Why do dogs eat poop?

It's the strange but familiar question for many dog owners: Why do dogs eat poop? Believe it or not, it's more normal than you'd expect! So, why do dogs eat poop, should you be worried about their health, and is it okay to let them be?

Is it normal that your dog eats poop?
Is it normal that your dog eats poop?  © James Barker / Unsplash

It's a dog's life!

And when our four-legged-friends unexpectedly turn to eat their own waste, it can be quite jarring and disgusting.

But don't worry too much: Apart from a few more serious reasons, a dog's poo-consuming habits don't necessarily indicate anything seriously wrong with their health.

Puppy's early morning discovery hilariously drives his owners nuts!
Dogs Puppy's early morning discovery hilariously drives his owners nuts!

In this dog guide, TAG24 dives into why they go after their own excrement - and other pups' – and what pet owners can do about it.

Why do dogs eat their own poop?

There are a vast number of reasons why your dog might be eating its own poop, most of which shouldn't be particularly worrying. From behaviors learned from their mothers, to simple enjoyment, dogs are different from humans – and shouldn't be judged for that!

Here are a few reasons why dogs might eat their own poop:

  • They learned the behavior: Mother dogs often eat their newborn puppy's poo. We explain why this is below. But some dogs also continue this as a learned behavior from childhood or from when they were in shelters/pet store crates when they were born. It's simply a habit to break.
  • Dogs like it: It's possible that dogs actually enjoy eating poo, though this isn't really something that we can prove.
  • They might be hungry: If your dog is severely hungry, it might start to eat its own poop just to stay satiated. As a result, you should offer your dog food if you notice this behavior.
  • If they are stressed out: Both dog anxiety and their separation anxiety can trigger pretty serious responses from your doggo. One of those responses may be that they start eating their own feces.
  • Medical reasons: There are a variety of medical reasons that may lie behind your dog's poo-eating habits. When in doubt, take your dog to the veterinarian and have them checked out.

Important: This is not an exhaustive list, especially seeing as there are a number of medical reasons that could be behind your dogs' behavior. Be careful and take precautions, such as going to the vet, if you are concerned.

Why do dogs eat other dog's poop?

The best explanation regarding why your dog might eat another dog's poop is that it could potentially be a nutritional issue. In other words, dogs sometimes eat poop to gain a few extra nutrients that they may lack in their day-to-day diet.

Now, this is not an ideal situation. If your dog is consuming feces due to a lack of nutrition in its food, it needs to be remedied as quickly as possible. Take your dog to the veterinarian, and make sure to start feeding them a more nutrient-rich diet into the future.

Why do dogs eat puppy poop?

Mother dogs eat their puppy's poop to clean both their "den" and their children, as well as to reduce smells that may attract predators. They want to keep their home as clean as possible, probably to reduce the risk of disease, and will clean up after their puppies due to the fact that they may feel puppies are incapable of cleaning themselves yet.

Possibly even more importantly, mother dogs instinctively try to reduce anything that may attract danger to their home or offspring. Once puppies have grown up a little bit, are pooping outside of the space they share with mom, and have started eating solid food, this behavior will likely stop.

A dog's poop-eating habits certainly reinforce the fact that they shouldn't lick your face!
A dog's poop-eating habits certainly reinforce the fact that they shouldn't lick your face!  © Karsten Winegeart / Unsplash

While it's normal for a dog to eat poop from time to time, it's extremely important that you still take precautions to protect your own health.

This means: 1) Keep them checked up with the veterinarian regularly, and 2) Don't let your dog lick you in the face.

It might seem pretty straight forward, but it can be hard to stop your dog from mounting and licking you sometimes. While pups are little lovebugs, they can also be extremely unsanitary and could get you quite sick with their poop-eating ways.

So cuddle with caution - and you should both be just fine.

Cover photo: James Barker / Unsplash

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