OMG, My Dog Is Eating Poop: What to do when your dog has questionable taste
Updated: Jan 14, 2022
Sometimes, a dog develops a habit. There are many euphemisms for it — ‘cooking her own dinner’ or ‘cleaning up the yard’ — but the reality is some dogs eats poop. Hesitate for a second after they take a dump, and they spin around to sample it. And if you deny them that, they eye your other dog’s as if to ask, Are you gonna finish that? I know, it’s disgusting.
Turns out I’m not alone. “I wouldn’t say all dogs eat poop but a decent amount eat poop,” says Dr. Ashley Rossman, DVM. A study published by The University of California at Davis found that 24% of dogs have tried it, while 16% eat it regularly. But why?! One theory: it’s in their DNA. Not only did the study suggest it’s a survival mechanism that dates back to our dogs’ wolf ancestors some 15,000 years ago, it’s also not uncommon behavior at certain life stages even today — mother dogs will clean up after their puppies for the first few weeks of their lives, and pups themselves don’t really refine their palates until they’re about nine months old.
Or, “Some dogs will eat their poop because they think it tastes good,” Dr. Sara Ochoa, veterinarian, says matter-of-factly. The UC Davis veterinary researchers did find some solid evidence: the habit is more common in multi-dog households, among females, and — no surprise here — pets that are considered greedy in general by their parents.
While there are no conclusive links to medical conditions, your vet should test your dog for parasites, nutritional deficiencies, or other diseases that can cause an increase in appetite, such as diabetes or Cushing’s. You should also consider environmental triggers. Does your dog suffer from anxiety or separation anxiety? Do they spend much of the day alone, crated or otherwise confined? Stress can lead to all sorts of deviant behaviors.
Once you’ve ruled out medical or behavioral causes, you’ll want to work on diversion tactics, especially since this habit could put your dog’s health at risk. Their own poop is full of bacteria, but worse, “other dogs’ poop may contain parasites that can infect your pet,” cautions Dr. Ochoa. “If you deal with it when they’re young, it’s a behavior you can get rid of,” adds Dr. Rossman.
But let’s say you didn’t catch them in the act till they were older. Both veterinarians suggest spicy or bitter food additives designed to make your dog’s poop less palatable — apparently that’s possible. At the very least, Dr. Ochoa explains, “it will break the cycle for a few weeks and, usually, this will stop your dog [in the long run].” You can also supplement your dog’s diet with vitamins or enzymes to ensure they’re getting a complete and balanced diet from their food…and food alone. Should all else fail, the only other option is on you — pick up your dog’s poop ASAP. Well, shit.