Why does my dog eat poop and what can I do about it?
Q&A with Dr. Erika Sullivan, Because Animal’s Chief Veterinary Officer.
Many of our customers have asked us how they can get their pups to stop eating poop. What advice do you have?
This is a common complaint and there are a few reasons we suspect dogs do it. The first being that it’s behavioural. Dogs do eat all kinds of gross-smelling stuff and sometimes poop smells like foods, so dogs eat it. The second is that it’s related to diet.
Behavioural causes seem more prominent in puppies and dogs with an increased tendency to eat or swallow almost anything. To curb the behaviour, there are powdered sachets you can add to your dogs’ food that will make the feces taste bitter, so that if they eat it, it tastes bad.
Picking up poop every time your dog toilets is another sure way to avoid the behaviour, and/or having them wear a basket-style muzzle when at off-leash dog parks, so there is no restriction in their mouth to pant and chew, but they can’t eat other dogs feces.
The other reason your dog may be eating its own or other dogs’ feces is dietary-related. From personal experience I find the dogs eating poor quality, highly-processed, carbohydrate-rich, cheap grocery store kibble tend to do it more often. These foods produce bulky stool that almost comes out smelling and looking like their food. And, bulkier feces usually tells you there is a lot of waste and not a lot of ingredients possibly being assimilated by the dog.
So, this behaviour can also be stopped by changing a dog’s diet to ensure they are getting more of the nutrients they need?
Yes. And when I talk about diet to clients, I talk about a few things: quality of ingredients, the specific ingredients, and formulation of ingredients (dry vs. wet vs. semi-dry or loaf-style vs. homemade or raw).
Dry processed diets are well-preserved and can be harder to break down for younger and older animals with less developed digestive enzymes. Many dogs are fed dry-only diets, and while many of those are balanced diets according to crude analysis, many dogs don’t seem to digest them well. Also, many dry brands have by-products and fillers in them.
Soft and cooked foods are easier to digest, but again the ingredients in the specific diet in relation to the patient/specific breed might be what’s important with soft diets. Lightly cooked or raw diets tend to preserve more enzymes in the food and avoid denaturing of protein so dogs do well on them, seeming to assimilate ingredients well and producing less bulky poop.
It is therefore important to discuss with your veterinarian what diet is best for the breed and age of your dog to learn which healthy complex-carbohydrates, high-fibre and protein-rich foods are best for Fido’s digestive tract and nutritional profile, while also helping them avoid wanting to eat their own poop!
Your veterinarian might also suggest adding a canine multi-vitamin or digestive enzyme supplement, or change the brand and ingredients completely, while using probiotics while transitioning.
Dr. Erika, also known as The Globetrotting Veterinarian, graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College, where she led a successful campaign to end the euthanasia of animals used in surgical training. Erika makes routine visits to Thailand where she treats disabled elephants; leads a yearly spay-neuter clinic in India; and is a PADI Open Water Scuba Diving Instructor, which allows her to better promote the protection of marine life. She currently lives in Adelaide, Australia, where she works at a vet clinic that sees tropical birds as some of her patients, a few of which she brings home!