Many people ask us: “Why do puppies eat their poop?”
Grossed out yet? Yeah, we are too. Coprophagy is the veterinary term for dogs that eat feces. Unfortunately, this is a common problem in puppies.
And guess where it all begins… with dear mom.
Gee, Thanks a Lot, MOM!
After having a litter of babies, a mother dog will eat the puppies’ feces. It is instinct that causes her to do this. Out in the wild, she needed to hide the scent of her puppies from predators. By eating the poop, she would cut down on the smell, which might have attracted animals that would kill the babies.
In modern days, the mother still does this, but she does so to keep the whelping box clean. Puppies often pick up this habit from watching the mother dog’s behavior. Cleaning up immediately after your puppy goes to the bathroom will put an end to it.
Nutritional Needs Not Being Met?
Vitamin or mineral deficiencies can be the cause of coprophagy. When a puppy lacks something in his diet, he will try to find a way to obtain the nourishment he is lacking. By swallowing poop, he is trying to nourish himself.
Changing the diet to a high-quality commercial food should work wonders — not only for stopping this admittedly disgusting habit, but for improving overall pet health.
Roger Welton, DVM, explains more in this quick video:
Other Possible Reasons
Young puppies will often be yelled at if they have accidents in the house. Pets never want to make their humans unhappy or angry. Some will avoid getting in trouble by eating the evidence. Gentle and consistent housebreaking techniques will stop this poop-eating behavior.
The food that your pet consumes could be too high in calories and too low in fiber. This will cause abnormal digestion. The food may also, ahem, come out the other end looking pretty much the same as it went into the pet.
Veterinarians believe that if the food is not properly digested, the dog is not getting the nutrition from it. Switching to a higher-fiber diet will usually curtail the problem.
Why You’ve Got to Stop It
Regardless of the cause, coprophagy must be stopped. Eating poop is not only a totally grody habit, but it can cause many health issues, especially if the dog is eating other animals’ feces.
(Your puppy could get intestinal parasites or other diseases. This will not only jeopardize his health but will put a dent in your pocketbook. The only way to get rid of intestinal parasites is through deworming, and it usually takes at least three treatments before all the worms are gone.)
So… Why do puppies eat their poop? The reasons are varied. The key is to find out why the individual pet is doing it, and then stop it. Like, right now!
For some tips on training a dog to stop this behavior, continue on to What in the World to Do When Your Dog Eats Poo?
Does your puppy do this? Tell us about it in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Pets Adviser’s email newsletter. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll be among the first to get alerts about major pet food recalls. New subscribers also get instant access to our 40-page ebook — which has “secrets every cat and dog lover should know.” Learn more here.