, some can even cause your dog pain and discomfort.
And the truth is, 97% of those weirdo solutions don't work!
My Dog Ate Poop Snacks
Yes, it's true. My dog used to snack on poop.
Zè was about 4 months old when he started snacking on poop.
At first, I thought it was part of the puppy experimenting phase. So I did what every good dog owner in my shoes would do…
But it didn't work.
So I tried something else and something else and…
To my horror, he just would not stop. And I was confused…
Until finally, I found out what was going on with my dog. I'll share more on this later…
The habit of eating poop is called coprophagia. And it's not something you should ignore.
Yes, pups explore the world around them through their mouths. But if your pooch is constantly eating poop, something's up and you need to fix it.
Why is My Dog Eating Poop All of a Sudden?
The reason it's not easy to prevent your pooch from feasting on feces is that there are so many underlying reasons that could cause this habit in the first place.
Below are the 21 most common reasons that dogs may have a poop-eating habit.
To make it more helpful, I've grouped the reasons into clusters:
- Health Reasons
- Dietary Reasons
- Medical Reasons
- Behavioral Reasons
It's essential to know these reasons because then you'll understand why most fixes don't work, and what does work (more on that further down, so keep reading).
21 Reasons Why Your Dog Might be Feasting on Feces
Health Reasons that Cause Poop Eating in Dogs
Parasites – If an intestinal parasite is present, they absorb all the nutrients your pooch needs. This can cause your dog to snack on poop.
Pre-digested delicacy – Yes, some dogs regard poop as a pre-digested delicacy containing some missing nutrients (especially if it's poop from a prey animal like a rabbit).
Probiotics – Dogs can find poop to be a rich source of probiotics. And when you consider how fecal transplants are being used to treat diseases like Chron's disease, it seems that dogs have always known feces are filled with healthy probiotics.
Vitamin Deficiency – Feces can be a rich source of vitamins, especially for dogs who are fed highly processed kibble.
Mineral Deficiency – Today's food chain is devoid of minerals due to poor soil quality and pesticides. According to Dr. Dobias, DVM, a mineral deficiency is the number one cause of poop eating in dogs. Both mineral and vitamin deficiencies can develop due to several factors one of which is malnutrition.
Dietary Reasons that Cause Poop Eating in Dogs
Processed Kibble Diets – Poor diets that are nutrient deficient will cause your dog to look for ‘food' in other places and so become a poop eater.
Malnutrition – Feeding too little or malnutrition, especially for a growing pup, can make them eat anything they find, including poop.
Medical Reasons That Cause Poop Eating in Dogs
Malabsorption diseases – Such as EPI, will cause your dog to slowly starve since they can't absorb nutrients from their food.
Medical conditions causing increased appetite – Diabetes or Cushing's disease are health problems that can drive your dog to become a poop eater.
Drugs – Medication like steroids will cause an increase in appetite.
Behavioral Reasons That Cause Poop Eating in Dogs
Isolation – Dogs are social animals. Extended periods of isolation can create stress and lead to behaviors like poop eating.
Confinement – Dogs are working animals, and even small puppies and small breeds need to have ample space to move. Confinement can create unwanted behaviors like poop eating.
Attention-seeking – Our dogs love attention! If you're giving the wrong attention to poop eating, your dog is likely to continue doing it.
Anxiety – Like with humans, stress makes dogs do strange things, like eat poop. Things like punishment, confinement, or isolation can create stress and anxiety.
Sharing a living space with a sick dog – This likely comes from the ‘pack protection' mentality. Your dog might eat the poop of a sick packmate, which is common in the wild to protect the pack from predators.
Feeding close to feces – If a dog is fed close to fecal matter, they could likely make a positive connection between the two, which is what you don't want.
Learned behavior from mother dog – A mother dog cleans their den by eating the feces of their puppies. Some pups pick up this behavior and continue to eat poop after they have left the litter.
Boredom – Dogs are working animals. If they are not stimulated mentally and physically, they could get into eating poop as a way to relieve their boredom.
