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Let’s face it, seeing your dog eat poop is not pleasant. This behavior can gross us out, and may even cause us to worry that something is wrong with our furry friend. If your dog starts habitually eating poop, it could be a part of a larger condition that needs addressing, especially if they continually eat their own poop.
Some cases of poop-eating may be perfectly normal but in some extreme cases, it is abnormal and needs behavioral reinforcement training by a professional. If you notice your dog eating poop often, it’s important to stay vigilant and see what could be the underlying cause.
Common Reasons Your Dog Is Eating Poop
It can be common to see our dogs sniffing or eating something unusual like poop. Despite this, if they start doing it often you may be wondering what exactly is causing this behavior.
Nervousness and Anxiety
Dogs can get nervous or anxious just like people. If they are left alone or cooped up in a small space for too, they may react with odd coping mechanisms such as eating poop to ease their separation anxiety. This may be them simply reacting to a change in their environment when they feel confused or alone.
Similar to separation anxiety, dogs may eat poop to get their owner’s attention. They could think that any angry reaction they get from you is a game, and continue eating it to provoke you. If dogs feel attention-starved they may go out of their way to get your attention in strange ways, like eating poop.
If you notice your dog eating poop alongside other symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, they may be feeling sick from something else.
Intestinal parasites such as hookworms or tapeworms can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions in a dog. These parasites can cause gastrointestinal pain and sometimes affect a pet’s eating behavior. This may lead a dog to eat poop in an effort to feel better.
Liver disease is often accompanied by trouble with urination, stomach ulcerations, or other neurological problems. These problems can lead to “off” behavior with dogs such as eating poop or other unsuspecting things. They may simply be confused or feeling ill as their liver loses its proper functioning.
Coprophagia, or when a dog frequently eats poop, is often associated with gastrointestinal diseases. A gastrointestinal disease could cause clinical problems like a chronic bacteria or viral infection of the intestinal tract. See if you notice any changes in your pet’s digestive habits and if they appear to have other symptoms like swelling of the abdomen or vomiting.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Eating Poop?
Depending on the suspected cause of the poop eating, there are a few different strategies you can approach.
Redirect Their Attention Away From the Poop
If you find them out at the park eating poop from other dogs, find a way to distract them. Redirect that extra energy they have with toys, treats, or taking them for a long walk. The more often you take their attention away from eating poop, the less likely they are to try doing it again.
Discourage the Behavior
Make sure you reprimand your dog if you see them eating poop. Help train them to know that this is not food, and encourage them to eat other things that have more nutritional value. It could also help to prevent them from having access to poop in the first place, and always cleaning up quickly when they use the bathroom.
Consult With a Vet or Animal Behaviorist
If you need help finding the right training tools for your dog, an animal behaviorist or dog trainer can work with you one-on-one to alter your dog’s behavior. If you suspect that is a deeper problem such as a gastrointestinal illness, always consult with a vet for a professional evaluation.
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Dr. Bilal Qasim, DVM, established Dr. Phillips Animal Hospital in 2011 after practicing veterinary medicine for over 17 years with the help of talented and caring veterinary technicians.