Does Your Senior Dog Eat Poop?

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health

Did you know it is a myth that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s?  Think about all the things they eat during the day both outside and inside. Dogs are known to raid garbage cans, drink water out of the toilet, and lick themselves. They will chew their way through the day.

However, a not-so-pleasant thing to us humans is dogs who eat their own poop. There is even a scientific name for this habit—coprophagia (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh)—and also both behavioral and physiologic reasons why some dogs view poop as a delicacy.

How Common
There have not been a lot of studies conducted as to the whys. If your dog eats poop, be comforted by the fact he is not alone. In a study conducted at the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s Conference in 2012, researchers found that 16% of dogs were classified as serious poop eaters (more than five times/day) and 24% of dogs in the study ate poop at least once/day.

If you look at how dogs evolved it makes sense: dogs are scavengers and when food was scarce, dogs resorted to eating anything available. Also, mothers still clean up their puppies poop to keep the nest clean.

Did you know that rabbits eat feces for the key nutrients? If they don’t, they could develop health problems and newborns may die.

When a dog eats his own feces it is harmless. However, eating the feces of other animals may contain bacteria, parasites and toxins that could make him sick.

Something unusual we found was that dogs are generally picky about eating poop: they avoid loose stools and diarrhea. If it’s freezing outside and the stools are frozen, they are particularly delicious to dogs – hence the name “poopsicles”.

Although experts disagree on why certain dogs eat poop and other’s don’t, the most common reasons are:

  • Isolation. Dogs that are lonely, bored or left alone for long periods of time tend to eat poop.
  • Anxiety. Dogs that may be punished for pooping during housetraining may eat their poop to destroy the evidence.
  • Attention. Do you react when your dog eats poop? Next time appear nonchalant or your dog may do it to get your attention.
  • Deficiency. Your dog could have an enzyme deficiency, pancreatic issues or a parasite. Check with your vet to rule out any medical conditions.
  • Enjoyment. Many dogs simply like the taste.
  • Hungry. Your dog may not be getting enough food.
  • Learned behavior. A younger dog may see an older dog eating poop and assume it is natural and acceptable. For households with multiple dogs there is often a pecking order of dominant and submissive roles. Submissive dogs will sometimes eat the stool of their dominant counterparts.

The good news? Your vet will tell you about ways to break this habit. Here are some suggestions you may want to try:

  • Feeding your dog a healthy and nutritious diet in the right quantities
  • Getting enough exercise and keeping your dog busy
  • Reducing any factors that may be stressing your dog
  • Picking up the poop right after he goes and keeping his environment clean
  • Making the poop taste bad by using Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer or “For-bid”

Good luck!