Scavenging – Dogs are natural scavengers. Smelly things like poop don't repulse them. So if the opportunity arises, they might be inclined to take a bite.
Born in a puppy mill – Dr. Karen Becker, DVM believes that pups born in puppy mills are more likely to eat poop. This is because they are crated most of the time and also under-fed.
Punishment – If a dog is punished for messing in the wrong place, they can develop poop eating behavior to ‘hide the evidence.'
Other Factors Making Your Dog Prone to Poop Eating
Researchers in the Netherlands at Wageningen University studied over 500 dogs to identify things that can fuel coprophagia.
And although the researchers admit that many questions are still unanswered and more research is needed, there are a few factors that make some dogs more prone to poop eating than others.
- Certain breeds are more likely to be poop eaters.
- Dogs who have had more than one owner are more prone to poop snacking.
- Females are more prone to eating poop.
- Dogs with other obsessive behaviors like shadow or tail-chasing are more prone to feasting on feces.
Why was MY Dog Snacking on Poop
Remember, earlier on I mentioned after months and months, I finally found out why my dog was eating poop?
Well, initially, our vet diagnosed him with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), which is a malabsorption disease.
In a nutshell, the pancreas of a dog with EPI doesn't function properly, leaving their bodies malnourished. And as a result, a dog with EPI wastes away.
To compensate for the constant lack of nutrients, they'll literally eat anything they find.
It's deadly if it's not caught in time. And sadly, it's a disease that's usually diagnosed too late.
I immediately implemented a few changes to his diet and made his lifestyle more natural and just about instantly, he stopped feasting on feces.
However, in 2019 our new vet who treats holistically took blood samples, and the results came back that my boy's pancreas is 100% functioning.
He recommended I wean my dog off the digestive enzymes he was getting with his food. This was 12 months ago, and my dog has not shown any clinical signs of EPI and still does not eat poop.
This is rather odd since he showed all the symptoms before changing his nutrition and lifestyle. And the fact is there is no known cure for EPI.
Although EPI can be difficult to diagnose and many vets do so purely on clinical signs.
So did my boy have EPI? Or was it something else?
I don't know the answer to those questions. But what I do know is that the changes I made to his nutrition and lifestyle helped my dog end his poop eating habit regardless of what the original cause was.
Now, what about you and your pooch…
Below I'm going to share those diet and lifestyle changes with you in the hopes that you can help your dog stop eating poop too.
That's my experience with coprophagia. And it happened almost seven
four years ago.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop Naturally?
First things first…
Visit Your Vet and Have Your Dog Checked Over Thoroughly
This is the first and most crucial step in the process because it'll help you rule out any medical conditions that are causing your dog to eat poop.
And I recommend doing the following:
Have a fecal float done to rule out any internal parasites that may be wreaking havoc on your dog's nutrient absorption.
It's also essential to deal with any parasites before starting any healing process to ensure that you're not continuing to feed unwanted “guests” living inside your dog.
If there are any other clinical signs, you are concerned about like:
- Drastic weight loss
- Constant diarrhea
It might be a good idea to request some bloodwork to determine if there's a deeper underlying medical condition causing the coprophagia.
Have Your Dog's Nutritional Status Tested (Optional)
This is something I wish I had access to all those years ago when my dog was eating poop. But 7 years ago, these tests were expensive and hard to come by.
Dr. Dobias, DVM, offers a test that requires a small amount of your dog's hair to test nutritional status. No blood or mouth swabs needed.
This is preferable and highly sophisticated since hair holds more information on your dog's current nutritional status than blood or saliva does.
Here's how it works…
Your dog's hair is made from groups of matrix cells that form the follicles.
During the growth phase of the hair, it is exposed to the “internal metabolic environment” of circulating blood, lymph, and extracellular fluids.
Once the hair reaches the surface of your dog's skin, the outer layer hardens and locks in the nutritional activity that occurred in your dog's body during the time of that specific hair growth.
This hair is the blueprint of your dog's current nutritional status. And will reveal things like deficiencies, excesses, biological imbalances, and heavy metal load.
