My dog eats poo, is this a problem?

dog-eats-pooCoprophagia is the term for eating poo (faeces). In most cases this is not due to an underlying disease.

Sometimes a dog will eat their own faeces if there are undigested bits of food in the faeces.  Bitches with puppies will also commonly eat the faeces of their newborns.  Puppies may eat faeces having seen their mother do it or out of curiosity.

Why does my dog eat poo?

Dogs will often eat cat faeces (and horse, sheep and cow faeces!) because it is tasty however faeces is not particularly good for your dog so you should try to prevent this happening. 

There are some medical reasons your dog may be eating faeces including a vitamin or mineral deficiency, parasites, malnutrition, or certain disease conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disease.

There are also behavioural reasons your dog may eat faeces, such as a response to punishment, to attract attention, because is cleaning his environment, or because he is hiding a mistake. 

Is this a problem?

Eating faeces can lead to tummy upsets (gastroenteritis), weight loss and increased worm burden.  It may also be an indicator of underlying disease so it is worth monitoring.

What should I do?

Try to prevent this behaviour by limiting your dog's access to non-food items and faeces. Keeping your dog's area clean and disposing of waste promptly will also prevent your dog getting access to his own faeces.

You may find that changing the dog's environment or using forms of behaviour modification, such as a muzzle may help to break the habit. Be careful not to turn this into a game. We often inadvertently reward our dogs by shouting and chasing them, which they think is fun and increases the likelihood that they will do it again.

Make sure your dog is up to date with their worming and you could consider changing their diet to ensure they are getting all their nutritional needs.  You can speak to your vet for further advice on suitable diets.

If the habit continues or your dog is showing any other signs speak to your vet and they may run some blood tests to check for any underlying medical reason for this behaviour. 

Please note:
Vets Now assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not
a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a
guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment
immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are
closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more
about what to do in an out of hours emergency.