Is eating faeces the result of an underlying problem?
Coprophagia is the term for eating faeces. While it may appear revolting to humans, in most cases it’s not due to an underlying disease.
Sometimes a dog will eat their own faeces if undigested bits of food are present. Bitches with puppies will also commonly eat the faeces of their newborns. Puppies may eat faeces having seen their mother do it, or simply out of curiosity.
Why does my dog eat poo?
Dogs will often eat cat faeces — and horse, sheep and cow faeces for that matter — because it’s tasty. However, faeces are not particularly good for your dog so you should try to prevent this from happening.
There may, however, also be some medical reasons for this behaviour. These can include a vitamin or mineral deficiency, parasites, malnutrition, or certain illnesses such as diabetes or thyroid disease.
Another possible explanation for your dog eating faeces could be that he’s trying to attract your attention, responding to a punishment, hiding a mistake or simply that he’s trying to keep his environment clean.
Read more: Human foods you should never give your dog
What should I do?
The simplest way to prevent this behaviour is to limit your dog’s access to faeces. You should always keep your dog’s area clean and dispose of his waste promptly.
You may find that changing your dog’s environment or using forms of behaviour modification, such as a muzzle, may help to break the habit. But be careful not to turn this into a game. Pet owners often inadvertently reward dogs by shouting and chasing them, which the dog thinks is fun. However, this simply increases the likelihood that they will repeat the behaviours you are shouting at them for.
Make sure your dog is up to date with their worming. You could also consider changing their diet to ensure they are getting all their nutritional needs. It’s worth speaking to your vet for advice on suitable diets.
If you suspect your dog is eating faeces because of an underlying medical problem, or it is an ongoing problem you can’t address, you should contact your vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now clinic or 24/7 pet emergency hospital.