The dogs live in different households, eat different foods and different treats, and have different exercise patterns. The only constant is that both Fenway and Lucy seem to really love poop from the cat-litter box!
Since many dogs ingest feces only for a short time as puppies – or after giving birth – it’s often assumed that the eating of poop by an adult dog is a behavioral or compulsory response. But since dogs can be such inquisitive creatures, it’s also likely that some dogs may chow on poop very occasionally, and for no reason at all.
Is There a Name for This?
The act of eating poop is called coprophagia. It is a normal behavior for many species, no matter if the feces being ingested is from another dog, another species, or even your own dog himself!
Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?
Well, that’s a great question, and one that could have a few different answers.
- Has your dog recently given birth? It’s common for mother dogs to clean up after their pups by licking clean their bottoms, or eating any expelled poop. Because puppies cannot usually defecate on their own, a mother’s licking can help stimulate the reflex to eliminate. She also does this to keep the environment clean for growing puppies, and also to ward off unwanted visitors to her den.
- Growing puppies may also be prone to eating poop. While the reasoning behind puppy poop ingestion is less known, it’s assumed the inquisitive nature of young animals is the cause. This is usually something little pups will grow out of in about six month’s time, though some will continue into adulthood.
- Compulsion can also be a driving force in your dog’s ingestion of fecal matter. Some dogs who’ve been punished for eating poop in the past may try to do so secretly, in turn creating compulsory responses to feasting in secret or whenever possible.
- Fear can also be a reason dogs eat poop, especially their own. If an animal is punished for inappropriate pooping in an area like the house, they might begin to associate releasing stools with punishment, and possibly eat the elimination as to “hide” the evidence.
- Malnutrition is a leading reason why dogs may eat the feces of other animals. Dogs with inadequate diets that are severely lacking vitamins and minerals, might be drawn to eating fecal matter.
What Can I do?
If your four-legged friend has always eaten poop, working on behavioral and environmental training could be an option to disassociate your dog from this habit. Some dogs aren’t interested in poop immediately, so you might be able to dispose of it and prevent continuation of the issue. Other dogs work best with verbal commands such as “look” or “stay,” which will buy you time to clean up the mess. Be sure to practice positive reinforcement while working on training. Feeding your dog a treat instead may be a suitable replacement.
The sudden onset of coprophagia may be cause for concern. If your dog never eats waste, and then suddenly begins eating his own – or another dog’s – feces, you may want to consult with your veterinarian. While the ingestion of poop could come from a curious nature, it could also be a sign of something more serious, such as malabsorption or other illnesses that only your pet’s vet can treat.
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