If you are a dog lover, chances are you might have encountered a time or two (or plenty) when you caught your dog eating #2. We’re trained, educated animal surgeons at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals and have seen lots of wild things during our medical careers, but this is one habit that still makes us say, “Eeeew.”
Plenty of dogs want to eat poo, and some will even go to great lengths to be sneaky and get away with it. Whether the feces is from cats, horses, geese, or even from their furry little selves, sometimes dogs just love the flavor. Yikes!
One of the many delights of being a veterinarian at an animal clinic is seeing the widened eyes of a first-time dog owner who explains their precious pup has been doing this dreadful act as they shake their heads and say, “No one ever told me about this. I mean, I never knew this would happen!”
It’s okay, new-pup-parent. You’re not alone, and we are here for you.
Why do dogs eat poop?
Corprophagy, or the act of eating feces, is common among dogs. Dogs evolved from wolves who may have developed a taste for twos when they started getting closer to human settlements and eating garbage—and whatever went with it. As dogs became more domesticated, they often ate scraps from the ground and couldn’t afford to be picky if a food had any nutritional value whatsoever, which feces often still does.
Why do dogs want to eat other animals’ poop?
Cat food is higher in fat and protein than dog foods, so their feces has different nutrients. The same probably goes for the waste of other animals, which dogs may find attractive because of extra nutrition, or just because it smells and tastes good to them. This is 100% disgusting to people, but dogs love doing lots of things we don’t, including rolling in things that smell bad to us. Dog treats smell and taste funky to most people, but canines love them. It could just be a flavor thing.
But for the love of all that’s good—what can I do about it?
First, make an appointment with your vet clinic, since corprophagy could be a sign of a nutritional problem. Dogs with medical issues may have trouble absorbing enough nutrition, so they eat feces to try to recover what they aren’t getting enough of.
Once your veterinarian has checked them out, there are behavioral tactics your vet can suggest. Eating poop isn’t necessarily bad for your dog, but it’s pretty gross, so wanting a solution is understandable. First, limit your dog’s access to feces by picking up their potty quickly and keeping them on a leash to prevent stray snacking on goose droppings. Clean litter boxes often as well to curb availability of secret snacking. Second, work on commands to let your dog know they’re out of bounds when they start getting into trouble, then offer them a more palatable reward when they obey.