And when you consider that nutrient deficiency is one of the leading causes that dogs eat poop, you can see how valuable this kind of information is when looking for solutions.
Knowing exactly where your dog might be deficient or in excess, you'll be able to make targeted changes to their nutrition and lifestyle, rather than an approach where you make random changes and hope something sticks.
Feed an Unprocessed, Wholefood Diet
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates (400BC)
Yes, I could throw heaps of cliches at you to convince you that “garbage in, garbage out” is a real thing.
Okay, I just did the cliche thing twice!
But the truth is that food creates health or dis-ease.
And unless you've been living in the Himalayan mountains for the past 30 years, you already know that, because the whole food revolution in human nutrition is a worldwide phenomenon.
So why should it be any different for your dogs?
From my personal experience, I can tell you that the main component of ending my dog's poop-eating habit was switching him to 100% raw, whole foods.
And if you consider that kibble is filled with starches and carbohydrates that create an unhealthy breeding ground in your dog's gut that could rob them of vital nutrients.
This could potentially spark poop eating, it makes sense to consider a more species-appropriate diet.
If you're not keen on raw nutrition, though, you could easily switch to a homecooked diet, which has just as many health benefits.
The aim here is to move away from highly processed, high carb, low-quality kibble.
And as long as the raw or cooked diet you're feeding is balanced, you'll help heal your dog and likely add years to their life.
If you're interested in having a bespoke raw diet formulated for your dog, get in touch with me via email for a consultation.
And if kibble is your only option, then consider doing two things…
- Explore gently dehydrated food like UnKibble from Spot and Tango.
- Consider an air-dried or cold-pressed food. It has all the benefits of raw feeding without planning, preparation, or gross-factor.
- Get the book “Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet” by Steve Brown.
In this book, Steve shows how you can supplement a kibble diet with whole food raw ingredients a couple of times a week to boost your dog's health.
Follow a Nutritional Plan
The next step is to create and follow a nutritional plan for your dog's internal healing and balance.
I love the products Dr. Peter Dobias offers and using his website; I was able to create a nutritional plan to show you an example of how natural supplementation can be used to stop a pooch from eating poop.
Offering your dog gut support is a vital part of bringing an end to feasting on feces. Even now, years later, I still provide my dogs gut support in the form of pre and probiotics powder as well as a varied, raw diet.
Finding gut support is not as simple as it sounds. There's a lot of junk out there, with ingredients from China and other questionable sources.
If you're looking for high-quality gut support from a reliable source, I recommend checking out Dr. Peter Dobias' GutSense. Especially if you're trying to heal your dog from the inside to stop coprophagia.
It is certified organic, GMO-free, made in the USA, and the strains are canine-specific, so you know your dog is getting what they need.
Check out this video from Dr. Dobias regarding how GutSense came about, why he does it, and what you can expect for your dog.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation
If you opted to have your dog's nutritional status tested through a test like HairQ, you'd know exactly where your dog is in excess or deficient. And from there, you can go ahead and work with veterinarians to address these individually.
If you don't have this information, you can still supplement your dog nutritionally. Dr. Dobias offers the SoulFood multivitamin and GreenMin mineral superfood. Both are excellent options for nutritionally boosting your dog's health.
All the ingredients for both of these products are human-grade, sourced directly from growers with strict quality control. And never from countries that have lax policies on animal abuse.
Omega 3 Support
Today's diets, whether processed or whole-food-based, are high in Omega 6's. This is mainly due to the feeding protocols of feedlot animals.
Omega 6's are essential, but too much can lead to inflammation, especially when Omega 3's are deficient.
So, although adding an Omega 3 supplement on its own won't prevent your dog from feasting on feces, it will bring overall balance to the body and reduce inflammation. Which, in my book, is vital for general health and wellness in our canine companions.
I prefer to feed whole, raw fatty fish like Pilchards or Sardines. But if you or your dog are not keen on raw fish, check out Dr. Dobias' FeelGood Omega.
His FeelGood Omega is made from squid, which is low in toxins, sustainably sourced and pretty high in the essential EPA and DHA.
