Why Do Puppies Eat Their Poop? (Gross!)

why do puppies eat poop

Why oh why…?! By: Teecycle Tim/Flickr

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? 

book-cover-smallest1Does 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.

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From Around the Web

  • Christie

    I’ve heard that adding pineapple to a dog’s food makes the poop taste worse (although it must taste bad to start with, eww). I haven’t tested it, but I saw them feed a bit of pineapple to a dog on “It’s Me or the Dog” to help with his poop-eating problems.

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ PetsAdviser.com

      For a second, we thought “I haven’t tested it” meant you hadn’t tasted it! Yikes. We hadn’t heard about the pineapple trick, but yes, some vets say it might work as a last resort. Just use fresh pineapple, they say, and provide only a small amount.

      That said, we’d recommend concentrating most of your efforts not on masking the feces but on training the dog not to eat the turds in the first place!

  • Carl

    My pug dog used to do that when he was a puppy, but actually after a while he stopped. I guess because my mother was getting mad at him, speaking very loud.

  • Johnny

    Sounds gross but it has many purposes. My dog also did it, but I think that was her nature. But sometimes my mother scolded her because of the stinky smell. After our dog gave birth, she also did it to clean her place because she knew that my mom might scold her because her place was beside my mother’s room. Smart dog! LOL…

  • http://suburban-k9.com Matt Covey

    Most of the time that I see this issue with clients’ dogs it is caused by stress or boredom. Poor diet is sometimes the root cause, but in my experience this is very rare.

  • Kim Lane

    I asked my vet about this…he said to try putting a little canned pumpkin in with your dog’s food…something about it makes the poop less (?) appetizing.

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

      Hi Kim, we’ve heard the pumpkin advice, too, but cannot recommend it. Pumpkin makes the feces runnier (it’s great for relieving constipation in dogs). Besides that, it doesn’t seem like a long-term solution.

      The better way to tackle it, in our view, is to work on the behavioral problem itself. As Matt Covey says in the comments, it’s usually related to stress or boredom: that’s a good starting point. Make sure he gets plenty of exercise and walks, get him housetrained and be the “poo police” for a while, watching that puppy like a hawk.

      We’re going to update this article soon with some suggestions and advice for training a puppy not to eat poop, so stick around.

    • Sean H

      Common sense would say that if they could bare to have it go in one end and out the other and then re-eat it, obviously it doesn’t taste bad and is not going to deter them.

      • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

        Point taken. But what she means is that things like pumpkin (and pineapple) supposedly make the poop taste bitter.

        Again, not something we think is a long-term solution, but it’s one possible deterrent.

  • Cheryl Chervitz

    I have to pick up poop each time they go, or else I have 2 dogs that will eat the poop. It’s gross, but that is the only way I have found to stop it.