Coprophagy: Why Does My Dog Eat Her Poop?




If the title of this post grosses you out, we get it. It did for us too until we learned the extent of this behavioral issue.

It happens far more often than you would think and that led us to wanting to find out additional information so you can be armed and ready should you notice this behavior in your dog.

What’s the Deal?

First, know that dogs aren’t the only poop-eating animals. Not by a long shot. Elephants, pandas and even hippos eat their mother’s feces in order to seed their intestinal tracts with the bacteria needed to get ready to forage for local vegetation.

Dog owners for generations have been stumped as to why their beloved pets engage in this icky behavior. The answer?

It all starts with Momma. She will clean up the whelping pen by eating the poo of her young.

A second reason is that it may be due to a dietary deficiency in vitamins and minerals specifically lack of iron. And, while there’s no hard science to back up this assertion, it’s a commonly held belief in the veterinary community.

There is another theory that also makes sense. Dogs don’t like a mess. Once you have trained your dog not to relive herself in your home, she’ll go to any measures possible to keep the den clean.

The theory is that coprophagy is engaged in to keep premises clean from feces.

Get it Checked Out

While eating poop once in a while isn’t fatal, you should contact your vet, especially if this behavior turns into a habit. Why? Because there could be an underlying health issue.

Some of the medical problems could include …

  • Intestinal infection
  • Pancreatitis
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

You can see from that list that the pancreas is involved in a big way. While the kidneys help flush the body of toxins, the pancreas is a vital organ which also works in the same way.

It will also be a good idea to rule out malnutrition or malabsorption disorders with your vet.


What to Do

Dr. Karen Beck reports on Healthy Pet recommends the following to help stop the coprophagy behavoir.

  • Feed your dog preferably a human grade and unprocessed protein diet.
  • Include probiotics and digestive enzymes supplements
  • Clean up your dog’s feces immediately after going potty
  • If the behavior is due to boredom, try getting your dog new toys that will keep his interested and stimulated.
  • Provide your dog with plenty of exercise
  • There are also over the counter products that you may want to consider – consult with your vet on the appropriate option.

Coprophagy is a challenge to cure but with time and loving direction, you should be able to prevent the habit for good.


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Image credit: iStock photo

Gerald Owens, has a vision – to create an online community that embraces all aspects to having and caring for pets. Our mission is to provide pet “guardians” with accurate, relevant information on how to have happier and healthier animal companions.