Is it Harmful for a Dog to Eat Poop?
You've been asking yourself this question from the get-go. And maybe you already know the dangers.
It's likely not as harmful to your dog to eat poop as you may think. Afterall they are scavengers. And as we saw earlier on, it's not unusual for dogs to eat poop.
However, the risks you face are much higher than for them.
Infections like Salmonella and Toxocariasis are serious risks you and your family face. If these micro-organisms are there, they are passed on through licking. And possibly from touching your dog.
There are 3 types of coprophagia in dogs:
Autocoprophagia is when your dog eats only their poop. Of course, this is serious.
Intraspecific Coprophagia is where dogs eat feces of other dogs. This is especially prevalent in multi-dog households.
Interspecific Coprophagia is where a dog eats the poop of other animals like rabbits, deer, foxes, cats, etc.
Although neither of the 3 types is particularly appealing, and all of them can pass on parasitic, protozoal, or bacterial organisms, I think Autocoprophagia is likely the lowest risk. Although not risk-free by any means.
3 Training and Guidance Tips for Your Dog (And You) to Manage Poop-Eating Behavior
Keep Your Reactions In-Check
It's a well-known fact in the dog-training world that reacting to any unwanted behavior will reinforce it.
You see, your dog loves your attention, and they don't distinguish between positive and negative attention – in their eyes, it's all the same.
So even if you're reacting negatively, your pooch is getting what they want – attention.
Another well-known fact is that any negative reactions to pooping and peeing can cause some dogs to become nervous and secretive about going to the toilet.
And this is true. Do that, and you'll have problems on your hands that may take years to fix.
Of course, as humans, we're inclined to react loudly with flailing arms and a grossed-out look on our faces when we see our dog's feasting on feces.
So my advice is to fight the urge to do this and don't display negative reactions, no matter how difficult it is.
Teach a Solid “Leave it” Cue
You should teach your dog the “leave it” cue regardless of whether they are a poop-eater or not.
Of course, this is only helpful if you're around when your dog is about to snack on poop. But if you're managing the situation while you're changing your dog's diet and lifestyle, you should be around whenever they can potentially access poop.
Here's an excellent video by Victoria Stilwell showing just how quick and easy it is to teach this cue.
Keep Your Yard Poop-Free
Of course, poop should be cleared up at least once, but preferably twice a day.
While you're helping your dog heal by improving their diet and boosting their body with healthy supplements, you do need to keep your yard poop-free as much as possible.
Ideally, you'll want to scoop your dog's poop as soon as they have eliminated. I know this is not always possible, but as far as you can, try and keep your yard free from poop.
And as a side note, there's a myth out there that if your dog sees you cleaning up their poop, it'll cause them to want to “copy you.”
To believe this, you would have to believe that dogs see humans as dogs. And it's simply not true!
Frankly, it's a load of hogwash! I really wish people would stop spreading misinformation that dogs see humans as dogs!!!
Your dog knows you are not a dog. So I guarantee you, cleaning your dog's poop while they are watching means nothing to them. I know this because I do poop-patrol twice a day, and my dog is always around to see me clearing the yard of poop. But since I implemented the diet and lifestyle changes, my dog has never touched poop again. whether he sees me cleaning poop or not, it's never been a driving factor.
Besides, if my dog ever picks up the poop-scoop and starts clearing away their own poop, I'd be over the moon!!
6 Common Recommendations That WON'T Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop
This is a very common “fix” to prevent a dog from eating feces. And the recommendation is to add a few pieces of pineapple to your dog's food.
Why Does Pineapple Stop Dogs From Eating Poop?
The theories behind pineapple are that the Bromelain in the pineapple makes a dog's poop taste so bad that they won't want to eat it.
But from my personal experience, I can tell you that I've tried this method and it simply does not work. My dog kept eating poop even although I added pineapple to his meals for an entire week.
And besides that, pineapple is high in sugar – a 56g slice of pineapple contains 6 grams of sugar. And although dogs can eat fruit, it should not make up more than 3% of their diet.
Chili or Hot Sauce
Yes, there are people out there who recommend this. And I actually can't believe they do!
Why Might Chilli or Hot Sauce Stop a Dog From Eating Feces?
The idea is that once your dog experiences the burning sensation, it'll put them off trying to eat poop in the future.
I never tried this method because I think it's ridiculous to believe that an animal that has 40% of its brain dedicated to scent would even consider eating something covered in chili or hot sauce. Dog's aren't stupid!
The real reason this will never work as a long term solution is the moment you forget to sprinkle the hot stuff; your dog will be in there feasting on feces.
You need a longterm solution to Coprophagia, and hot sauces and chilis are not the answer!
There are bitter sprays for sale that are marketed as effective for stopping a dog from eating poop and so it's common for pet parents to try these sprays.
I did try several different sprays and chews, but nothing deterred my dog from eating whatever poop he could find.
Why Might Bitter Spray Detter a Dog from Eating Feces?
Almost all of the bitter sprays and chews that “supposedly” deter poop eaters are made with Yucca Schidigera extract. And Yucca has a rather nasty, bitter taste, which is the theory behind why it works.
As I mentioned, I tried several of these products, and none of them worked. But I'm not the only one who experienced poor success with these products. Just check out this table below from a study on Coprophagia by Hart et al and the obvious failures of these products to stop poop eating.
Brewer's yeast is touted as a good way to supplement a dog and so end a dog's poop-eating habits.
Why Brewer's Yeast Might Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop?
Brewer's Yeast or Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a one-cell fungus. And it's used in the beer-making process. And because it's high in B-vitamins, folks say that sprinkling some over your dog's food will fill any nutritional holes that might be causing poop-eating behavior.
But in my experience, it's a rubbish way to boost nutrition and B-vitamins in a dog. Firstly because any brewer's yeast you buy is likely scraps that have been swept up in breweries.
And secondly, if you want to boost B-vitamins in your dog's diet, there's no better way than with real food. Meat and its juices (myoglobin) are jam-packed full of B-vitamins. So why opt for something like Brewer's Yeast when you can give your dog the real McCoy by feeding a whole food raw diet or substituting a portion of their dry food with B-vitamin boosting meat?
Yes, you read that, right! There are websites online that recommend sprinkling meat tenderizer on a dog's food to prevent them from eating it. Crazy right?!
Why Might Meat Tenderizer Stop Coprophagia?
Well, meat tenderizer has Bromelain as one of its ingredients – the exact same stuff in pineapple touted to stop coprophagia behavior.
Here's why it's a bad idea…
Firstly, remember earlier when I mentioned that 40% of your dog's brain is devoted to scent? Well, your dog will likely refuse their food if it's sprinkled with a meat tenderizer.
And secondly, it contains quite a large amount of salt. And although salt (or sodium chloride) is an important mineral, it's only required in tiny amounts. And I promise you the type you'll find in meat tenderizer is terrible and of low quality.
You probably know Monosodium Glutamate as MSG. And if you have kids, you know that MSG is pretty harmful when it comes to concentration and behavior, not to mention it also has a high sodium level for dogs.
Why Might MSG Stop Your Poop Eater?
Apparently, sprinkling MSG on your dog's meals will make their poop taste awful and some sources claim this will prevent the behavior.
But once again, MSG is known to cause asthma, headaches and some sources claim it causes brain damage too. Not to mention that it is believed to cause “CNS disorder, obesity, disruptions in adipose tissue physiology, hepatic damage, and reproductive malfunctions”.
So why would you want to use something like MSG on your dog? Especially when taking steps to improve their health, lifestyle and diet have proven benefits to prevent coprophagia.
I could keep on going with all the dumb ideas the interwebs recommends to end poop-eating, but I'm going to end it here.
If your vet has ruled out a diagnosable medical reason for your dog's poop-eating behavior, the next steps are to:
- Feed a whole-food, unprocessed diet.
- Support the good bacteria in your dog's gut.
- Offer vitamin, mineral and essential fatty acid support through supplementation.